Reader Sufiyan has been reading my blog very actively. He has been commenting on many of them. In his most recent comment, he asked me to share with the readers the story of how I quit smoking. So Sufiyan, here is the life story of my smoking.
To tell you the truth, I knew right from the beginning that I shouldn’t be smoking.
As a student, I had decided that I would not smoke till I started earning, because I thought that it would be cheating my parents. So as mentioned in this post even if I smoked my first cigarette while I was still a student, I didn’t become a regular smoker. I would occasionally bum cigarettes from others, but never bought them.
After I started working in 1982, I felt liberated because I could now smoke with my own money. I started very slowly, initially, it was just one smoke on the way to work, once post lunch and then one on the way back home.
Soon, the frequency of the smokes kept increasing. Every occasion started providing a reason for smoking. I would smoke if it was raining and would smoke if it wasn’t. Would smoke if I was elated and would smoke if I was depressed. Soon, I was smoking 5-6 cigarettes a day.
Very early in this journey, I had a serious warning about quitting smoking. After about one and a half year after graduation, I went for a night hike to Tavli, a hill behind Badlapur. In earlier occasions, I had climbed it without any trouble. However, on this occasion, I had pain in my calves.
The whole experience was so unpleasant that I actually went to a doctor. The doctor patiently listened to my woes and told me “Quit smoking”. She didn’t even ask me if I smoked. She just told me to quit! Later I was to realize that this condition is called “Intermittent Claudication”. I wrote a post How Smoking affects feet describing this condition.
Do you think, I paid attention? Yes, I did. That was my first attempt at quitting smoking. However, slowly, I drifted back.
Mark Twain said, It’s easy to quit smoking. I’ve done it hundreds of times. Initially, I quit smoking many times, and restarted it. I quit when my fiancé (now my wife for 25 years) asked me to quit. I quit when I became a father. I quit when I became a father a second time, and started again. And I always had reasons to restart. In reality, I wasn’t mentally ready to quit. The pleasure sensation that smoking gave me was still very strong as compared to the future pain it would inflict on me.
In another blog I had written about making a public commitment. I didn’t make a public commitment about quitting smoking. Because I was afraid that I would never be able to keep the commitment, since I was not convinced that I should quit.
I made a very serious attempt at quitting smoking in 1999. We had gone for a Himalayan Trek near Manali, and I didn’t carry any cigarettes with me. So on the trek, for 14 days, I didn’t smoke. I felt that I was ready to kick the habit. However, after return, there was a day when I had to go out in rain. I was completely drenched. So I went to a tea stall on a street corner and ordered myself a steaming cup of tea. As I started sipping tea, the urge to smoke came back. All these years, when it was raining and I was wet and I was drinking tea, I would smoke! I made a beeline to the cigarette shop and bought one! The two smoke free weeks went up in smoke…
Association of a habit like smoking with many other regular things in life is the biggest stumbling block to break the habit. In my case, smoking was associated with so many things that almost anything would trigger the desire to smoke.
This is turning out to be a lot longer than I thought. I will stop here today and continue tomorrow.