My name is Jamie. I quit smoking on 5th January 2014.
So now I’m at day 19. I thought it would be easier to get here than it has been, but still I’m amazed and delighted that I have got as far as this!
According to the counter I have running, since 5th Jan 2014:
I have NOT smoked 382 cigarettes that I otherwise would have consumed
I have saved £172
I have reversed 0.31% of the damage done to my lungs over 22 years. (This is somewhat less compelling as a statistic but as they say, ‘from every acorn…’)
It has been a real roller coaster journey so far. Sometimes euphoric (yay!), but also sometimes scary and deeply troubling. On a normal day I would typically smoke 20-25 cigarettes, but each one was rarely out of my mouth once lit, and I inhaled very deeply. I truly loved cigarettes (or thought I did), and I consider myself to be one of the most heavily addicted smokers I have ever come across. This is my first and only serious cold turkey quit.
My Quit History
Prior to my current and final decision to cease smoking, I have ‘quit’ several times a year for 22 years. In roughly chronological order since the age of 15 I have tried the following:
three weeks in hospital with bacterial meningitis (this was an involuntary quit when I was 16. I very nearly died from the infection, but still managed to slip out of the hospital and stumble my way to the newsagents pretty much as soon as I was out of ICU. I bought myself red Marlboros instead of Lights as a special treat - I distinctly remember making that decision.)
Allen Carr (successful for 3 days. Evidently I don't respond well to evangelism.)
Kidding myself that I could just take it or leave it (successful for up to 8 hours at a time; mainly while asleep)
Patches (max success: 4 weeks. Unfortunately I worked night shifts in a very smoky workplace at the time, and it just got the better of me)
Zyban (Ok. This worked for 2 months in combination with group counselling. NHS stopped funding the counselling groups and I started smoking again)
Nicotine Gum (hopelessly overcome with hiccups. Quit abandoned)
Moving House (about 24 hours)
Changing Jobs (about 24 hours)
Inhalator (max success: 1 week)
Lozenges (similar hiccups problem to gum)
Champix (REALLY BAD side effects. Severe depression, ringworm everywhere and bad body smell. My doctor was so troubled by the side effects I experienced that she told me to stop taking Champix and resume smoking.)
Lozenges combined with patches (hiccups beyond even your worst nightmare. Not remotely funny)
E-cigs (I quickly began to smoke constantly - in particular revelling in the adolescent joy of chain smoking on trains once again. Standard batteries too weak to keep up with my insatiable demands, so I carried a laptop and a big bag of assorted adaptors with me everywhere to supply the necessary wattage)
My cold turkey experience
I have fared better with the cold turkey method than with any NRT product or combination of NRT products. After all the ludicrous attempts above, I decided that I had to overcome the chemical addiction to nicotine. At least for me, I do think that NRT always made it harder for me because my brain always held out hope for a proper dose. It only took the right combination of circumstances for this wish to be fulfilled. Maybe I was tired, or drunk, or maybe one of my colleagues had spoiled my day. Cigarettes are readily available to me 24 hours a day: I live 5 mins walk from a convenience store that is open until 11pm (this is almost certainly not serendipity. It may well have influenced my decision to buy this particular house, although I do love my home for other reasons). When that shop is closed, there is always the 24h petrol station - a mere 10 minutes away on foot.
I have just finished my third working week without cigarettes. This feels like quite an achievement - it has not been easy at all. I have not been at all productive at work and I have been trying not to feel guilty about this.
In the first week, I ate an obscene amount of chocolate. I have tried to make light of this with friends and colleagues, describing it as my Toblerone problem. Fortunately, the craving for chocolate and crisps seems to have subsided and is now back to ‘normal’.
Recovering from an Illness
I have read articles which suggest treating yourself as though you are recovering from an illness, which is fair enough because at times I have felt very ill indeed. So I have treated myself to short working days (very short sometimes), lots of hot baths etc.
I knew alcohol would be a big risk, so I avoided it the first week. I am still consuming less alcohol than when I smoked, which is a good thing. Particularly on Friday nights, I used to drink and smoke very heavily. It was fun at the time, but highly self-destructive. It made me feel paranoid and dirty, and had begun to affect my work so I’m glad that my appetite for booze has reduced.
However, 2 or 3 days a week, I have literally dreaded coming home. Not because I don’t want to come home to my partner and my cats, but because home is my haven and I know I will experience no comfort because of the strong association between home and smoking. Some days this has worked out unexpectedly well:). Other days, I have been unable to sleep and have (I’m ashamed to say) slammed doors and stomped around the house in the middle of the night, experiencing a frustration I don’t believe I have ever known before:mad:. It is not nice when you are scared of coming home. As I approach the end of my third quit week, I do think this may be starting to get better.
But sadly I know that crippling despair can still strike unexpectedly. Who knew that just one cigarette held the key to lasting world peace, harmony and happiness!
To help me quit smoking, and adjust my lifestyle, I have been using a tool called Beeminder.
Beeminder is a bit complicated and nerdy at first glance, but the basic premise is that you challenge yourself to achieve a particular goal by a particular time. The sting is that if you don't keep your promise, Beeminder will make you pay a fine, which increases exponentially every time you fail. For some reason this has REALLY helped.
From the beginning of January, I have made a series of commitments using Beeminder:
no smoking (data source: CO breath detector)
sensible alcohol use (data source: alcohol breath detector)
sustained increase in my level of physical exercise (data source: runkeeper)
Have a look at my progress
Beeminder is all about honest and meaningful data. So I bought a carbon monoxide breath detector and an alcohol breath detector. Every night before bed my partner makes me do a CO breath test and an alcohol breath test. The values get entered into Beeminder. If I pass, then all is well. If I were to fail, it would cost me money. although the basic fine is less than the cost of a pack of cigarettes, somehow it acts as a massive incentive. It has really worked - I have already saved the cost of the CO breath detector and now I can potentially sell it on.
Sorry this has been a really long and rambling post. This is a very weird time in my life and I have tried to be as entertaining as I can be!