Monday, 14 April 2008

Quit smoking 10yr anniversary

This is my story how I started smoking and quit smoking.

I must’ve seen first as a 7-8yrs young kid my dad smoking cigars after dinner, this was a very rare occasion and for me and my kid sister it was something special and exciting, the smell and the smoke. Sometimes we would ask a puff on the cigar and then we would cough ourselves silly.

When I got into the last classes of elementary school I think from being 14yrs or something me and my best friend Jere would steal ciggies from her mother and we’d escape up to the attic to smoke them there. At intermission from class at school I’d follow other kids who also started smoking and smoke ciggies. It was all about the novelty, looking tough and having the forbidden fruit. As my friends parents were heavy smokers I’d always smell of cigarettes so I always blamed it on them when I came home.

At 16 I went to sea and started earning my own salary so I was free to buy tax free cigarettes and tobacco. I was smoking full time as any other adult. I was smoking Camel regulars with no filter tips. I was smoking a pack a day. If I was getting drunk, I’d smoke more.

At 19 I was drafted into the Navy for my compulsory military service and I prepared for it by hoarding several kilos of rolling tobacco, paper and Camel cigarettes. It lasted throughout my 11mths of service. Funny enough my condition became better even though I was smoking. When you are young you seem invincible, nothing affects you.

After the Navy I moved in with my future wife who was also a smoker, we happily puffed away. She on her Marlboro’s, me on my Camel’s.

At some stage I turned into smoking pipes, it became my hobby. I quit cigarettes altogether and there I was – 2 wooden heads connected by a stem. I was smoking the American brand Half&Half then.  I swear at times it tasted like chocolate. Wonder where that notion came from as when I had relapses after a few short attempts to quit it always tasted like sh*t. Living together with another smoker is tough to not smoke or try to kick the habit. Those times it would have started during an occasional smoke in a party and then smoking secretly and after getting caught or tired of the stupid hiding around, smoking as usual.

My pipe hobby lasted for a long time until I went to work on a cruise liner as a 2nd Officer. There they banned me from smoking my beloved pipe as it “smelled” bad!? What about cigarettes then? Yes, I could smoke them, so being addicted to nicotine I took up smoking Indonesian kreteks, Gudang Garam’s. They are spiced cigarettes with cloves and who knows what and very strong too. Your lips are tasting sweet after you’ve smoked one. In my opinion the kreteks smelled far more worse than my pipe or ordinary ciggies but nobody complained as they were cigarettes.

In my next cruise liner I was also forbidden to smoke my pipe or kreteks so now I was puffing on Marlboro’s which really tasted bad compared to my pipe. About the same time I moved to Thailand and even on vacation I was smoking Marlboro’s as I could not find my pipe tobacco and I was also travelling light, furthermore my pipes would not dry up in the tropical climate.

Then one morning in 1998 or 1999, when I was abt 30yrs old and divorced, I was waking up as usual in Bangkok and went out on the balcony to have a smoke, did not want my apartment to smell bad. There I was, sitting in the searing heat of the glaring sun, starting to slightly sweat, I was puffing on my ciggie that tasted like dung and I started wondering “what on earth am I doing? Sitting out in the sunshine, sweating, not even enjoying my smoke. Why am I doing this? “To hell with it” I thought and threw my ciggie, my cigarettes and my lighter. I was not going to smoke anymore.

I did not smoke for the next 5 years. The agony of quitting was as usual, the first 2 weeks was spent getting rid of the physical craving and then to deal with the mental craving. I was also suffering at what to do with my hands as usually I’d tinker with my pipe, cleaning them and drilling them open. Like I said pipe smoking is a hobby, I had some 30pcs of them. I was constantly dreaming of smoking and in the mornings I was waking up having the same ashtray taste as I’d had when I was smoking. Not to talk about all the black and brown phlegm I was coughing up. As the time went by I was having less frequent smoking dreams and I thought I had lost my addiction until the next thing happened.

