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Stopping Smoking: Mountains and Molehills

This was an old post on one of my earliest blogs, sadly (perhaps thankfully) no longer online. I've resurrected it, because I think it's useful. And it still holds true I'm still a non-smoker. And this is how I went from my 20-a-day (60-a-day at my worst, but I had cut down a lot when I quit) habit to being a full-on anti-smoking arsehole, and loved every minute of it.

The original version of this was posted in July 2007, and at the time of writing (August 2015) I've been quit for nearly 10 years (in another five years, my risk of dying from a heart attack will be back down to that of someone who never smoked).

~~~ wavy lines to indicate flashback ~~~

About ten years ago, I started smoking. Looking back on it now, I reckon is was a fairly stupid thing to do. Didn't seem that way at the time. Looking back, if I had the same choice, I wouldn't start again. I don't know anyone who can say honestly that they would start smoking if given the choice all over again.

And finally, in October last year, I stopped smoking. It wasn't my first attempt at stopping, but it was the last.

And for the last few months, I've been wondering what was different about this time. Every time I tried before and lasted for any length of time, I still wanted to smoke. I'd get cravings in the pub, or on the way to work ... several times a day, even four months after quitting. This time, after week one, I've not seriously entertained the notion of smoking at all. No cravings. Stopping, this time, was a piece of cake.

So as I said, I've been wondering what was different this time. My best previous attempt was 4 months, without so much as a drag. Like this time, I wanted to stop. Like this time, I felt proud of myself after just a few days. My motives were for the most part the same. I didn't have noticably more or less stress this time. I was socialising with the same group of people as now, and of them the same ones still smoke.

I did read a book though, in the meantime. And no just any book (scientists have yet to prove the effectiveness of Tolkien's The Hobbit as an effective anti-smoking tool). No, I read Easyway, by the late Allen Carr. And it has taken me this long to realise that that was the catalyst the difference that made the difference.

I read the book rather grudgingly. A friend of mine had quit for about a year and attributed her success to the book, and she lent me her copy. As it happens, she's smoking again, so perhaps I should give it back. I read it, and promptly forgot about it. I didn't quit at the end. I didn't quit for another 3 months.

October came around, and I came to the realisation that I didn't want to smoke any more, and so I stopped. Over the last few months, I have realised that in the meantime between reading the book and quitting the book was sinking in. I was realising that smoking is nicotine addiction. I was realising that I hated the fact that I was addicted. I was realising that I was making excuses for myself to smoke.

My previous diatribes and rants to non-smoking friends about the freedom to choose, nanny states, and being in complete control of my smoking even going to far as to claim I enjoyed it, which I'm now not sure even I believed rang hollow. I found less and less excuses for other people, and started to find it harder and harder to explain to myself why I was smoking in the first place.

And so I gave the addiction the boot. Once I made than mental leap and understood why I was smoking and why I had been unable to stop, then ditching the weed was easy. It was that key step that I needed the realisation that I was addicted to nicotine, and it wasn't a hobby or a habit.

That realisation also helped me understand why nicotine replacement doesn't really work. Patches, inhalers, gum ... none of these help the smoker address their addiction. They're being weened off the nicotine but they're still nicotine addicts and most will eventually start smoking again.

This realisation had some side effects. I now do not think of myself as an ex-smoker, but rather as a non-smoker. And I know I'm never going to start smoking. There is no such thing as just one cigarrette, I now know because one would inevitably lead to more.

It was about three weeks in to stopping that I realised that I wasn't counting days or weeks any more essentially, at that point, I was finished with stopping smoking. The process was complete. I'd never experienced that before when stopping I'd always just kept counting. I was thinking in terms of the time I'd spent without cigarrettes so far. I referred to it as "quitting". But this time, I had stopped. Past tense.

I've started to notice the physical effects now. I don't have my cough any more. I can play squash and go running without my chest burning as badly and as quickly as it used to. I can taste my food (and I like it!) and wine is a whole new experience. I'm loaded too saving 200 per month. According to people who know me, I look healthier. I certainly feel a lot better.

Finally, I now understand why I disliked ex-smokers so much when I was a smoker. It was 2 things the pity they had for me, and the knowledge that they had done what I still had not been able to.

All of which brings me to the reason for the title of this post. Stopping smoking is easy. Really really easy. Trying to beat it without understanding what it is you're trying to beat is like climbing a mountain. But if you think critically, and are honest with yourself and in doing so realise that you're addicted to nicotine then that mountain becomes a molehill. And in a few weeks, when you wake up in the morning and realise that you aren't a smoker any more, you will wonder what the fuss was all about.