‘This time I really mean it,’ I said, stubbing out my final cigarette defiantly at two in the morning.
‘I just can’t understand why you don’t believe me when I tell you, that this is absolutely my last one. I. Am. Done.’
Oh, that poor husband of mine. I believe that he has heard this speech so many times now that he could, if feeling cruel, parrot it back to me verbatim. Luckily for me (and for him), he does not. Low and behold, two days later, there sits Lady Muck sheepishly rolling a Drum Blue in the garden when he gets home from work.
‘Darling it’s not my fault, really it’s not. I have……I have my period!’
Honestly though, what an absolute mind f*ck cigarettes are.
In my twenties, I could barely be seen through the clouds of smoke that endlessly billowed from my betwixt my scarlet lips. But I loved it. Glass in one hand and a fag in the other, I wore my poisons with pride. And, if I’m being perfectly truthful, I don’t really regret it. Many of my dearest friendships were forged in the wee hours of the evening, huddled together conspiratorially under a heavy grey fog, shrieking. There was an instant companionship when you locked eyes with another deviant standing outside the bar, rummaging simultaneously in your handbags for a lighter that you just knew was in there somewhere. Cigarettes were basically the swipe right of friendship. Plus, of course, when we are in our twenties we think that we are, indisputably, immortal. ‘Pah!’ we said to the warnings on the packets, ‘I hardly think that that will apply to me!’
But now, I’m not so sure about that. I’m not so sure about that at all. And so, I lead myself regularly through a rather hellish carousel ride, where all the plastic horses are enormous cigarettes, and if you fall off, you die. Around once every two weeks I will ceremoniously smoke my last, and pompously throw the remainder of the packet into the bin. I will dust my hands, shake out the fragments of tobacco from my handbag, and solemnly swear that from now, on I’ll be good. I won’t lie to you, it’s a rather tiresome pastime.
I would say that I have tried to quit smoking, conservatively, around 300,000 times in the last seven years. Sometimes my attempts last for a day or two, and sometimes, gloriously, for up to six months. Oh, the elation of feeling that you’ve finally mastered it! The pride! It makes you feel so powerful that you think that probably, maybe then, one more cheeky wee one couldn’t hurt. You know…since you’ve proven that you’re in control. What a slippery little slope that is.
So, with my wealth of experience in failing to quit smoking (for now), here are my top five ways to not kick the habit. And the best of luck to you.
Allen Carr’s ‘The Easy Way To Stop Smoking’
I first read Allen Carr’s book when I was 25, and despite my significant misgivings, it worked. It had been recommended to me several times, usually by men that I met at parties who, squinting through the unrelenting stream of smoke issuing from my direction, said that it was a miracle. With tremendous scepticism, I bought a copy, and to my surprise, I found that on reading the final sentence, I truly felt cured. Six whole magical months passed by, and I felt like a powerful hypnosis had been worked on me. But after a particularly soggy evening, the kind of which you can only have when you are 25, I had just the one wee ciggie. And game over.
You know that when you find your hypnotist on Groupon, it has a fairly miserable chance of success. Greeted at the door by a woman with a spectacularly squint set of eyes, I was led to a massage table and promptly wrapped up tightly in a rainbow coloured blanket.
‘People find it soothing,’ she said.
Initially, the experience was quite promising. As Gretchen ‘call me Gretch’ talked me deeper and deeper into a trance, I could feel myself starting to drift peacefully away into a state of absolute compliance. That was until…
‘You’re really, really, really deep under now, aren’t you? In fact, you couldn’t even move your little finger, even if you wanted to.’
Dimly, I thought, ‘of course I could.’
But I couldn’t. Instantly I began to panic, and within seconds I had rocketed myself out of my trance and back into the rainbow blanket. I spent the next thirty minutes pretending to be hypnotised, which is a lot less amusing than you’d think. After I had shaken Gretchen’s hand and assured her that I was cured, I hopped into the elevator and began rolling my cigarette for when I got out onto the street.
Truly, there is nothing more crippling for one’s self-esteem than lighting a cigarette while wearing two nicotine patches. I used to optimistically buy them to help me survive the 24-hour flight from Melbourne to Glasgow, a nightmarish pilgrimage I undertook every year. But patch or no patch, I was still sat there biting my nails while clutching my plastic bottle of Jacobs Creek, and weeping uncontrollably at Gladiator.
This one, actually, does work. But only if you really want it to. In fact, studies have found that people who quit cold turkey have a further 25% chance of success than other methods. One glimmering fragment of positivity that I took from Allen Carr’s book is the realisation that nicotine withdrawal is a lot less painful than most people think. In fact, with the right mindset, you can sail through that first week with barely a mood swing. The problem is if you don’t really want to quit in the first place if you feel like it’s something fabulous and fun, and you’re just not allowed to play anymore – that’s what’s hard to beat. But if you truly want to stop smoking, then quitting is as easy as pie. That is until you start craving a slice of pie.
Oh you’ll just have the one, will you? Just because it’s Friday, and Pamela from accounts has really been grating at you this week? Just the one, wee, harmless little fag to go with your cold glass of Chardonnay? Sure hon, let me know how that one works out for you.
The good news is, Gen Z are far less likely to start smoking now, with rates steadily declining every year. I think I’ve been to a few too many festivals, and have a few too many wicked friends to have ever truly avoided smoking in the past. But, as you know, today is the day. This is absolutely my last one. I promise…