THURSDAY, 25 DECEMBER 2008
One of the reasons why many smokers find it difficult to quit is because they think they will never again have a certain experience they associate with smoking. I subscribe to the idea that it is not about you never again doing or experiencing something; it is about breaking a habit.
The smoker who is seriously considering breaking the habit should think about it in this way: that they will eventually smoke another cigarette, or another cigar, but then it will not be as part of a habit connected to an addiction; it will not be as part of a routine ruination of their health.
Note on Thursday, 26 May 2016
The above was not the first note I had written over the years on the topic of quitting the habit of smoking cigarettes. What was unique was that Christmas Day 2008 saw my final and ultimately successful attempt to break the habit.
How did I do it?
That night, after having stubbed out my last cigarette, I gathered everything in my apartment that had any connection to smoking and chucked it in an old book bag – ashtrays, lighters, pipes, Rizla papers and rolling machine, and of course the box with a few remaining cigarettes. The next day I took the bag to Natasja’s apartment and buried it deep inside a closet. I made a deal with myself that I could take it out again in two weeks’ time to smoke two cigarettes. That is exactly what I did, after which I again closeted the bag, with the idea that I would again allow myself one cigarette two weeks after that. By the end of January, I thought I could push things a little further.
Months later, September 2009, I decided I again felt like having a cigarette. Natasja and I went out with friends that night, several of whom were smokers, and we decided we would buy a pack of pipe tobacco cigarettes. I ended up smoking two or three cigarettes that evening. Then came the big test: Will I smoke one final cigarette when we get home, as I always did in the past, on the balcony, while staring out into the night? No, I decided – no cigarettes at home.
And so it remained for the next few years. When we went out, we would take our packet of smokes out of the fridge – we bought a fresh pack every few months, smoke our few cigarettes outside a pub or restaurant with friends, and back home put the packet back in the fridge.
Then, about two years ago, just before going out one night, I realised that I had absolutely no desire to smoke a cigarette. The smell on my fingers, the taste in my mouth, the possibility that I might get a head rush from the sudden nicotine injection were all simply not worth the experience – something which I had previously enjoyed so much on a daily basis.
It was then that I realised my attempt that I had started on Christmas Day 2008 had reached its ideal point: I could walk down to the convenience store, buy a pack of cigarettes and have a smoke on the balcony, if I wanted to – but, as it turns out, I do not crave the experience anymore.