This post covers my first smoke free day in almost 17 years: October 1st, 2015.
As the title suggests, I did it. I didn’t ever think I’d manage it, but ladies and gentlemen, I bloody well did it! I went a whole day without a cigarette, and that for me is a massive achievement!
Coming from thirty, yes thirty, a day to absolutely none? My sense of pride in this cannot be overestimated. Trust me, it really can’t.
It wasn’t an easy day though, ohhh no. Let’s go through it shall we?
The day started, as most days do, when I woke up. Once I’d gotten over the shock of being woken up by the shrill squealing of my alarm that is. Now, my first thought when I opened my eyes was never I need a cigarette, it was always more along the lines of oh god no! but my second thought, which I think is far more telling, was always this: If I get up I can have a smoke. It was no different this morning. So up I dragged myself, staggered into the bathroom and started my day.
Usually my second port of call in these not-so-wee-but-still-fairly-small-hours is the kitchen, where I noisily fill the kettle and put it on to boil. This is the first step to preparing half of my breakfast. Coffee.There’s usually a swear word or two thrown in around this point just because…well because I can. It makes me feel better. Usually once I’ve slapped the kettle on I’m out in the shed lighting my first cigarette before the electricity hits the element. Again, this morning was no different.
Before I know it I’m in the shed, the familiar feel of the cigarette between my lips, the comfortable feel of the lighter in my hand, that wonderful sound of the flint striking and the glorious sight of that little flame erupting from its hiding place. All I had to do was touch that flame to the end of the waiting cigarette, inhale deeply and…ahhhh, good morning world!
Not this morning though.
I was in the shed, just about to light the cigarette when suddenly I remembered I’m supposed to be quitting today. I won’t lie to you, I did consider sneaking that one. It was already out, near enough lit, and I wanted it! Boy oh boy, good lord and heavens above I wanted that smoke! Badly. I wrestled with my conscience, and somehow, I don’t know how so don’t ask, I managed to resist. I went back into the kitchen and just stood there, looking around. A little confused.
You have to understand that now I was out of my routine. A routine I’d been in my entire working life. Get up. Get washed and dressed. Put the kettle on. Have a smoke. The last part of my routine no longer existed. I honestly didn’t know what to do! As ridiculous as that sounds it’s the absolute truth.
I decided on some breakfast. I never eat breakfast, but at six o’clock on this morning the world seemed to have gone completely mad so why not? I made some porridge and had two spoonfuls before it went in the bin. Some habits won’t ever change I’m afraid.
It felt strange walking to work without having a smoke too. There’s a certain point along the route where I always stopped to light up, and I had it timed perfectly. I’d get that one finished in time to allow for one more before I reached work. See? A smokers logic.
It was even stranger throughout the day. My break is timed perfectly to three cigarettes. That’s how I know it’s time to get back to it. After my third cigarette I’ve been on my break roughly twenty-five minutes, which gives me five minutes to get through the building to where I actually do my job. See? Routines. Smokers build them around cigarettes. Today I was all out of sync and to be honest I was pretty rattled by it. I didn’t like it. I wasn’t comfortable and I was very nervous.
For a smoker, it’s not just the act of smoking that’s important. For a lot of us (because I haven’t kicked the habit yet) it’s the structure and routine smoking gives us. We understand it. We feel safe within it and we don’t like being taken out of it. It just seems all wrong.
Resisting the urge to smoke after my lunch was almost as difficult as fighting the urge to light up first thing in the morning. After a meal is when most smokers enjoy their habit most. It signals an end to the eating, and the start of whatever comes next. It’s an anchor point for the different stages of the day. I had no anchor point and I began to feel like I was starting to drift through the afternoon. My day had no ‘stages’. It was all very strange.
This might sound totally ridiculous to the non-smokers and the hardcore anti-tobacco league, but trust me, as a smoker for more than half of my life I’m telling you, this is how it is. It goes a lot deeper psychologically than just lighting a fag.
So I’d gotten through the morning and made it through lunch. Good times. But I still had a long way to go. and at 1p.m. the hill I had to climb might swell have been Mount Everest, because I didn’t think I stood a chance!
The rest of the afternoon passed slowly, and I desperately prayed to get through the next hour, and silently rejoiced when I did, because I do want to quit. I’m not being forced into this.
My mood throughout the day wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, but it wasn’t great. I was little impatient at times but I don’t think I was ever snappy or nasty. It helped that I was in work. I had a lot of good people around me giving me encouragement and egging me on. I had a lot to do to take my mind off smoking, and I had a nicotine patch as well and an electric cigarette the size of a small Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (seriously, it’s a whopper). Had I been sat at home, or even out and about I never would have made it, and you won’t convince me otherwise.
But I managed it. I don’t know how, but I did. So now it has to get easier…right? RIGHT???
Dave C. Bannerman