- Posted September 4, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
On giving up smoking
I couldn't attend office for weeks and had given up smoking for months. But that went like these things typically go. You never do what you are supposed to do and resumed the habit. I can't say it was good or bad, but just that’s how it was. No apologies. That's as far as that reverie went... I had reached the street junction and headed to local railway station.
Usually, I walk with an absentminded relaxed gait. The digging on the road had caused the traffic to bottleneck and as a result I had to be more attentive to the cycles, cars, autorickshaws and buses around the ditch. But as I kept walking, memories of June 18th 2012 came to the fore. The driver had gone with the car on a family trip and I was returning late from work in an autorickshow, well into the journey close to home, I was on my second smoke of the ride. And at that moment I stopped, looked at it and threw it away. I looked long and hard at the pack in my hand. The lighter and the pack. The fire and the firestarter. And I realised that I had given up smoking.
I had not planned it. Not read up on it. Did not believe for a moment that I had the required will to see it through, did not fall so sick that the doc had to make me, nobody was nagging me. I had no trigger that I can identify. Just stopped. Cold turkey.
The next day I was home and went through the worst hours mentally. I was okay with the physical deprivation. As I recollect that day a shiver runs through me. By noon, I would have been down 6 smokes. I was not a very heavy smoker. Was just clocking 20-22 sticks in 24 hours when I quit. But now I think it was a lot for me.
The withdrawal symptoms can't be described accurately. But think of chewing gum in your hair. The craving is like chewing gum and its effect on the brain which is like hair. For 48 hours this continued and I was a beast to live with. My wife and the children didn't know till then as I didn't want to tell them...what if I gave in?
The memories were getting sharper now. The rage. My own mind reasoning with me as to what is the big deal, it was 24 hours since the last smoke and surely I could manage a smoke a day. Hell, I'd better or who knows how the body may react? Thankfully, my other mind said nothing doing. No smoking it is. At the end of the 3rd day I went to a nearby shop selling cigarettes at the street junction. And stood. 3 hours of watching people buy smokes and other tobacco things. Inhaled some second hand smoke too. Felt the urge to smoke many times, but each was weaker than the preceding urge. The vendor saw me curiously, unaffected. He must have thought, ok so he is not smoking today, must be the flu, when he's better he will smoke. Everybody does.
In 2005 I had quit smoking for over 5 months. And God alone knows why I started again. Not to repeat a mistake, this time I told everyone I came across at the end of the 3rd day that I had quit smoking. Most just nodded their heads thinking that many have tried and failed. I agree with them. But I did this as I had not done this the last time. As a result there was no change in the public status quo when I’d started again. And there wasn't. This time there would be.
I believe the books tell you the first 48 hours and the first 4 days are the worst. I felt it was getting progressively worse. After the 10th day, my health dipped a bit and I started getting headaches and head spins. Blood pressure was checked and medicines taken. And quite frankly my health today is no better off than when I was smoking. If anything the body is a little weaker. It was even suggested that I not quit cold turkey and reduce slowly so as to not shock my body. My voice has lost the timbre and bass and reverted to its thinner avatar. My breathlessness hasn't reduced. Just the appetite increase. I've eaten so much in the following 3 months that my waist is now full 4 inches more. What's done is done and that's that. Gym time.
The world is very funny. When you smoke it seems to be filled with non smokers. And when you don't you see smokers everywhere. Girls smoking behind the cigarette shops and in cafes, old men puffing coughing puffing. Passengers in cabs, drivers and passengers in cars, off duty shop salesmen. Everybody bloody smokes. But I am careful not to be like those obnoxious anti smoking campaigners whose spiel puts more people off quitting.
The final test I faced was when I went out of town on a trip with friends. All of them smokers. I showed them the smoking areas in the new airport terminal and they went at it with a vengeance. The weekend spent at times in smoke filled rooms but I didn't light up. I was proud and happy when I got back. I told my wife that I had finished my first tests of quitting and am firmly off smokes. But this did not mean I would start substitutes. No gum or anything else for that matter. No crutches.
The happiness my wife feels she doesn't show to my face. Didn't when I first told her in June and still doesn't. On the 3rd day when I told her to throw the cigarette packs and lighters and matchboxes, she put them in a bag and hid it. Maybe she wanted to throw it but forgot or maybe she thought I was saying, but that let's wait now but when in a couple of days I revert, I wouldn't have to buy all this. Maybe she knows like I do, that it’s never over. Only when I acknowledge that I could slip back anytime and am always on my guard that I can keep off cigarettes.
I come a full circle and between starting and finishing this have met up with my friend Nadeem near the local railway station. He smokes a cigarette and shoots the breeze with me. He smokes like a government servant works. Not really. He too will stop soon. But then he may not. I have. And my vigil continues.