How I Finally Quit Smoking After A Decade-Long Addiction

If this Fag Ash Lil can do it, anyone can.

How I Finally Quit Smoking After A Decade-Long Addiction

by Paisley Gilmour |
Published on

'Fag Ash Lil', that's what my Mum used to call me. Whenever I snuck into the house after chaining rollies at 7am, I was met with a nose wrinkle, disgusted sigh and a hand waved in front of the face; 'you smell vile,' she'd huff.

My obsession with smoking started when I was 13, we would hide behind the tennis courts trying to smoke grass rolled up in a page ripped from the Bible. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t work. But that certainly didn't stop me; it became my mission to puff away at anything I could get my teen mitts on.

What started as harmless teenage experimentation became an addiction. By my 15th birthday I was honking away on 10 cigs a day. Cutters Choice, delicately rolled in a blue Rizla avec Swan filter, was my concoction of choice. Looking back, it really was the golden age of smoking. You only had to be 16 to buy tobacco, could spark up in cafes and pubs, and no one was that health conscious. Being the middle class, privately educated rebel that I am, I wholeheartedly believed my habit gave me an ‘edge'.

Uni meant freedom to bosch as many fags, funny or otherwise, as my young lungs would allow. And when it came to the student supermarket Sophie's choice - sustenance or cigarettes? - food didn't stand a chance. I'd chain smoke in my room, on the 30-second walk to the bus stop, during meals and, even, once, mid-way through a shag. Including innumerble drunken smokes on nights out, I must have been averaging 20 a day.

After years of hiding it from my parents, I couldn't be arsed to smother myself in Impulse and neck a packet of chewing gum every time I went home any more. I started smoking in front of them. My mum's dad had been a smoker since he was 14 and we'd all watched him die a slow, painful, lung cancer induced death. Every time my mum saw me chugging away, she'd get weepy and beg me to stop. You'd think seeing your loved ones in tears would have some kind of effect. It didn't. Even a series of chest infections, where I was pretty sure my lungs were collapsing in on themselves, didn't put me off. I was dedicated, I'll give myself that.

I couldn't fathom what it would be like to quit. What would I do with my hands? Wouldn't all social situations become instantly more intolerable slash awkward? Would pints still taste as delicious? Most importantly, how would I chat up dudes under the unforgiving fluorescent heat lamp light of a smoking area without the classic 'got a lighter?' line? Life sans cigs was not a life worth living.

A few months before my 25th birthday, I was drying my hair when my boyfriend spotted a giant bald patch at the back of my head. My GP diagnosed alopecia areata and said there was bugger all they could do. Gutted didn't cover it. My dyed bright red, long hair was my 'thing'. People were always complimenting me on how healthy, thick and shiny it looked.

After three more patches appeared and numerous frantic early hours spent Googling, I decided my decade-long love affair with tobacco was to blame and became obsessed with the idea that smoking had caused my alopecia.

New Year's Resolutions have, to me, always seemed like a load of crap. Early twenties me thought self-improvement was a sign of weakness, and I would quietly mock friends who made them. But the following year I swallowed my pride and vowed to quit for good.

Another unfounded but avowed hatred of mine had always been self help books. So when my mother handed me Allen Carr's Easy Way To Stop Smoking I, predictably, cracked up. I mentally filed books like that in the 'utter bollocks' shelf, with horoscopes, the 'healing' power of crystals and Dry January.

I sat down one morning to read it, muttering under my breath that it was a complete waste of my incredibly precious time, and didn't look up until the evening when I'd devoured the entire thing. Instantly, I knew I'd never smoke again.

Carr, who has become my own personal Jesus, is a mysterious magical man who I truly believe deserves to be knighted. He points out that anyone who fills their lungs with poisonous smoke day in day out is The Mug Of All Mugs. Tobacco is, he explains, the biggest con of our time. We throw away buckets of cash on cigarettes, we risk our lives, we smell atrocious, we watch as our teeth and fingertips turn yellow, for, literally, no good reason. This resonated with me. It hit me like a rock: I was getting sweet FA from smoking. I felt ashamed that I'd fallen for what he describes as the biggest advertising and marketing ploy known to humankind.


Three years later, I haven't had so much as a whiff of tobacco (unless you count the festival spliffs which, obviously, no one does). I soon learned that you don't need a cig in your hand to cope with social situations, it's much nicer to smell like perfume rather than Dot Cotton's rancid curtains and that fresh air is seriously underrated.

Months after I quit, I'd lie in bed imagining what my lungs looked like beneath my flesh, black and tarred and disfigured. I was furious with myself. I'd treated my own body like shit for so long.

Keeping a tally of my smoke-free days was a godsend. The more I racked up, the more determined I became not to screw it up. Whenever I reached a significant smoke-free anniversary, I bought myself a little gift. A record for one month, a magazine subscription for six, a holiday for one year.

However, I also learned that you really have to want to stop. It's never going to work if your heart's not in it. Some people bang on about E-cigs, patches, gum and all that bollocks, but for me it had to be cold turkey. I just couldn't get on board with replacing one dumb addiction with another.

Giving up smoking as a New Year's resolution made it much easier too. I allowed myself to mentally wipe my slate clean at the start of that year. It also meant some friends were quitting too, support is worth its weight in gold.

Stop-smoking specialist Anshu Bhimbat, says it's been proven that seeking professional smoking cessation help increases your chances of quitting by up to four times than if you go it alone. 'Join a Facebook page, forum or make some non-smoking friends. It might be more difficult to resist smoking if a lot of your friends smoke. If they do, try not to go outside with them when they’re smoking. Support from ex-smokers may help to motivate you when you’re feeling tempted,’ she advises. 'If stress is a trigger for you, you could try something like meditation, yoga or sport, to help you feel less tense.'

‘Look at your diet and drinking habits as well,’ Anshu adds. ‘An NHS study showed that some foods such as meat make cigarettes taste better and things like cheese made them taste worse. Try to avoid the food and drink that you know will trigger a craving.’

Anshu also recommends visiting a Lloyds Pharmacy where you can get an NHS Stop Smoking service that provides free ongoing personal consultations with an advisor. ‘They’ll also offer you bespoke product recommendations to suit your individual needs,’ she says.

Free apps like Smoke Free and Kwit can be fabulous motivators as they remind you how many cigarettes you've not smoked, and in what ways your health is improving with every fag-free day. Or for £2.99 (less than a pouch of tobacco), Butt Out has featured on loads of last year’s ‘Best Stop Smoking Apps’ list. You can select your own pictures to motivate you - I’m thinking the gross tumorous necks you used to see on cigarette packets should do the trick. The app can also track your cravings and show your overall progress, even if you end up having a cheeky few drags along the way.

If this Fag Ash Lil can do it, anyone can. And if that's not motivation enough, let me tell you this: being a smug bastard ex-smoker is the absolute tits.

Like this? Then you might also be interested in:

Ask An Adult: Is Social Smoking Really That Bad For You?

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A New Year Cleansing Ritual To Banish 2016's Bad Vibes

Follow Paisley on Twitter** @**paisleyrgilmour

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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