I had figured that the pleasure I derived from puffing just wasn't worth it anymore. I saw the father of my friend suffer from emphysema, and it wasn't pretty -- both for him and his children. Imagine living off tanks upon tanks of medical oxygen, not to mention the frequent episodes which I was told felt like drowning.
It didn't help that my fingers stank, stained yellow; I reeked of tobacco and had a perennial case of smoker's cought; My breath was undesirable and my teeth started turning hue. On top of it all, I just couldn't hold up to the same physical activities I was formerly used to.
The first step was wanting to quit. It came to a point where I decided that I would somehow quit, and soon. It was then that I started to psyche myself up by reading health books and articles on the internet related to how bad smoking was. I slowly started imagining the time when I would be free from this bondage, and all the benefits that wouls naturally come with quitting: fresher breath, sweet-smelling clothes, beautiful surroundings, longer life.
The opportunity came when I went down with the flu, coughing like mad. I tossed my half-consumed pack of Lucky Strike and stopped Cold turkey. No conditions. On the second day, my hands were shaking from the withdrawal. I kept my mind focused on how it wonderful it would be like to be liberated.
I got through the first three horrid days without a cigarette. Then 5 days. By the time my flu was gone, it had almost been a week.
Then I realized that the hardest part of quitting was keeping away from the stick during the times you would typically take a puff, such as in the can, after eating, driving with your windows rolled down, drinking alcohol, having long chats, etc.
They say that the first week is the most critical period, and I think that is partly true. After that, it is no walk in the park; What you need to get rid of is that force of habit or even rote muscle memory, to go and grab a stick. They say that anything done for 21 days becomes a habit. It takes the same time to kick a habit. I knew I had to be staunch during those 3 weeks.
- I threw away all my lighters, even my Zippos. :-(
- I surrounded myself with sweet-smelling aromas such as potpourri, aromatic oils diffused with ceramic lamps, essential oils mopped on the floor, a drop or two of patchouli on an incandescent bulb before lighting it up, scented candles, fresh flowers or whatever it took to satisfy my senses. It helped that I spent my first week on the farm, where a prolific "Dama de Noche" was in full bloom. I also used incense a lot, especially when I was in the can, and I still do.
- I avoided rolling down my windows during car rides, and chucked in a canister of my favorite 'new car scent'. That kept my windows up, not wanting to waste good air freshener, so that it would keep for a long time. Keeping your surroundings smelling good decreased my tendency to look for a cigarette to mask any offensive smell I might come across;
- Now, the after-eating bit is the hardest to stave off, so I did gain a bit of weight during this ordeal, but for this I simply had to invoke my will power again and drink lots of water after my meals. Afterwhich, I would gargle with some strong mint mouthwash. That really helped. I eventually did lose the weight again, and much more, with the new-found control I had over my desires, something my battle with cigarettes taught me.
- When one goes drinking, the tendency is to steal a puff, especially when you lose a bit of yourself in the buzz -- and believe me, many have fallen off the path in this way. What I did was to carry some mints. Whenever the urge came to mask the aftertaste of alcohol on my palate, which really is a sweet sensation, I would pop a mint in my mouth. It did help to stay off alcohol and smoke-ridden places for a while until I was confident in my ability to resist temptation.
I must admit that I get the infrequent dream about going back to smoking, lighting a stick and enjoying it. I would wake up frightened, terrified, believing that the habit came back.
There, there, it was just a dream, just a dream.
I can now, literally, stop to smell the roses, subtle as its aroma may be.
(Note: For those smokers who are thinking of quitting, you can do it. All it takes is a bit of will power, patience and some of the techniques I mentioned here. My wish for you: all the best in your new challenge.)