I quit smoking two years ago yesterday. It seems both longer and like no time at all.
I’m not an ex-smoker who misses it. Though I’d tried before August 2020 to quit and had been unsuccessful, this time it took. I quit and didn’t look back. I wore the patch for a few days, had a few low-level cravings, and that was it.
I worried about relapsing the most during the first two weeks. Since then, knock on wood, I’ve not been tempted. I suppose when one is done, one’s done.
Interestingly, I wasn’t done when I got my breast cancer diagnosis in October 2019, nor was I done when I got radiation treatments. That August, however, as COVID started to rage and the world started to unravel, I smoked my last and didn’t look back.
My biggest driver was vanity. I already look older than my age: smoking dehydrates, making wrinkles that much worse. Yellow teeth and an unattractive, unwashed ashtray smell complete the look. I was ready to embrace a newer, nicer-to-be-around me.
I was reminded of the odour issue this morning while washing my hands. That’s something I used to dread doing as a smoker, because the moment you put your hands in the water, the aroma of old cigarettes assaults your nose.
I didn’t know that smokers smell like that to the rest of the world all the time. How horrifying to know that in retrospect. Makes that money spent on perfumes and colognes well-wasted.
I have friends who still smoke. The most common argument against quitting is based on the sunk cost fallacy. I used that one myself, and often. They want to quit, of course (most smokers do), but really, what’s the point now? After all, they’re in their fifties, so is there any point in making changes?
Isn’t the damage done?
The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second-best time is now. Someone who subscribes to the sunk cost fallacy would never plant a tree. If the timing’s not perfect, it’s pointless.
Of course, with this logic, not much would get accomplished in the world. Even the smokers using it don’t believe it. They trot it out when it’s convenient because, when it comes down to it, we don’t like hard things, and we don’t like change.
We get ourselves into pickles and then decide to stay there because fixing things is work, and wanting change means admitting your past self made a mistake. And, as we all know, mistakes aren’t allowed in this world when one becomes an adult.
You don’t want to be a quitter, do you?
God hates a quitter (I used this one a lot).
Smoking’s part of who I am (I used this one regularly. It felt like smoking gave me an identity and entry into a club. I didn’t know that it was a club of smelly, wrinkly people. I thought it was a club full of skinny celebrities, models, and rock stars with cancer).
Everyone’s entitled to a vice (first, why, and second, pick a vice that doesn’t make other people rich while it kills you).
The thing most people want to know when they find out I quit is how I did it. Smokers want out even when they say they don’t, and when they find someone who made it, they pick their brains with desperate abandon. I did it myself, time and again.
What worked for me this time was that I was ready. My brain was ready to quit. What got me ready was a combination of factors. The breast cancer one thing, and the aforementioned vanity another, but what finally put me in the “get it done” headspace was a book.
I was ready because I made myself ready.
“Allen Carr’s Easy Way for Women to Quit Smoking.” I’d read a magazine article about the book. Then I read the book proper. The first time I read it, I quit successfully for three days with no problems at all. No withdrawal, no real grief. I started again because I wasn’t ready to be different from my friends. Ten months later, that changed.
There isn’t one thing in the book that stands out as the thing that makes quitting possible. It’s a complete entity, like a chocolate bar (though I did learn something interesting about nicotine. People say it’s very addictive, and it is. But they’re referring to the speed of addiction. Most of us got caught up in the nicotine web after only a few smokes. It turns out that the strength of the addiction isn’t. After all, we don’t wake up from sleep jonesing (most of us). It’s the head that needs the work. Isn’t it always?). But, by the time I finished the book, I was ready to be done. The hardest part was paying for it.
Smokers are strange that way. We spend thousands on tubes of leaves we set on fire, but spending twenty-five bucks on a book that promises to set us free from nicotine’s chain feels like a step too far. We want to quit, but for free.
My provincial government takes advantage of that aspect of human nature. They pay for a quit smoking cycle once a year, dealer’s choice. Pick from therapy sessions, gum, patches, or inhalers. Not the book, unfortunately, and that’s a mistake. They should buy them by the thousands and hand them out free at corner stores. Money well spent considering what smokers cost the world.
Big tobacco will likely object, but they can pound sand. They make their money by killing us. Everything else is just spin.