7 November 2008
Without even the merest hint of smugness, I've realised that today marks the fifth anniversary of my cessation of a cigarette habit.
Yep, I gave up on November 7th 2003. All meticulously plotted and planned it was too, in order to give me the best chance of succeeding.
Previous attempts at packing in the weed had failed dreadfully. The best I managed was roughly five weeks, with gum permanently wedged between teeth and cheek, before I reached for a fag while inebriated and ended up purchasing 16 Regals from the machine.
I once laughably tried to stop by vowing to smoke other people's fags, which many of those 'occasional' smokers (my, they irritate me) still do to this day. I ultimately got tired of being refused/threatened/reported for haranguing innocent drug addicts and so reverted to my own purchases.
However, a moment of shame prompted my successful aims to be rid of tobacco forever. In 2002, the Natural Blonde and I visited France, as ever, and acquired a mighty stack of fags on the boat back. Hardened smokers will scoff (between coughs) at my preferred brand, Silk Cut ("like smoking fresh air, that!") but the shame remains when you pile 2,000 of the blighters in a cupboard in your living room.
"That's it, " i said, out loud. "I'm smoking every single one of those, and then I'm going to stop."
Hollow words they may have sounded to anyone else, but that's precisely what happened. As a 25-a-day man it didn't take as long as it would for those 'occasional' smokers, but the process of giving up and meeting a day of judgement was underway.
I got down to the final 200 and braced myself. You see, although I knew it was ruinous to my health and wallet, I loved my fags. The first one of the day, the one after a big dinner, the ones you light up with ale, were all divine. Soon, unless I was to be seen as a coward, a weakling with no will power, all that would be gone.
The last packet was opened at 3.15am on November 7th 2003, five years ago today. I had just got up, as I was on Imagine FM's breakfast show at the time and needed to be in Stockport for 5.30am, so these sort of alarm calls were regular. I smoked my normal load through the day, ending up with about half a dozen by teatime that evening. However, on my way home, I stopped at the local chemist, a determined man, and bought a pack of those patches.
Point of order: If there's one thing that stops smokers giving up, it's that the products designed to wean you off the things cost a lot more than the fags themselves.
I smoked a handful more after eating and then fell asleep on the settee. This was clear as day (even though it was night) as when I woke up, pushing midnight, I looked in my fag packet and there was one left. I knew if I saved it for the morning I'd buy another pack straight afterwards. So, I enjoyed one last glorious dozen lungfuls of poisonous fumes, put the fag out and hopped to bed.
The next morning, I put a patch on my arm and began the day.
You get seven patches in a pack, designed to last you a week. I used six of them - the seventh remains buried somewhere in my bathroom cupboard in the event of an 'emergency'. No such emergency has occurred. Cravings since the proper cold turkey began were minimal, and I don't get them at all now, even though the NB still smokes, albeit only five or so a day. She also smokes menthols, which I could only bear when I had a cold. Recently, when back in France, she and our two friends were all smoking. I was the exception and it never got to me, either through craving or passive smoking. Sometimes I'd quite like a cigar after a hearty feed, but have always refrained from doing so.
Five years is an important milestone, as when I happened to visit my doctor this week (nothing serious, you'll be relieved to learn), she asked if I smoked. She'd clearly not glanced at my medical history prior to calling me into her surgery. I said no, and then realised how close the anniversary was. Upon pointing it out to her, she advised me that after five years I become as susceptible to smoking-related illnesses as every person who has never touched a cigarette.
I'm not an anti-smoker, even though many ex-smokers become vehement (and conceited) in their denouncement of people who enjoy a fag. I'd hate to be like that. I loved smoking, though I would never return to it, and I was fiercely against the smoking ban. The atmosphere might be cleaner now that the addicts are all in heated outdoor shelters, but it's also less fun. At my club nights, when everyone buggers off for a fag, there are massive empty spaces on premises deemed 'full'. It's crazy.
Anyway, if you smoke, then just get on with your lives. I have (again, without smugness) proved it is possible to give up, but I'm certainly not going to tell you to.