Odd moments of nostalgia

I was just reflecting how strange my relationship with smoking, and the image of smoking, is these days.

If I get engrossed in a drama in which people smoke (these days often period dramas like The Hour, or Dancing on the Edge where they all puff away like steam engines), and the characters are agitated, or emotional, or post-coital, and they light up a cigarette and take a deep drag I can still be hit with a pang of nostalgia. Oooh, I think, I know how that feels, that does look nice. Occasionally, fleetingly, it can make me think about lighting one up myself.

But after two years quit my relationship with cigarettes in the real world has changed drastically. I don't miss anything about my smoking self. I really can't bear the smell of smoke on someone who's just had one, and the staler it is the worse it makes me feel. I don't like accidentally inhaling someone else's smoke when I pass them in the street. When I see smokers huddled in doorways on their fag breaks I don't feel nostalgic or envious or regretful, I feel genuinely sorry for them. I wouldn't go back to that for anything.

So if one of those 'oooh, that looks nice' moments crops up, I just imagine having a cigarette. Really try to imagine it. And the thought of inhaling smoke now ... Ewwww, no!! Quite apart from the misery I would feel if I broke the quit, I know I would cough, and choke, and feel sick, and I know the taste would be horrible and my mouth would be dry and my breath would reek of it. Yuck. The nostalgic spell is easily broken.

I suppose the reason I'm saying all this is that even some way into a quit, it's possible for false memories of smoking as a pleasurable thing to come into your mind. Especially memories of 'happy' cigarettes - on holiday, for example. And it's easy to be tempted. Be ready for those moments, be ready to remind yourself of what the truth of smoking really is, and don't be fooled by the nostalgia. Those feelings, like every other crave you've dealt with, will come and go - but they will be easier, and more manageable over time.

Never lose sight of how far you've come, and what this quitting journey means to us all.

H x

10 Replies

  • Ay, I do kind of enjoy it. Those thoughts are controllable and painless, and it doesn't do me any harm now and again to reaffirm the fact that I really do NOT want to smoke.

    It's interesting.. I never made a conscious effort to learn to dislike smoke, or think of cigarettes as repulsive. At the beginning I used to love to get a whiff of fresh smoke and really missed the whole smoking ritual. I don't know when or how it happened, but it's completely changed now, physically and psychologically.

    Thank f*** for that, say I. :D

  • Super post Helsbelles, really appreciate you taking the time to put up an evaluation of smoking with a nod to its heritage. My history is one of my grandparents advocating it, and consequently a mental picture of Clark Gable, woodbines, machine rolled cigarettes and a culture that simply promoted smoking as 'what you did when you stopped wearing short trousers'.

    Short back and sides. My great uncle asked if I had started smoking yet when I was 14. Bad. Very bad, but he had the Brylcream look and that was what mattered - image was all important and hang the consequences.

    What's interesting is that it had no health consequence but a BAFTA level of sexiness. The raised eyebrow through a haze of purple blue smoke, and the post-coital connotation I've not heard of for many years now but was still front of mind when I was in my 20s...in the early 90's. And that's true, honestly.

    I'm sure mrs Hawkeye doesn't see it that way now.

    How many years since we smoked, indoors, in pubs, or worse. i smoked in a university lecture in 1989 along with half of my course. Ashtrays in the seat arms. Imagine that now?

    Yesterday Greg suggested that we need to remind ourselves that smoking really is a disgusting thing that needs eradicating from our conscious mind. Helsbelles, thanks, from me to you, for reinforcing that message. Much appreciated!:)

  • Thank you for that Hels...it was great to read

    I'm hoping that by feeling quite a lot of the same feelings as you that I am heading down the right road.

    When a customer or another member of staff (there are only 3 that smoke now from a staff of 60+ at this depot!!) walks up to me after smoking....I am repulsed by the smell!

    (I always said I would never hate "it" after I quit and I respect peoples right to smoke - so full 180 there then!)

    Recently I felt the need to apologise to my staff for smelling like I must have for the past God knows how many years...this actually went down quite well :)

    Loved your post Hawk, as always.....although it did remind me of:

    Ohh isn't it?

    Wasn't it?

    Playing football in the park, long sunny days, jumpers for goal posts...isn't it?

