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How do you stop smoking? What’s the trick to getting that particular monkey off your back? All of us smokers have asked that question of ourselves some time after midnight. It’s often a heavy cough that has woken us up and we lie there thinking dark thoughts and despairing of ever being rid of our foul addiction. We think up all sorts of ways to trick our bodies into quitting. We will stay in bed all day, or we won’t move from our arm chair until the craving has gone, or we will keep ourselves busy with activities that require the use of our hands. We smokers make all sorts of resolutions but come morning we shove them back into the subconscious where they belong.  It’s depressing. That nicotine has us hooked good and proper and we know we’re not going to do anything about it today, tomorrow or in the foreseeable future. We are not ready and we know it. Or to quote JM Barrie (Peter Pan’s dad) who said it better: ‘No blind beggar was ever more abjectly led by his dog, or more loath to cut the string.’

The anti-smoking campaigns have had some effect. More people are aware of the harm smoking can and does cause than they ever were; smokers are the 21st equivalent of lepers. No one wants to be near them. Although many people are making more of an effort to give up  new smokers are still signing up every day.

If you can imagine it, knowing what we do these days, King George VI of England was advised to smoke because it would calm him and help him with his stammer. He died of lung cancer when he was 52. Doctors used to advertise the merits of smoking and models glamorised smoking.  Thankfully doctors have come to their senses and thankfully smoking advertisements are now banned. We no longer smoke in picture theatres, on planes, on trains and in restaurants.  Even the movie industries have played a part. The hero in contemporary movies never smokes any more. The villain may swear like a stevedore but even he hardly ever smokes.

So to go back to that first question in that first paragraph: how do you stop smoking? I can only tell you how I did it. I went cold turkey. Nicotine patches didn’t help me, it just replaced one addiction with another. Cutting back slowly wasn’t any good. One day, like any other addict, I hit rock bottom and the only place to go was up. Who knows what your rock bottom is, but mine was my grandchildren. I wanted to be around. I stopped. Then I stuck to it until I didn’t feel bad any more. It took two years. before I stopped getting cravings before each meal, after each meal, first thing in the morning, last thing at night.  I became an overnight success after only three decades (and two years).  No other system would have worked for me because that’s the way it is with compulsives. Half measures aren’t any good. Compulsives have to clean their plate of food, eat every chip in the pack right down to capturing the salt and crumbs hiding down the bottom. And each cigarette needs to be smoked right down to the butt.

The only advice I can give you, is that you should stop  because you are determined to do so. Don’t do it because someone tells you that you will have a lot of spare cash once you quit. It doesn’t work that way. Cigarettes may be a legal product but they can be just as addictive as any illegal drug. And like any other drug addict, smokers manage to find the money for their addiction, even if it means denying themselves something they need. Another suggestion is to keep the rage going.  I felt the full force of withdrawal. It was painful.  The chemicals were giving me a last kick in the guts before leaving – slowly.

My thoughts used to be taken  up with the next smoke. I would be watching an interesting movie or having a conversation with a friend or taking in a lecture. Wherever I was I was always thinking about how I could go somewhere to have my fix. Hard as it is to believe, there comes a time when you won’t give cigarettes a thought unless it’s to find the scent of it on somebody else’s skin,  clothes and breath disgusting. You might have a history of stop and start but don’t despair and don’t give up giving up.

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