How I Quit Smoking
It is exactly 30 years ago today that I had my last cigarette. The 24th of January, 1983. This is the story of how I quit smoking.
It was early evening. I was in a hospital room as I watched someone die of cancer. She’d been a smoker earlier on in her life. The cancer had spread throughout her body. She’d left a note “make this end” – so they withdrew treatment, food and fluids.
I watched her take her last breath.
As I walked out of the room into the sterile, brightly lit hospital corridor, I threw the half full packet of cigarettes (Benson & Hedges Extra Mild) into the grey metal bin.
Cold turkey. I haven’t smoked since.
How it All Started
It’s a pretty dramatic way of giving up cigarettes. But then smoking has a pretty dramatic outcome.
I’d started just a few years earlier in my late teens. I was in the army – the Royal Military College Duntroon – the Australian Officer Training Academy. We were out on exercise and a huge, cold, wet storm had blown through. Young, incredibly fit men were dropping of exposure. Our packs were miles away and the trucks couldn’t get through on the treacherous roads. So we had no wet weather gear. No cold weather gear. No tents – “hootchies” they were called for some reason.
We were at the mercy of the elements. One of the blokes “generously” offered me a “durry” – it was the only warm thing going, so I took it.
Of course I coughed and spluttered as the smoke invaded my body – but that was it. That’s all it took. I was hooked.
Within a few weeks I was smoking three packets of Winfield 25’s a day. That’s 75 smokes every day. This was back in the days when you could smoke at your desk. I could easily go through a packet in a night on the town. Between that and the alcohol, I’d wake up in the morning with my mouth feeling like “the bottom of a cocky’s cage” as we used to say. Charming!
I was a chain smoker. I’d tried to give up, but to no avail. As bad as it was for me, as much as it made me cough and splutter and wheeze, as much money as it cost me, and as antisocial and disgusting as it was, I couldn’t give up.
Until I watched that woman die.
How I Quit Smoking
The days, weeks, months and years that followed weren’t easy. The cravings were huge. For years later, I was still reaching to my top drawer to pull out a packet of cigarettes. I’d check to make sure I had my lighter in my pocket before I went out.
The thing that did it for me – one craving at a time – was the memory of watching that woman breathe her last breath and the grief that it wrought in her husband and family.
In a very real sense, her death saved my life.
A Lesson Learned
You’d think that that would have taught me a lesson – look after your body. After all, it’s the only one I have.
But then I went on to put on so much weight – that I ended up weighing around 110 kgs (242 lbs). That’s lasted most of my life thus far, until about three years ago. I’ll leave it for another post to share how I lost over 25 kgs (55 lbs) to be a normal healthy size for my height.
These days, I walk 7 kilometres a day most days. I’m fit and healthy. The doctor marvels at the reduction in triglycerides and increase in HDL (good cholesterol), my low blood sugar and low blood pressure.
Of course, I could get run over by a bus tomorrow. And despite my level of health and fitness, I could prove to be a statistical aberration and drop dead of a heart attack, stroke or cancer. That’s always a possibility. But it’s far less likely today than if I were still an obese smoker.
What’s the lesson I learned? Simple.
I like my body. I like feeling incredibly well. I like sleeping well at night and being alert during the day. I love being able to exercise. And it’s a great feeling to know that all things being equal, I have a long, healthy life ahead of me (I’m about to turn 54).
To put it bluntly, I would never, ever want to go back to the smoking.
So given that I’ve made it through exactly 30 years without a cigarette, you know what?
I’m thinking I can probably make it through one more day …
Dedicated to my father Adolf Dymet (died age 74), good friend Tom Curran (died age 52) and faithful work colleague Russell Abbot (died age 56). Smokers who went before their time. May they rest in peace.
I have struggled with smoking for many years and have given up several times, after praying for strength in his matter I was presented with a book named ‘The only way to quit smoking’ written by Allan Carr, this was his lifes work. A great read, and teaches you how not to end up with a weight problem during or after quitting, my Dad read it and has given up now for over six years, I know other people who have read it and have given up quite easily, My wife gave up 5 years ago by playing the Alan Carr game on the nitendo ds. I have tried everything available to give up so to anyone reading this who is in the same boat, give it a read, it really works.