    Mother calling you in for tea! .... Oh ..... wasn't it?

    Running down the wing...wind in your hair! .... marvelous!

    All the best mate, Ron Manager :D


    (Just joshing mucker....we're getting old! :D)

  • Helen great post,

    The nostalgic feelings dwindle but so far after nearly 5 years they haven't totally gone away.

    Its not as if they are strong or at all difficult to deal with is just that they remind us how deeply ingrained the associations with situations and smoking became over the years.

    Given the length of time that most of us smoked for its not at all surprising that we have the occasional reminder of what we thought at the time was a pleasure or reward but it does go to show that if your quit is based on a feeling of having sacrificed a pleasure then even years down the line temptation can be a danger.

    I used to smoke menthols, so when ever I get congestion I remember that smoking used to open my sinuses, I have a cold at the moment and that memory did pop into my mind but just like any old memory its something from the past not the present.

    It should not be a worry to new quitters, life is full of memories from the past; some good, some bad but they make us who we are now and of course we often look back fondly on past experiences. However, these nostalgic feelings aren't cravings, they aren't even a true desire they are just a reminder of who we used to be and they act as a positive reinforcement that we made the right choice when we stopped.

    The idea that in the space of weeks or even months we can completely wipe out the memories of the way we lived for decades isn't realistic, I reckon 95% of quitting is done in the 1st 100 days the remaining 5% comes over the following years but the sad fact is that all of us addicts are only ever a few cigarettes away from being full blown smokers once again, which is why the old NOPE acronym is so important.

    Anyway there is a quote which is generally attributed to Thomas Jefferson which I think rings true for quitting.

    Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

    Live by that and you won't go wrong.

  • Nic - dead on. Couldn't agree more.

    I know new quitters wonder - and freak out slightly - at the thought of people who have been quit for months or even years starting again. I used to think this meant that they had spent the entire time they had been quit fighting against the cravings.

    But I don't think it's like that. I think it's a combination of a memory like the ones we've described, plus that 'one won't hurt' mentality. The two combine to create a moment of madness, and before we know it we're back on the tabs.

    To know and understand this is to be prepared for it, and the madness can be averted.

  • This makes good reading and all very true imho.

    We always fantasise our favourite ciggies,but were they?.

    They were just the same as any other!

    Hellsbelles its wonderful that you still support this forum and fellow quitters after such a long time.It gives us all hope and inspiration x

  • Thank you for this thread, today could have been so different from a smoking point of view without posts like this.

    I needed and it was here

    Molly x

  • I just happened apon this post and I got a chuckle out of it. I am 13 months and 12 days into my quit and this struck home.

    It is 25 degrees out and I opened windows today because my other half still smokes. I just HAD to get rid of the smell and the smoke. I will probably open windows again tomorrow to. This from a 3 pack a day smoker (former smoker)....ppat

  • And another brilliant example of a long term quitter x

  • Oh Helen its so great to read your post. I'm at a point in my quit where nostalgia and something else ,im not sure what are calling to me to smoke . Im in the middle of exams at college and I keep getting strong messages to have a cigarette . Its almost like old subliminal messages that tell us that smoking is what you do after an exam after dinner after the post coital thingy. They are silent but not quite. I get images in my head of lighting up and looking like Clark Gable. Iv always had that idea around smoking and the joke is I look nothing like him never have never will. Its bizarre how these old images which I know are a huge con have started to filter into my conscious ness at this particular time of stress . Its like they have got into my psyche since I started smoking 40 odd years ago and they are still inside me lying dormant . Perhaps they cant be erased just overlaid with new info. Its true that we do have to be on our guard a little compared to the constant vigil of freshly quitting.

    Im amazed that Iv quit and stayed that way and now abhor smoking . I find it repulsive stupid and ridiculous and never consciously chose to see it in this way . I can honestly say that im very happy not to smoke and that's something that at first I never thought possible Im so glad I gave quiiting the chance it deserves. Its a pleasure to know you and have you alongside me on my quit journey Its rare that I come on here these days and I miss it . I remember when I first quit and was never away. I so needed it. it saved my life . coming on here today makes me realize the importance of remembering how far we have all come and the important awesome achievement we have all made.Thank you. mash x

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