Holy Smoke… I did it… I Quit Smoking

words by Sarah Clark

I know quite a few smokers, and they all firmly fit into two categories – those who enjoy a weekly cig with a glass of wine, or those that are confirmed smokers with a daily habit… sadly I used to fit into the latter category with my own routine. So, when I was offered the Allen Carr Easyway stop smoking clinic I naturally jumped at the chance, having wanted to give up for almost the last year but failed. I’ve heard great things, and know people who have quit successfully using Allen’s book so I accepted with arms open.

What surprised me the most on my arrival (each session has approximately 15 people) was that it seemed I was one of very few who was excited about the prospect of walking out the session as a non-smoker. Other attendees offered their feelings of fear, worry, even sadness that after the session they would miss something that has become a big part of their life.

The session started with an ice breaker for us all to feel comfortable, with the session leader going round each of us introducing our names, and why we’re here. Lots of different answers were given, such as ‘I want to do this for the sake of my children’, ‘I can’t afford it anymore’ or simply, like myself ‘I just don’t want to feel dependent on cigarettes’.

Our session leader then started on a series of talks about the act of smoking – surprisingly little health issues are included in this. The thing is, as smokers, you know the health risks. You don’t need someone preaching these at you. The session leaders are all ex-smokers too, so know the patronising effect this would have. Instead, it’s more about turning the act of smoking on its head. Why is it that some associate a cigarette with a moment of relaxation – after a big meal, or with a glass of wine… whereas others associate a cigarette with the complete opposite of this, that of stress. For me, I think that was the most difficult realisation. I think I knew I could forgo my cigs when it came to the fun times, but if I have an argument with my boyfriend, or a looming important work deadline for the boss then that’s usually when I have my little nicotine itch. However, our session leader explained that as complex, intelligent human bodies we are obviously more than capable to handle stressful situations on our own accord – and need no assistance, especially in the form of nicotine.

After lunch, and even a cig break, we came back for the more relaxing part of the relaxation session, which must have taken an hour or so. The lights are then turned down, you are given a blanket and the session leader began talking again. You were recommended to close your eyes, and I know I drifted off… I can’t speak for the rest of the class but it would have seemed that way when the lights were turned back on! What I took from this, when both awake and subconsciously, were the words the leader was saying, which were a repetition of the main points we had learnt in the morning, as well as the little saying we could repeat to ourselves, that “we were now free of nicotine.” Once awake, you say your goodbyes, and head off into the big bad world… as a non smoker.

As I write this, it has now been almost three months since I have had a cigarette. I cannot describe the feeling of elation I have every day over this. In fact, those situations where I have the boyfriend argument or the hostile conversation with my boss I can now say I handle them better than I ever did as a smoker. Not to mention the extra cash, fresher breath and clearer skin. I now walk past smokers on the street and look at them with pity, and want to inspire those around me to give up too – which is just as well – as I was given a few Allen Carr discount vouchers that will go to very good use.