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Quitting smoking

by SCG
An ashtray full of dog ends.

Listen, now, it’s early days yet but I’m on my fifth day since quitting smoking, and it’s going rather well.

This isn’t the first time I’ve quit. I can remember at least three occasions in the last few decades where I’ve stopped for 3-9 months. Obviously, the change did not stick.

The main difference this time around is one of mindset. If you’re a smoker or former smoker yourself, you may be familiar with a book titled Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking. In the past month I’ve read this book, which was first recommended to me well over fifteen years ago, and have taken its approach into practice.

I’m not here to shill for someone else’s book or clinics. Rather, I’m sharing this update because I’ve been genuinely surprised at just how easy the experience has been. This feels worthy of being open about.

Looking back at my previous temporary attempts to quit, each of these was basically driven by what Carr refers to as ‘the willpower method’. At least one was instigated my a period of illness when I didn’t smoke, providing a ‘head start’ on giving up. I remember all of them being difficult experiences, with the desire to smoke being quite intense. Evidently, despite making it well past the point where all nicotine had exited my system, I eventually had ‘just one cigarette’, and soon enough the habit was back.

By contrast Carr’s method is fundamentally one of mindset. Some of this may sound like semantics; for example, you’re not “giving up”, you’re “stopping”. But there’s meaning to this. “Giving up” implies sacrifice, some sense of loss. If you genuinely wish to stop smoking; if you read this book and find what it’s arguing agreeable and relatable; then there is nothing to give up.

Anyway, I shan’t rehash the book: the point is that I have found the experience of stopping smoking much easier than I ever remember in the past, and I’m optimistic and happy about the decision. I believe this is because this time it’s easy to dismiss the weak cravings of a nicotine addiction thanks to the mindset of not wanting to smoke, of being a non-smoker, and of recognising that you are not just not missing out – you’re actually gaining something. In contrast, in the past I regarded myself as having “given up” smoking. With that mindset each time you think about smoking – which will be often – you’re not only left with a feeling of absence, you have no means of escaping from the mental loop of feeling desire in response to cravings, and instead have to struggle on with force of will, which is exhausting.

The whole method will only work if you genuinely occupy the expected mindset, and one proviso is that I think I will need to periodically revisit the book and my own notes to reinforce that mindset. This is hardly a problem, and is a price well worth paying to avoid the slippages I’ve experienced in the past. I’m also thinking that it might be quite easy to drift into being a proselytising former smoker, and, well, fuck that – I never found that helpful in my two decades plus of being a smoker so I’m not going to inflict it on anyone else. But if you are yourself thinking about quitting, I do recommend reading this book with an open mind.

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