A cigarette disappears to the filter again, just like thousands of times before via a packet of (20) cigs per day, 7,300 in the past year alone. 10 puffs per fag and 73,000 smoke inhales to the lungs in that time. 35-40 years puffing away on the ‘magic’ sticks. Not every year has been 20 /day. Some years 5-10/day. There have been many periods of non-smoking of a few weeks here and a month there. But, for at least 35 of those years the numbers have stacked up. A paltry 2.555 Million puffs. 255,500 nicotine sticks sucked into the lungs and much money spent. Cost? Definitely over $100,000. Hmmm…..what that money could have been spent on. It has made no difference, I just kept puffing away.
Science research is clear – Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances around. Some say worse than Heroin, but that is not necessarily the case as psychological factors play a big role in addiction. Anyway, never having been subject to the Heroin curse it is a moot point.
Now? The skin has aged prematurely. No matter how many times the teeth are brushed there is still the vague yellow stain. The lungs are not what they used to be. Blood pressure is creeping up. Random smokers cough pops in and out of existence. I am an active person and love running full tilt on a cricket field and going for a surf. Yes, 62 years living is catching up with me, but after running three or four quick singles on the centre wicket or chasing a ball hit to the outfield, the breath and lungs take far longer to recover than what they did not that long ago.
Heading out to for a surf in a decent swell and needing to duck-dive through a set of 3 or 4 waves, the end result is really hard breathing when before,the breath recovery would have been measured in seconds and not minutes. It hurts and my fitness dissipates, yet after the much loved exercise I light up yet again and this cycle of madness continues.
I have become an involuntary expert in smoking addiction. 1986 while at Melbourne City Council, the Victorian Cancer Council was looking for volunteers for a pilot stop smoking program. I put my hand up. I was smoking about 10-15/day at that time. It was two weeks of two hour sessions. Photos and Videos were shown – lung cancer, emphysema and a “Smoke and you are an Idiot” anti-smoking video. Smoking death stats were rolled out, the hip pocket costs, tests done that clearly demonstrated how nerve endings get jittery. The most powerful message was the need to be mindful – what is the person doing it for (habit to go with coffee), and to be mindful of the smoking triggers. It worked and I stopped smoking for a short time, but the mindfulness went out the door at a Big Party and smoking started up again.
Over the next 20 years, it was random cases of ‘Cold Turkey’, just never long enough and obviously no real will to stop either. I did enjoy the odd cigarette in moderation. But, Nicotine still retained a firm grip in the background to keep the ‘habit’ ticking over. Nicotine gum and patches have been tried, but didn’t like the taste of the gum and the patches seemed to set my nerves on edge. By day 3 of Cold Turkey I would be ‘climbing up a tree’, with the nicotine fix procured asap.
Hypnotism was tried in 2005. The morning after the Hypnotism I arrived at work and headed into the Office past the same bunch of smokers that I would have stopped and had a cigarette with the day before. Thinking about this driving to work had filled me with dread that I would have to deal with this most confronting issue. It turns out that my dread was unfounded. A beautiful feeling of don’t care floated through my being and it stayed this way for about 6 weeks. I thought that was the end. I was past the craving stage that hadn’t really happened due to the hypnotism. An argument at home was a trigger. Next day at work I ‘botted’ a smoke and then a couple more during that day. A few days later back to the hypnotist again for a free ‘top up’ session, but it didn’t have the same impact and smoke filled up in the lungs yet again.
I attended West Australian Cancer Council Stop smoking course about 2008. It failed miserably to make a difference. Was this due to the fact that what they presented then was exactly the same as the pilot program presented 22 years earlier in Melbourne? They hadn’t even updated the “Smoke and you are an Idiot” video. I seriously couldn’t get past the big 80’s hair still on display! The people running the course had never smoked and I felt that was a big mistake. I left half way through the course.
2013 I had another go, but this time with a specialist addiction psychiatrist (or so was claimed) who was recommended by our HR Section at work. The original agreement was to attend a minimum of four sessions, but we never managed to get past two. He was the problem, not me. He was more interested in talking about addiction papers that he had published and how I was an important case study for him. He raved about how people really hear his voice! Whatever that means. All I saw was a large and selfish Ego at play.
My father smoked for many years up to 2-3 packs/day. He came home one day from work, walked down to our incinerator in the backyard, dumped his cigarettes in there and never smoked again. Cold Turkey was the way for Dad. He certainly had developed an interesting habit though. Many years later on a trout fishing trip to Tasmania’s lakes, sitting around the campfire enjoying a beverage or two and Dad automatically reaching to his shirt pocket for the trusty fags without realising they had not been in his shirt pocket for over 10 years. Drinking and cigarettes? The two really go together. I have big admiration for my Father who has never smoked again and is a relatively fit and still a playing and singing musician at 90!
I have read much regarding addiction. Yes nicotine is addictive. The psychology of addiction appears to be my problem. Lack of will-power leads the way. The promise made to myself the night before to not smoke the following day inevitably fail. The mindfulness exercises practiced just before sleep are still there after waking, but evaporate with the first visit of the day to the Convenience store. It is almost robot like, see the store walk in, buy cigarettes, walk out and and about 10 paces away say to myself – “what are you doing??” Too late and the smoking revs up again.
Thinking of not smoking consumes so much of my thinking time, even while smoking! It is a sad and pathetic tale of repeated failure to not have a red hot go at ‘Cold Turkey’. It is a seemingly never ending path of guilt and unnecessary stress that is almost more harmful than the smoking itself. To beat myself up this way is senseless and I know it. But what is logic and actuality are two completely different things. My smoking path has been a dark and despairing path indeed.
The first step for an addict to recover is to admit to the addiction itself. This story is my admission. I am an addict. Phew! It is off my chest, finally. Sympathy for my plight I do not want. Empathy? It is not deserved, but maybe I am too harsh on myself. I really want nothing from anybody but myself, to become addicted to a new clean lungs life. I want my poor abused brain to not have to stress itself over not stopping smoking ever again.
At the time of publishing I have been stop, start, stop, start regarding stopping for three days. I said to the wife and my sister that when this is published, will be the time I stop. Well this writing has gone for way too long – four days for a six minute read. The nuts and bolts have been written, it has only needed polishing. Procrastinate I have done yet again. No more of this, the time is now!