After 5 years I was working on a small cruise liner that got sold and I followed the ship working for the new Owner. There was a lot of work to be done as she was to be converted and so, I got stressed or at least that is my excuse. During the transit from China to Mediterranean we had some barbecues during the voyage and while having a few drinks I took to “borrowing” a ciggie from anybody that was smoking. I thought there is nothing to it, one can’t hurt.

About a month later we arrived Greece and the pressure was growing. By then I was buying ciggies from ashore and smoking them like there was no tomorrow, taking back the damage from 5yrs abstinence. The Greeks made it very easy as smoking is for them like a national pastime. When I’d smoked a month I started thinking of myself and my stupidity of falling into the same old nicotine trap again, after 5 clean years, what a waste.

It took me another month and I was still puffing away and I was reading the local English newspaper services section and my eyes fell on an ad saying “quit smoking”. I read the ad and it was saying that it was hypnotherapy and guaranteed results. I thought what nonsense but anyway I picked up the phone and called the number. It was a Scottish lady, Ms Carolyn Clarke, that answered and she told me after all my questions it is 50€ for one time and guaranteed results if I really want to stop smoking. So I thought to myself again 50€ is a week’s worth of smokes but if it is for life, then 50€ is peanuts. I decided to go ahead with the therapy. I was driving up to her clinic and when I found a parking spot I lit up my last cigarette from the pack and smoked it while walking to the reception.

Once in the clinic I had to fill up some background info for my profile so she could evaluate how to motivate my mind or something like that (I presume). After all that we chatted about me awhile, obviously she was picking my brains for info that she could use. Then she put on some chill-out music and she started to take me under hypnosis, it was like being asleep but all the time awake too. There were questions and recommendations, I can’t recall the words anymore and suddenly it was over and she counted to 10 and I was awake again. During the whole time she had made a self hypnosis tape by recording the essential parts of our session. She gave me the tape and told me to listen to it for minimum next 2 weeks as many times as possible.

Well, said and done, I was listening to the tape morning, noon and evening. It was kind of relaxing too getting hypnotized and after 2 weeks or so I started mostly falling asleep when I listened to the tape. But one thing was for sure, I have never touched a cigarette again. I consider myself lucky that I got the extra push from my hypnotherapy that enabled me to quit again when I was feeling not strong enough of mind to quit by myself as I did the first time. After seeing my relapse after 5 yrs pause I can realize that “once an addict, always an addict” there is no middle way.

Somehow I am jealous for those fellows who can once in awhile indulge in a cigar after dinner on a whim but not being addicted to the nicotine. That all is off limits for me unless, of course, I want to get into the same circle of self deception again.

Quitting smoking has at least given me better physical condition, better taste, no morning cough, no smelly clothes, no extra expenditure and no bad looks from the non-smokers. Let’s face it, smoking is bad for health, it most likely causes cancer and one also exposes the surroundings to 2nd hand smoke. It is one of the most dangerous legal drugs in the world and the health bill it causes is immense but no government is ready to ban it because of the huge tax income.

I always knew smoking was bad but I always found excuses why to do it, maybe out of spite, rebellion, because other were doing it etc. The excuses are numerous. 

Today, if I don’t count those 2 months in Greece before the hypnotherapy I have been without smoking for 10 years and I feel good about myself that I have been able to maintain my resolve. I hope people reading this story and also possibly trying to cut the habit can get some ideas out of it.


Arthur said...

Thank you for sharing that story with us jari.. I really admire your will power and determination. I'm also trying to cut the habit, its been hard, full of relapse, but I think I'll get there soon.. this blog has inspire me to totally quit...

Soile said...

Hi Jari,
It was great to read your story.

I did the same mistake when I first stopped smoking: After five years and under a lot of stress I did the same "borrowing from friend-thing", like you told. Althought I smoked several years after that... then I got totally fed up with coughing and everything bad what came with it and stopped again. Today I haven't been smoking for a five years.

Hoping all the strenght and willpower to every quiter!

Get rid of it while you can, because you can!

atul said...

Hi Jari , it was you who told me how to quit smoking and i stopped smoking after 13 years.. I cant thank you enough... All the best in your future endeavours.. cheers to life..