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Five Years Clean


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Today I am five years clean. 

If you see a BWG (Big White Guy) today walking about with a grin that can be seen from space, that'd be me. Yes, I know, "Pride Goeth..." and "Ex-smokers are the WORST...", yada yada yada; today I don't give a Rat's Ass, I am proud of myself and don't care who knows it.

I thought that I'd write it up in the hope that a current smoker, or vaper, sees this and makes the decision to quit; if I am able to influence even one person, I'd be happy as hell.

How did I do it? 

The first step, and the key to it all, is the decision to quit. Every smoker, and I was one for decades, knows that they should quit, but always wheedles the issue with phrases like "yes, I know that I should quit, but I have too much on my plate" or 'Yes, I know that I should quit, but it's not a good time" or "Yes, I know I should quit, but I tried and I can't so I am not going to try again" or "I can quit, but I like smoking". I can't emphasize this point enough; this step is the key to it all. Yes, I can already hear people saying "Well, Doh!" and "No Shit, Sherlock!" and "Score another win for Captain Obvious!", but it is everything. If you are serious, you stand a great chance of quitting successfully, but if it is half-assed, you stand no chance at all. None.

What prompted my decision? Many, many things, but one stood out; I became an early morning cyclist many years ago, ironically as I was worried about what cigarettes were doing to my health, and used to sprint home for the last 2-3 kilometers to get a heightened blast of endorphins. I started noticing that as I got home and caught my breath, I was getting "Lung-Burn" (think heartburn from too much spicy food and raise it 6 inches to your chest); it felt like my lungs were scraping the inside of my rib cage. That was the final straw, and I am happy to note that it went away within a month of quitting.

I made the decision to quit cold turkey and chose a Monday about 10 days in the future. I chose a Monday as it seems like this sort of thing should occur at the beginning of a new week, and I used that 10-day period to reinforce mentally and prepare. When the Monday arrived, I had already been psyching myself up and the prep time was invaluable. The night before you begin, destroy any/all remaining cigarettes, hide all matches/lighters, and wash/hide all ashtrays.

The first few days are unpleasant; there is no getting around it. The key is distracting yourself, breaking patterns and getting through it 5 minutes at a time. Usually have a smoke with morning coffee at the table? Have your coffee outside and when the craving hits, run around your house. Break the pattern. Usually have a smoke after writing an e-mail? Finish your e-mail and do 5 push-ups. Break the pattern. Usually have a smoke when you turn on your computer and wait for it to start? Hit the button and re-arrange your sock drawer. Break the pattern. Usually have a smoke during a work break at XX o'clock? Start a small, new task just before the regular time. Break the pattern.

Break the pattern. Break the pattern. Break the pattern. Break the pattern. Break the pattern.

I hit on something that greatly helped me as I live a frugal life (He's cheap as hell! Ed.). My bedroom doubles as my office (one AC) so when home, I spend a lot of time there. I had a clear plastic container on my desk and each morning put in what I would have spent on cigarettes that day; when I quit it was two packs at 174 Baht a day. So, with my morning coffee, I had a small ceremony in which I put a One Hundred Baht note, a Fifty Baht note, a Twenty Baht note and Four one-Baht coins into the jar. The first day or two it didn't matter, but after 4-5 days I had a spectacular visual reminder of all the money I was saving. By the way, if I hadn't quit five years ago, I would have spent 317,550 Baht (minimum!) on cigarettes and gotten SFA in return. Think of what you would do if gifted 317,550 Baht; a kick-ass motorcycle? A no-expense limit weekend? Refurnish your house? A special gift to your wife and/or child?

Once you get to the end of the first week, it is just determination and willpower. And, once you get to the end of the first week, people usually realize that it can be done and it isn't as bad as they thought it'd be. Each person is different, but you can expect any physical reactions to end in either a few weeks or at worst a few months, getting easier every day. The psychological aspects of being addicted are different; in my case I was mostly (MOSTLY!) over cravings and the worst aspects in about a month or two/three. 

What are the positives? No more sickly-yellow sputum drooling out of your mouth. No more tar-covered fingers. No more rasping smoker's hack, especially at night when you sleep. No more planning your every move based on whether you have enough cigarettes or not. No more stinking up a room merely by entering it. You can climb stairs without gasping. You can exercise. Your skin is better. Your sex life is better; one side effect that I didn't know about was that women can tell when a man has quit smoking, and when they sense it, they take him aside and 'rock his world' as a reward (this may or may not have occurred. Ed.). You sleep better. Your health is generally better and you get sick less often. In the age of Covid, a respiratory infection, the benefits are obvious. You will live longer, and have less chance of dying in a hospital bed harking up a lung. To sum up, your life is just better. Much better.

Finally, there is one aspect that I haven't mentioned, but really matters. I started smoking in my early teens as I didn't know any better and got addicted by Big Tabaco corporate a-holes who made a living off of my illness. Are you happy being an addict and lining the pockets of unscrupulous Big Tabaco a-holes? I very much doubt it. Being as addict diminishes a person, and ridding yourself of that (proverbial) 'Monkey on your Back' is a truly wonderful feeling. And, stopping some Big Tabaco a-hole exec from getting his annual bonus just magnifies it.

Any residuals five years later? Sadly, yes, but I have a genetic predisposition to addiction (many alcoholics in the extended family). I still get an occasional... urge(?), not craving, to have a cigarette, but I resist easily; I am adamant that I will never allow myself to become addicted to Nicotine again.

You don't have to be an addict; you can choose to stop. 

I was a heavy smoker for 30+ years and I managed to quit. If I managed to quit after 30+ years, anyone can. Literally anyone.

It is really, really worth it.

Good luck!


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