Posted on September 21, 2010
Filed Under English
One month ago today was the last time I smoked. I wouldn’t go so far as to say “I quit smoking” or “I gave up smoking”, because that’s not at all how it feels. The best way to describe the current situation is that I lost my appetite for smoking. This is how it went down.
One month ago, I came down with a nasty cold. This is not something that happens to me a lot, maybe once every 1.5 years or so. But when it happens, it is nasty. It usually wipes me off my feet for about five days, and I never smoke during that time, simply because it tastes horrible, makes me feel queasy, gives me a heart rate that’s normal times three, and offers no pleasure whatsoever.
I know a cold is over when the appetite for a smoke returns, which is normally at the end of day five. This time was no different, but I did feel (as I normally do right after a cold) that that first smoke would be awful and filthy. Instead of ‘smoking through that’, I managed to keep that image in my mind (or that taste in my mouth), and it went a long way in preventing me from taking up smoking again.
Some factors contributed to that. I’ve always said that I would smoke as long as I had a taste for it, and would never smoke out of sheer addiction. There had to be something in it for me. When smoking in the workplace was no longer allowed (I think that happened about ten years ago), I started smoking less immediately. You had to go outside, and even though the majority of my co-workers smoked, I managed to say ‘no’ to them whenever I simply didn’t feel like having a smoke. That frequency increased in the last year.
Two years ago, I had a girlfriend from England. She was a smoker as well, and whenever she stayed at my place, we produced quite a lot of cigarette smoke in a day. So because I didn’t feel like painting my entire house every year I banned smoking in the house, except for the kitchen (with the door closed and a window open) or the balcony.
This had a similar effect as at work: the frequency went down. Turning smoking from something almost instinctive and unconscious into a conscious effort that forces you to leave your comfort zone (like: on the sofa, or behind the computer) and go into a kitchen with the sole purpose of having a smoke took a lot of the fun out of it. I almost never managed to finish a smoke; three or four drags proved enough. I wanted to go back to the comfort zone!
So, instead of making a very conscious decision to quit smoking, I just leveraged these three events (the nasty cold, the lower frequency of smoking, and the conscious effort of smoking) and told myself, one month ago, that ‘that next smoke will taste awful, will make you feel queasy and dizzy, will put a filthy taste in your mouth, and will make you wonder why you even lit that smoke’.
This proved to be a powerful psychological barrier to taking up smoking again, and right from the start there were days when the only thought of smoking turned out to be amazement that I hadn’t thought about smoking all day long.
The only way in which my body sends the occasional signal of ‘need nicotine!’ from time to time is that well-known ‘hunger feeling’ (a slight ‘pinch’ in the pit of the stomach) that a smoke can take care of so effectively. But a cup of tea with a biscuit are enough to overcome that inconvenience. Nothing too sweet or fat, of course, or I’ll fall into a different addiction straight away.
I’m well-aware of the fact that some people will greet this ‘hardly any effort’ message with a heartfelt ‘Fuck You!’, but I’ll take that on the chin! And in turn, I promise not to become one of those anti-smoking activists that feel the need to convert everybody around them. No but(t)s!