It's the start of a journey 12 years in the making, and shall last as long as my days. The challenge of stopping smoking.
I have often dabbled with this challenge over the years. Ever since I arrogantly and uncomfortably inhaled my first cigarette at 14, I have solidified both my reputation and personality as someone with tobacco in his pocket.
I can best sum up my experience of smoking for all these years with the following statement from Christopher Hitchens - one of my favourite writers and orators.
I find this to be the best summary of each experience a smoker has every day. The best friend and the worst enemy. The 'best self-administered micro drug'.
The fact is, smoking cigarettes is rather wonderful. Your friends in your pockets who keep you company in times of discomfort, hunger, sadness, excitement, satisfaction, anxiety, happiness, intimacy, or boredom. The smell is familiar and the time is reflective. Throughout my life, cigarettes have helped me make friends, write essays and articles, calm me down, raise me up, and accompanied me as my social lubricant in over 50 cities around the world.
The time is now for me to put this part of my life in the past. I am no longer a rebellious teenager with an intangible future ahead of me. I am older, slower, wiser, and can visibly see the damage this inescapable habit has caused my body and my wallet.
I speak to many people who have quit smoking long term, and they all express the same story. One day, they were holding their umpteenth cigarette on any given day, and could not see the fiery passion that they once had. He or she would tell me that they put down a cigarette after losing the love of it and happily lived life as a non-smoker.
I had never felt this. Over the years, I had tried gum, lozenges, patches, and even hypnosis. Nothing worked for longer than a few weeks - retrospectively because I never wanted to quit. I just thought I should.
When I thought about my final days as a smoker, I imagined a picturesque moment that existed only in my fantasy. I imagined my newborn daughter wrapping her entire hand around my baby finger, and feeling the responsibility to care for her as long as possible. I saw my future partner grow to resent my selfish actions thus prompting me to finally make a change for the person I loved more than myself. I did not predict that my 'Day Zero' would be how it was.
I was halfway through a busy day of life. Rushing between meetings, having client conflicts, getting bombarded with messages from family and friends. Nothing new. At 12:30pm on a Monday, I decided that my after-lunch cigarette would be my last. Like that, I stubbed it out and haven't gone back. It was a moment of epiphany - one that crystallised my decision and made it the easiest it has ever been.
Like many of my contemporaries, my decision to quit smoking was not born out of reluctance or duty, but from an inherent feeling from within. I knew in that moment that it was time. This isn't to say it was the 'perfect time'. Life still happens. Things invariably turn to shit sometimes. And that's ok. That's never going to change. Ironically, when your breathing and energy levels rise each day from a lack of poison, it makes you ready to face each challenge.
Between each paragraph, I have been intermittently spraying my mouth with 1mg of nicotine. And that's ok. For now, I will accept the uncomfortable sensation and my awkward snacking at literally any moment of any day, if it means I go to bed each night without my trusted cigarette.
It's a journey I didn't want to ever take, but now I feel ready for the ups and downs that I will face each day. I look forward to sharing my progress with you along the way.