Sunday Scribblings - Quitting
March 24th, 2000, I quit. It was a long time coming, but even in the moment of quitting, the moment when I stubbed out my last cigarette, I couldn't know, couldn't be sure and certain, that that was the last one ever. I'd had failed attempts to quit in the past (longest was 3 weeks - acupuncture; another time I lasted 10 days on nicotine gum). When it came to the quitting that actually held, I did it very calmly, with no great big lead-up, no big preparations, no announcements that I was going to quit (the previous ones had come back to haunt me with recriminations from my son and my husband when I'd gone back to the cigarettes again, so this time, I approached it very quietly). One thing I did do was to quietly let my herbalist friend know that if his offer to fix me a little bottle of something to get me over the cravings was still good, that would be very welcome. He did fix me a bottle of foul-tasting stuff, and a few times a day, I mixed a spoonful with warm water and downed it with a grimace, but it helped, so I stuck with it, just for a couple of weeks.
It actually took about 3 months for me to start to feel human again. It's really hard to describe what I felt like during those months. Not quite here on planet earth most of the time. Like every cell in my body was vibrating and calling out for nicotine (literally, the tips of my fingers, the skin on my face - sensitive in a way I've never experienced before or since - ugh!) I came to believe what I was feeling was the regeneration of nerves. Possible.
I felt lonely. I longed, longed for my old friend, my comforter, my pal, my cigarettes. I didn't know what to do with myself; didn't know how to sit and relax, didn't know how I could read a book, watch a TV programme, make a phone-call, write a letter, have a cup of coffee without a cigarette. In fact, so strong was the association in my mind between coffee and cigarettes, I had to quit coffee too. Decaff wasn't an option, as the flavour of coffee set off the craving for a cigarette to go along with it.
Eight years. I say I'm "eight years clean". That's what it feels like. My house is a smoke-free zone now. Oh, but I still love to catch a whiff of a just-lit cigarette. (Aaah - that heavenly smell!) There are times that I know I could be vulnerable to temptation: on holidays, especially, or if I find myself among a couple of smokers who are really enjoying a smoke (though - watch - how often are they even really conscious of what they are doing?) But the other smells. Stale smoke. Smoke on someone's breath. No. I'm glad I'm "clean" of that.
I smoked for 28 years. Cigarettes were my constant companion. They were with me through all my teen years, all my adult life. I'm ashamed to say they were with me during my pregnancy and in my son's early years. The moment when I realised I had to quit was one that could have come sooner. But I don't see any point in castigating myself for that. I've quit now and that's what counts. I finally decided I had to break the hold "the fags" had on me when a friend was enquiring into the degree of my addiction, and I admitted I couldn't go to bed at night if I didn't have at least 2 cigarettes ina box. I knew I wouldn't sleep for fear that I'd wake in the night and need a cigarette. I had gone out to shops at 2 a.m. to buy cigarettes. I had to have them. I admitted that if I had to, I probably would steal for them. I didn't think I'd kill for them, but I knew that I would steal. That was the moment I knew I had to, I just had to, quit.
For Other Sunday Scribblings on Quitting, go HERE