This is probably the biggest challenge that i have ever conquered. Most smokers and ex-smokers will tell you how difficult it is to say goodbye to the good old cancer stick. I think what makes this victory even more satisfying is the type of smoker i was, the box and a half per day type. The first thing i would do in the morning is light up, in the bedroom, kitchen or bathroom, cigarette butts were everywhere. In fact the first person to comment was the house keeper; she said cleaning the house was easier without the ash. It was a habit i had carried for about a decade with many failed quit attempts. I wasn’t sure if this attempt was going to be any different from the others but i still had to try.

So how did i do it?

I didn’t.

Smoking cessation

Smoking cessation (Photo credits: www.mysafetysign.com)

I don’t think that you ever really quit. At some point i thought that i had quit, i labelled myself as an ex-smoker but i found out the hard way that i was wrong. I wasn’t an ex-smoker; i was just a smoker who wasn’t smoking anymore. Why do i say this? Because even after 1 year I’m still quitting. The desire is not as strong as on day 1 or week 1 but every time i see someone light up on TV it’s a trigger. If i see a box of matches, lighter or that blue shade of Dunhill lights, i think about it.

Don’t expect that one day you will wake up and somehow be an ex-smoker. It doesn’t happen that way. It’s a lot of hard work.

There was a time when i hit a rough patch at work and things were stressful. I decided to have a smoke, i told myself that i deserved it for behaving and it will only be one. 5 days later i found myself lying on my couch puffing a ciggie with an over flowing ash tray. At that moment i stepped back and looked at my situation, i was back to being that person i hated. A slave to the ash. If someone i hadn’t seen in 6 months walked into the flat they would never know that i had been clean, they wouldn’t believe it. What was the housekeeper going to say on Thursday?

Immediately i got up and threw out the box of remaining smokes, yes i had bought a box. I made a promise to myself that a cigarette will never touch my lips again.

I realised that it’s very easy to fall back into a decade old habit. Your brain won’t even stop you because that’s what it knows. I hadn’t given myself enough time to form a new habit of being a non smoker. At that point i had been a smoker longer than i had been a non-smoker which meant that smoking is what was normal to my brain.

This wasn’t my first attempt at quitting, i have tried before. Every time when i slid back, when i succumbed and i had a ciggie i would quit quitting thinking that i had failed to quit. What i didn’t realise is that it’s not a battle it’s a war. Sometimes you will succumb and have one or two or a box but the point is not to quit quitting.

So i don’t consider myself an ex-smoker or someone who quit smoking but I’m someone who is the process of quitting. The urges get less and less as i go along but i now know them for what they are, a fleeting fancy. It also helps that these days i consider myself an athlete, yes i said it – athlete. Because of that i can’t even imagine myself smoking; do you know what that will do to my average running pace?

What Now

The first year of being a quitter i gained 15 kg, and i tore all but 2 of my pants as i got bigger. I’m not putting myself through that again. I have managed to get through quitting without getting the nasty cough or many of the other withdrawal symptoms that most websites note. So i will definitely be continuing into the second year stronger and wiser.

All in all i am happy i quit, the benefits far outweigh the pleasures of smoking. I also understand that this is just the beginning; i still have the rest of my life to continue quitting. Also i like the smugness i get when i realise I’m a former smoker in a room full of my smoker friends – when they go out for a smoke i give them that “you are a loser and i am a winner look”. What are friends for if not to rub your victories in their faces :)

NOW - I’m trying to undo the impact years of smoking has had on my body. Some of the damage is already done but I’m sure it’s never too late to take some action. I try to exercise as vigorously and as frequently as i smoked. When it gets hard i remind myself that I’m paying the price for all those years of lying around on the couch with a box of smokes.

At the end of the day, what once was IMPOSSIBLE has been achieved.

#IAMPOSSIBLE

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