When I chose what I wanted to tackle in my 2017 Happiness Project, I knew that smoking was one of the things that had to go on my list. And sooner rather than later.
I chose March as the month I would give up smoking, because I really wasn’t in the frame of mind to do so in January and as it turns out in February too. But by committing to a date and planning to tackle only that one thing this month, has helped me to commit to really tackling it.
I started smoking when I was a teenager. I had my first cigarette on a school trip to Stratford Upon Avon in year 8. I remember hiding in a doorway of the theatre during the interlude of a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I wasn’t particularly keen and didn’t smoke regularly until the end of that year. By year 9 I was hiding down an alleyway before school each morning cigarette in hand, getting my first fix of the day. Come lunchtime I was back in the alleyway, hiding from the 6th formers patrolling the grounds for kids like me, having another one. Then of course as soon as school was over I’d have another one. I’d often have a sneaky fag out of my bedroom window and if I went out to meet my friends I could chain smoke like an industrial chimney all night.
The only thing that stopped me smoking was falling pregnant when I was 19. The moment I realised I was pregnant the packet of cigarettes in my pocket was promptly binned and I didn’t touch them again until I returned to work when my daughter was 3 months old. I managed to give up again a few years later but always went back to cigarettes. They became my emotional crutch. Stressed? Have a cigarette. Lonely? Have a cigarette. Depressed? Have a cigarette. And on it went until I fell pregnant with my son 10 years later. I gave up smoking before I even realised I was pregnant. I was so sick I couldn’t eat or drink, so smoking a cigarette wasn’t something that ever appealed to me.
I didn’t smoke again until my nan died 2 years ago. I was an expat when my nan died. I hadn’t seen her for almost a year. I was already having a hard time living abroad so instead of dealing with my nan’s death I chose to ignore it. Shut it out completely in order to carry on. Already at breaking point, my nan’s death would have pushed me over the edge if I hadn’t dealt with it in such an unorthodox way. And of course I returned to the cigarettes. The one thing I knew would help me cope.
Almost 2 years on, I knew I needed to give up smoking. Although I’ve never smoked around the kids, the 5 year old asked me what ‘that funny smell’ was one day and I know the teen hated me smoking and that is what made me decide I’d had enough of it once and for all. I didn’t want my kids growing up thinking it was ok for me to smoke, to put up with the smell of it on my clothes when they wanted a hug, or for me to say I couldn’t hug or kiss them in that moment because I’d just been outside and had a cigarette. So onto my ‘Happiness List’ it went and I decided March would be the month I gave up for good.
On the 5th of March I smoked my last cigarette. And I haven’t had one since. I have struggled, particularly in the first week. My moods were horrendous during that time. Everything irritated me. I shouted at the kids and the Mr. A lot. I pretty much decided that my smoking was the reason they were still alive and I hadn’t murdered them all yet. Luckily I’d had the foresight to buy a box of nicotine gum before I attempted to stop smoking. It was a life saver when all I wanted to do was shout at someone and have a cigarette. It was less than a week before I gave that up too.
3 weeks on and I still feel like I need a cigarette when I’m particularly annoyed. Mother’s Day yesterday bombed to put it mildly and I was seriously considering going to buy myself a packet of fags, but I held out. There will always be those moments when I need a cigarette, or at least when I think I do. It’s a habit that has formed over a long time after all. But that’s just what it is. A habit. And one that needs to be broken.
And don’t believe you can’t diet when you try to quit smoking either. I had a month on my diet which was my focus for February in my Happiness Project and then I gave myself the week off to help tackle quitting smoking. I’d lost 9lb by this point, but put 3 back on that week. I let myself eat what I fancied. Eat instead of smoking if need be. But that was it. One week. Then it was time to move on. I lost that 3lb last week and this week I lost another 1.4lb. So you can give up smoking and STILL lose weight. You just have to go easy on yourself.
It was the 2nd anniversary of my nan’s death a week after I stopped smoking. I hadn’t planned it that way but it made me smile. She would have killed me herself if she’d known I’d started smoking again. Ironic really. But it almost feels right that I stopped smoking then. I’m not going to pretend I’m ‘cured’ and that I’ll never smoke again, or want to smoke again. I hope I won’t and that for me is good enough.