It’s February 23rd, 2013. It’s about 1 pm. I am standing outside and smoking what will prove to be my last cigarette. I remember feeling a spot of fear in the pit of my stomach. I had just finished reading “Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking” by, you guessed it, Allen Carr.😁 I thought back to a month before when I stood in Exclusive Books at the airport and contemplated whether I should give up or not. There were so many very good reasons why I should stop and yet I hesitated. I loved smoking! I bought the book anyway.
Nonetheless, here I stood, savouring my last cigarette as instructed by Allen Carr. I would love to tell you that it was the book itself that made me quit, but, I realise now, that it was me. The book, however, did give me many reasons to really think about why I smoked, what would happen psychologically if I stopped and, how I survived life’s joys and stresses before I lit my first cigarette.
Not long after I got home on the Friday evening, I started reading it with the intention of quitting when I was done. By 1 pm that Saturday, I made the decision to stop for good. I smoked that last cigarette and have never looked back. Let me not lie to you, the first 3 days were hard! In fact, on day 3 I felt like a junkie in a rehab centre for about an hour or two. I just lay on the couch and rocked back and forth. It felt like I was going to die. My little munchkin was a trooper and just let me be. At the end of the day, nicotine is addictive and like all other addictions, there is a physical and psychological component to it. You must overcome both. The good news is that it is perfectly doable. It’s been 4 years, 6 months and 1 week since that day and I haven’t looked back. I will not lie, I miss the habit but not enough to light another cigarette. I am done.
There are several reasons why I believe I was successful.
“Acceptance is the first step to commitment” Benjamin P. Hardy
1. I had accepted that smoking was bad for me and that I wanted to stop when I started reading the book. Like other smokers, I had previously scoffed at the warnings of impending death and told myself that I would die anyway. Watching my son grow though made me realise that I wanted to live to watch him become a man and hopefully enjoy a grandkid or two as well. I was also tired of smelling like an ashtray.
2. I approached the book and the process with an open mind. It helped me work through the how’s and why’s of my smoking habit and nicotine addiction. For me it was important that I separate out the two in my mind as they needed to each be acknowledged, understood and dealt with differently.
3. Once I understood the difference between the habit and the addiction and accepted it, I was able to internalise what I call “mental hooks” to hold onto when my resolve wavered.
“Commitment is a prerequisite to making proactive and purposeful change” Benjamin P. Hardy
4. I was then ready to commit to quitting smoking which I did. Fully. The thing about addiction though is that you have to wake up every day and commit to not starting the habit again. Fortunately, just like learning to drive or riding a bicycle, you become “unconsciously competent” at it after a few weeks. Ultimately, I was fully committed to the decision to change my behaviour and that made all the difference.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what method you use to effect change in a particular area in your life. What does matter is your level of commitment to it? There’s a great article on Medium about this. You can read it here.
My next challenge is losing 30kg. I will keep you posted on my journey. This is going to be a much longer road but I am finally ready for it and I am committed to it.