Knowing when to quit

“You’re going to die, Mum.”
“They’ll kill you, Dad.”
I was a know-it-all Miss Ten, telling my parents in no uncertain terms that ‘only dags needed fags’.
While Mum eventually quit, I went on to smoke.
I had my first one aged 15 and my last aged 25.
I can’t pretend I was just a social smoker.
I actually didn’t much like being seen smoking.
And smoking while drinking often made me feel sick.
No, I was someone who had to smoke every day and liked nothing better than only a cigarette to keep me company.
Quitting smoking was THE hardest thing I ever did.
Sure I’ve given birth, had my heart broken, lost jobs, lost loved ones, but my battle with cigarettes was the most consuming challenge I ever faced.
I first tried a cigarette in the Centrepoint car park, my high school friends instructing me to ‘kinda swallow it’.
I knew there was something wrong there so I started pinching my dad’s Winny Red’s to sneak up to the bush and practise.
By the time I hit college I was ready to stop.
Every Monday morning, my friends would snicker as I turned up to the smoking area with a fresh pledge to quit.
My friends and I smoked in cars, nightclubs and restaurants.
I coerced some boyfriends into smoking.
And tried to hide it from others.
Sometimes I’d have a revelation that would involve quitting on the spot.
Other times I’d drag through eight cigarettes in a row to quit at the end of that pack, then throw up.
I’d take my ‘last cigarette’ to ‘special locations’, or smoke it with ‘special people’.
I’d write little pledges, or contracts, about quitting, sign them, then later tear them up.
I knew physically I could quit but didn’t think I’d ever get over it psychologically.
Surely it would be like losing a friend, one who’d been with me through hangovers, exams, broken hearts…
Although it took many, many, many (did I say many?) attempts, I finally stopped.
And ten years later, it’s like I never smoked.
In hindsight they weren’t relieving the stress, they were helping to create it.
In fact, those 10 years were the most stressful of my life.
Of course it’s changing for our children.
Out to dinner with friends, I see smokers having to slip outside on a freezing winter’s night to light up.
When they return, they drop packets depicting rotten teeth and death threats on the table.
Apparently it now costs a small fortune to buy one of those unsightly packs too.
Smoking has fast become expensive, anti-social, even outlawed.
So, while they’ll no doubt have their own addictive battles – social networking, recreational drugs, fast food – hopefully our kids will grow up truly believing that ‘only a galah would ever suck tar’.
And thankfully, I’m no longer one of them.

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4 thoughts on “Knowing when to quit

  1. Very similar tale to my own (and many other smokers), except there are still times I miss it. Irrational and ludicrous but I miss having a ciggy after an exam, I miss the excuse to leave a dinner table or other social situation I’m not fond of to hang out on my own outside (I left a lot of good social situations for the same reason though). I heard a great interview with a woman who is a doctor, triathlete, mum and author (bloody overachiever) and she said that even after 10 years and a wonderful new life that she wouldn’t trade, she still grieves for ciggies. Hope you need a mortgage to buy them by the time my kids are old enough.

    • That’s what I was worried about. My mum told me she still missed it years later and, in fact, she’d often hold a cigarette that wasn’t lit just to feel better at parties and family gatherings. And this was years after she quit. But, apart from that first year, I haven’t missed it at all. I haven’t had one puff though for fear I’d go back straight away.

  2. Oh and it is sooo stressful, always thinking of where I can smoke, do I have enough smokes, do I need to pick up a packet, how will I manage an o/s flight without a ciggy, nasty smoking rooms in asian airports, quitting over and over and over again…

    • Lucky I didn’t travel overseas until after I quit. I cannot imagine how I would have got through that. Or my first pregnancy. I imagine you just stop when you’re pregnant but mine wasn’t planned and, if I hadn’t already quit, it would have been a tough time!

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