…and Berni, Thank you – for everything.
I loved the story. I am trying to quit, But at the same time, weight is very important to me. If I will be dieting, not eating after 6 p.m. will I still gain weight? If yes, than, it is a HUGE problem. I know health is very important, but for me .looking good is also very important. Please tell me how can I quit,and don;t gain any weight.
I hear you. I have permanently lost 25 kgs of body weight. The easiest way is to so away with refined carbohydrates – nothing with sugar, white flour, potatoes or rice in it. That includes BBQ sauce, tomato sauce, sugar laden cereals including muesli – everything with refined carbs. But do not restrict fat intake at all. You will find that the weight just comes tumbling off. And you are never hungry because you can eat as much as you like of everything else, including fat. Try it. You’ll be amazed. It is basically the Atkins diet A grab his book and have a read.
Just back from my first holiday and went cold turkey for 10 days, then lit up again! This is my fourth attempt to break a 40+ year habit. I have conquered other addictions with the help of the Lord, but this one is getting the better of me and then of course the guilt over lack of will power sets in…sigh The only difference this time is that I really want to quit. (And yes, I am packing on the weight) It seems I just keep swapping addictions, even seemingly harmless ones like facebook etc
I watched my father die from lung cancer because of the smoking. That image remains with me forever and will forever put me off from smoking again.
Do you know about the late Roy Castle? A faithful christian who campaigned against passive smoking.
Thanks for sharing Berni!
I have been smoke free for about 3 years now..Praise God!
I believe God uses different avenues to provide freedom for us. I read a book titled. ‘The easy way to stop smoking’, sounds crazy, that a book might help you to stop smoking but that’s what it did for me, without any cravings either.
I was seriously addicted too. I used to wear patches if I was going somewhere I couldn’t smoke, I was that dependant.
Hopefully this may help someone else who is considering quitting.
Go for it Phil. You can do it. Perhaps get some patches so when you hit a wall in a few weeks’ time you can fall back on them rather than smoke. Now that you’ve decided you’re a non smoker, that’s the first step. Craving by craving make a decision. It gets easier with time …. And you feel better. Your most potent weapon is prayer.
Far out Berni, I have been struggling with this for years. Like you I started pretty much in the Armed Forces and have struggled ever since. I can go for weeks without one then bam..I’m back on them again. The shameful thing is my children who are 15 and 13 don’t know I occassionally smoke, I don’t ever want to show them. And to add to this , my mum has lung cancer from smoking..You think I would’ve learned? Anyway I know God has recently be really pressing me to stop forever , I um and ah about it and it was only just 30 minutes ago when I threw my ciggies out..I decided to look at my email and there was your message…I think it’s time and God has reinforced a message to me today…..
I have smoked on an off for 12 years now! The longest I have gone was 9 months, but then my marriage failed and I was hooked again! As I write this I am still smoking but I have set a date to quit and with Gods guidance and help I know I can do it for good! I remember the feeling of enjoying exercise and being able to breath better and also having a much healthier bank account! Thank you for sharing at such a time to help me remain focused!!! Ruth
Go for it Ruth. You can do it. One day wake up and say I don’t smoke anymore. Use patches. Get help. Enlist friends and family. Do whatever you have to do. Waiting 5 years of giving up, your health risk factors are about the same as for a non smoker.
Berni, you write as powerfully as you speak. Please share your weight loss story on Facebook sometime so it comes looking for me. I will be waiting for it.
Hey Rose. It’s on the agenda. Tank you for your encouragement. 🙂
That’s awesome for you Berni, by God’s Grace! This story gives me strength to keep hoping for my nearest and dearest to give up smoking, the sooner the better!
We cannot underestimate the power of addiction and the hold it has on so many of us in one way or another! By God’s grace and strength we can overcome!