The ramblings of a former smoker.
Well, it’s been five years for me. What have I really learnt?
Well, I’ve read a staggering amount of data, learnt why we smoke, learnt that we’re exploited more as quitters than we are as smokers and I’ve even applied for, and been rejected for, a job with ASH.
I can’t help you quit, no-one can. All anyone can do is present a smoker with the tools and hope that they choose one that works for them.
If quitting smoking was eating a boiled egg then there are lots of little guys offering teaspoons, plastic spoons, toasty soldiers and the like to get the job done. Alas the bully boys from NRT shove all the best stuff out the way and present an axe, a spade, a chainsaw and a scythe. They lie about their effectiveness and they finance their way to the front of the queue. You CAN eat a boiled egg with a spade but you’re complicating what is in effect a quite simple task. That’s NRT for you.
Despite what you will read to the contrary, from those with a vested interest of course, of 100 quitters giving it a go less than 10 will still be smoke free a year later. Even scarier, less than 15 make it to week five!
When we started smoking we did something that our bodies opposed with every means at its disposal.
The inhalation of smoke contradicts everything that our lungs evolved to do and the natural response is to gag and retch, turn green and reject it totally. When we smoke fag number 100,000 our body's reaction is just the same as that first one. The fag tastes just as awful but we have simply learnt to accept it.
The smoking hasn't changed, it is our perception of smoking that's changed.
Luckily there's a switch in our heads that can be changed from smoker to non-smoker; unfortunately it's not labelled and finding it is not always straightforward.
Some people quit instantly and painlessly, often due to some external stimulus. Pregnancy, a smoking related death or a Doctor's grave warning are often the catalyst required to quit smoking. Often a smoker will simply wake up one morning and no longer wish to smoke. Sometimes they start the day as normal but by bedtime have ditched the habit.
Call it an epiphany, a light-bulb moment or finding the switch, either consciously or unconsciously, it doesn't matter what you call it but it's an essential goal.
Almost everyone who manages a year smoke-free achieves it. I say almost because some 12 month quitters get there by sheer gritty determination and still teeter on the edge of the precipice despite all that time quit.
It's also a massive beacon that needs to illuminate anyone thinking of quitting, struggling with a quit or thinking of leaping off the wagon. Its message is obvious; lots of people quit "just like that", no side effects, no major withdrawal, no real hassle, done, dusted.
So what are they doing?
Often we labour with our quits, day after day, slowly easing the spring-loaded switch from on to off only to have it leap back to the on position the moment we lose focus. We're told quitting is hard. Non smokers think quitting is hard. Even school kids think quitting is hard. It's easy then to assume it must be hard and that we should somehow accept a titanic struggle if we're to succeed.
Quitters who don't have a hard time are therefore regarded as somehow freakish.
It's easy to forget, ignore or disbelieve the fact that of every 100 smokers approaching their GP for help 93 will be smoking 12 months later.
If that system sits comfortably with you feel free to jump on the bus; you may be one of the lucky 7.
Of course, having read this you've now more chance of being one of the 7 as it could be that the other 93 will never know we all have a switch!
It would be fabulous if the switch was operated by our conscious and had a big neon label saying, "off". Sadly it doesn't. Consciously we may be totally committed to quitting the fags and that's by far the usual way. We make a conscious decision to try to stop and then follow the path to the best of our ability. If we struggle we already know it's not meant to be easy and if we fail it just confirms our initial thought that quitting is hard.
Reinforcement of a tough quit is unlikely to make the next one any easier!
We quit in the subconscious. At some point in our conscious quit the subconscious picks up on the message that smoking is no longer an option and the struggle lessens.
The good bit is that it's not just some wild theory; we can all find people who've quit totally painlessly and they tend to be one of the examples shown above.
The bad bit is that even armed with the knowledge it's hard to find the switch.
There is no point in quitting if your subconscious wants to smoke.
No matter how serious your conscious decision to quit is and how big a bag of drugs you have you will not stay off the fags when the willpower runs out (because it will) unless you deal with your subconscious.
The subconscious doesn’t talk to or listen to the conscious mind.
The subconscious learns without the conscious mind knowing.
Confuse quitting smoking with cessation of nicotine use and the task become incredibly hard.
Quitting nicotine is easy and ever so slightly uncomfortable; never make it a challenge, it's not.
We learnt to smoke like we learnt to drive or ride a bike. We made conscious actions to accomplish specific tasks until our subconscious autopilot took over. An experienced driver can compose letters, listen to the radio, have deep meaningful conversations in the conscious whilst the subconscious drives the car. We do it all the time without thinking about it.
That's how we smoked too.
You have to learn how not to smoke and when you do life is just so much better.