“You used to wear a black coat and stand at the bottom of the garden in the rain when you smoked” my now 15 year old daughter reminded me the other day. It had been raining again – well let’s face it when isn’t it these days? Anyway, something in her subconscious mind must have reminded her about the time when I used to smoke, like a regular ‘fag ash Lil’ as it happens; that was 10 years ago this July (the 21st to be exact – no, you never do forget the date; I like to celebrate it every year).
I was a full time teacher back then and a full time smoker. Truth be told I did actually teach myself to smoke cigarettes, daft as it sounds, I was working for the Evening Gazette back in the 1980s in telesales – the smoke room was the best place to go for the latest sales info, on a good day you would come out with a fresh sales lead, on a bad day you would come out stinking of smoke and smelling like a ‘wet dog’. As a teacher, the smoking staff room was the best place to go to cry and get some sympathy, back in the day before the Council decided we were too much of a fire risk, then the kids smoked in the toilets and we had to drive a mile up the road on a break time. I knew the writing was on the wall when the ban came in…
The summer of 2006 I decided to make a change.
I was a mother again by this point and my then 6 year old daughter had already copied me smoking by using a drinking straw from a carton drink and often spent time blithely blowing ‘mock’ smoke out of a Ribena straw much to my horror. My son was just 18 months and the thought of either of them smoking filled me with fear.
I reasoned I was a capable woman who could surely find a quick solution to this smoking nonsense but with two young children and a full time job I wondered if ‘giving up’ smoking was actually a ‘sane’ decision – I was stressed wasn’t I? I would put on weight wouldn’t I? It would be hell wouldn’t it?
The epiphany came when I realised that I wasn’t actually ‘giving up’ anything; cigarettes were a smoke screen. I was gaining my health. Cigarettes didn’t make dinners taste better or make time go faster. Cigarettes did not help my diet they made it worse because I couldn’t do exercise for coughing.
Cigarettes did NOT help my stress. The stress was still the same after the cigarette as it was before! NOTHING HAD CHANGED. Then it struck me. The only thing that could change was my thinking.
I began listing all the things I thought cigarettes ‘did’ for me…turns out not a lot. I tried to work out which cigarette of the day was the ‘nicest’ – again, I realised quickly that it wasn’t the cigarette….it was my thinking about what I thought the cigarette did for me: it was there at the the ‘nicest’ part of the day…the time mummies dream of… the end of the working day, after tea, after the witching hour when the kids were in bed, I would have a cigarette. Somehow I had convinced myself that it was the cigarette that made this moment pleasurable, no it was the rest that made the moment pleasurable.
I read as much as I could about smoking and addiction. I realised quite startlingly during a conversation with my doctor that I was technically a nicotine addict…me an addict? I always thought I was just a smoker.
The doctor was great and wrote me a prescription for Nicotine Gum which I used for a while before just replacing this with chewing gum. There was no drama, no weeping and wailing or gnashing of teeth. I took ALL the help I could get, (NHS cessation helpline included) I stopped being ashamed and sad about wanting to quit and just got on and made a plan to do it right – no half measures. I started to understand that my stress was there whether the cigarettes were there or not – in reality cigarettes caused more stress because I worried I would get cancer and die. I decided to walk more in the fresh air and look at my diet; I started to listen to meditation music and learn about beating cravings (I didn’t know that I would eventually teach this stuff!)
Turns out, after setting a plan and getting support, I was free in 14 days. FREE. The guilt was gone, the fear was gone, the horrible nagging sensation to go and ‘feed my dirty habit’ was gone. I was Free. It wasn’t that hard – I just decided to change my thinking about who I was without the cigarettes. I looked at my identity and made a decision, who did I want to be? The addict or Julie Phillips?
The smokescreen was gone and I had seen the whole thing for what it truly was – a convenient excuse to procrastinate and waste precious moments of my life time on a drug that hated me. I didn’t want to be in a relationship like that so one of us had to make the decision to leave.
So, if there’s one relationship you definitely should leave this year it’s the ‘relationship with cigarettes’ after all, you wouldn’t let a partner treat you like that, would you?
For FREE help and advice you can look at NHS Websites.
If you would like a FREE Meditation Track to kick start your Smoke Free Plan go to our website.