I made the decision to quit with a lead time of less than seven seconds. One minute, I was puffing jauntily away on a cigarette and then suddenly I had quit.
I know, that sounds about as authentic as an Italian owned sushi bar, but that’s how it went down. I’m still not entirely sure what came over me. I mean, I liked smoking. I had more fun smoking than I did playing with puppies. I had more fun smoking than I did when I was making sandcastles at the beach as a stress-free kid. And I fucking loved my sandcastles. Bastard waves.
So, that moment to declare my quit-i-ness was like announcing I had given up ever feeling amazing again.
Why? A high school friend had just passed away in a horrible road accident that wasn’t his fault. And here I was sucking down fags like there was no tomorrow. Which there wouldn’t be, if I’d kept on my merry nicotine way. I was killing myself voluntarily. Smoking is the longest suicide in history, but it doesn’t make it any better.
It also cost me a lot of money. I could have afforded the rent on a small European principality if it weren’t for my darbing habit. Actually, not only could I have afforded the rent but also a nice pair of ceremonial pantaloons for the state dinners I would obviously be required to attend in said European principality.
So I quit. And I was immediately consumed with rage and an overwhelming desire to start gnawing on my ironing board. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried to quit in the past. Sometimes against my will, sometimes on a ridiculous whim at three in the afternoon. On all occasions I politely discarded the thin veneer of civility which, like duct tape, often held me together and unleashed upon the world my inner Rancor.
That ‘feeling’ is ever so hard to describe. It’s a combination of OH MY HELL I HAVE TO EAT EVERYTHING and such blind, sputtering rage that you could power several cities with it, were you in the possession of jumper cables and an adequate socket.
It’s the kind of feeling you get when you walk into an egg store with the sole intention of baking numerous cakes which require many eggs and the egg store has a big sign on it that says ‘sorry, we are out of eggs’ and you are overcome with fury because holy hell, this is an egg store what else does an egg store DO?
And your head feels like it is constantly in a vice. There is a very visceral accompaniment of pain. You are actually distracted from any worldly thing or conversation because the screaming white noise in your head, calling out for nicotine, is all you can concentrate on. It’s like you’re the only person in the world who can hear a constant stream of microphone feedback at a tribute performance for the 22nd-in-line understudies of a Korn tribute band.
People will try and cheer you up by, perhaps bringing you an assortment of baked goods with edible fairies on top and you will unhinge your jaw before swallowing everything, including a table leg, and then scream at them for not bringing enough.
They will briefly consider shooting you in the rump with a tranquiliser gun aimed from a low-hovering mustering helicopter. Ordinarily, you couldn’t find fault with their desires but you are currently not you. You are QuittyPants the Terrible.
So, I quit. And I felt like this. I remembered I had an audio file of hypnosis a friend had sent me, so I retired to my man cave under the blankets, shut the blind and plugged my headphones in. And then proceeded to listen to 90 minutes of a man talk about nothing but smoking while in my hour of need.
It was at once pleasant and frightfully painful. And I am pretty sure I fell asleep.
Does hypnosis work? I cannot say. Bwaaaaaark.
The first weekend was the hardest. I didn’t move from bed until Sunday night because, right outside my window, was a world of horrors. Of lit cigarettes in other people’s hands, of passive smoke (being a journalist, I have always been more a fan of the active voice) and 711s and service stations. These stores were now my imaginative Helm’s Deep. I could not go into them. Not even for a pie.
The first day at work was hard too. The walk to the train station. The walk to the office from the train station. Every psychological trigger point I had become accustomed to was now just a regular blip in my day. It could not – must not – mean a smoke.
And it didn’t.
Then came the first drinking session, which felt remarkably like the first weekend without a smoke. It was torturous. Alcohol, for those who don’t know, makes smoking 100 times more fun. The two go hand-in-hand like your hand in a glove, or my brain and bad analogies.
But slowly the sharp, acute pain of not smoking was replaced by a dull thud at the back of my brain. Occasionally I wanted a smoke very badly. Like on my first every appearance on live TV, in the minutes before which I would gladly have smoked 84 of them. I also feel like smoking whenever I get really stressed. Which is frequently.
It’s funny because the smokes used to both create the stress and then the illusion that they were curing you of the same stress. It was a vertically-integrated death trap, and I had taken part for 7 years.
I’ve now been smoke-free for almost three weeks. I’m not kidding myself that it’s now all plain sailing and happy rainbows. It’s not. But I feel better. More in control.
And only very occasionally do I feel like writing entirely in Caps Lock.
What have you had to give up for the best? Was it worth it? How, was it hard?