I quit smoking in April. It turns out that also meant quitting writing for a time.
I bet you’ve heard someone talk about how they can get addicted to pretty much anything instantly? “I shouldn’t have a single drag on your cigarette or I’ll be on a hundred a day in 20 seconds. Fnah, fnah, fnah!”
I had a full on cigarette romance with the addiction demon. Twenty years ago that dirty little bastard climbed inside my chest and refused to leave.
For the most part I totally enjoyed it.
Smoking was my cool thing. That stream of sickly sweet smoke made me whole.
I’d smoke everywhere.
- Waking up – pop a smoke in my mouth, sometimes even before I got out of bed.
- Pre-breakfast – after brushing teeth but before eating.
- Post-brekkie – nothing wraps up a bowl of Cornflakes like a tasty smoke.
- On the toilet – sure, shit and dump at the same time.
- Weddings & Funerals – why did those things last so long with no call for a fag break?
- Before an interview – settles the nerves, but makes you stink like a tramp.
- On a walk/bike ride – for some reason smoking helped get my breath back.
- In the rain – right up to the point where the tobacco is sodden.
- Pre-bonk – get that sexy smoke on before (or whilst) the clothes come off.
- Mid-bonk – yep, I’ve been there, pausing halfway through to take a drag.
- Post-bonk – it’s almost the law to scoff a slice of pizza and choke on a smoke after happy bouncy fun time.
That’s not an exhaustive list, but you get the idea.
Oh I gave up a few times. Once for a whole year. But I craved them every single day.
I tried patches. Gum. Gum and patches. Spray which was gross. Gum, patches and spray. None of them worked because I didn’t want to stop. I was just doing it because I was supposed to, because other people said I should. And yes, I knew they were right and I was wrong but it didn’t help.
I loved smoking and that was all that mattered.
Nicotine is a drug, a very addictive one, and whilst I won’t ever compare it to something like heroin for example, I was often very aware of how nicotine had a strong grip on my life. I’d worry if I didn’t have enough smokes to last the night, or if I should go and get some before the shop shut.
I couldn’t be cut off from a smoke and have to wait hours to suck on that sweet stick of death. Having them and not needing was comforting. I could face anything the world had to throw at me so long as I had some smokes.
Zombies, sure bring em on! I’ll kill em all one-handed with a smoke in the corner of my mouth and a chainsaw in each hand!
Writing and smoking.
It used to be all I needed was a keyboard, screen and pack of smokes and I’d be set to write my brains out.
If I was writing then I had a smoke in my hand. Or resting in the ashtray. The weird thing is that a large percentage of smokes I lit would burn away unsmoked on the edge of the ashtray.
Right now I’m going to mimic the exact moment when I’d reach for a smoke.
(pause writing for about 5-10 seconds to stretch arms above head and arch back)
And I’m back.
Ah, but no smoke this time!
Every so often, whilst writing, I’d pause to ponder, question a line, a bit of dialogue, to read over a thrilling or difficult scene. I’d stretch, exhale and reach for the tobacco, rolling machine and papers. I could roll in pitch black I was that good.
I’d jam that tube of shit in my mouth, spark a flame to it, inhale long and deep, take another puff, read more, identify where to add/remove words, then rest smoke on ashtray and carry on writing.
Some time later I’d look down.
Damn thing’s gone out.
Oh well, it’s about time to have another anyway.
Writing = smoking. I wouldn’t smoke in the living room or kitchen or anywhere else, but in my room, at my computer, it was writing and smoking. End of story.
God I loved it.
And before you say anything, dear blog reader, no, I don’t miss it. Not one bit. And here’s why.
It was killing me.
Well dur! Am I right? You’re an asshat, Dave, didn’t anyone ever tell you smoking was a bad life style choice?
Yeah, but smokers don’t hear that. Take these two lines and see which one the smoker hears:
And yes I’ve seen the pictures of the lungs with the black stuff inside, but when you’re 19 you know that’ll never happen to you because you’re going to live forever. You’re invincible and death ain’t interested in you. Stephen King knows what I’m talking about.
But old man time is a patient bastard.
He always comes knocking.
And when he does, shit gets real.
A year ago I was diagnosed with diabetes.
For a while I suspected that shit was in the post. I’d been a fat turd for a long time and there had to be a negative side to scoffing crap and smoking shit. And prior to joining Team Sugar I’d lost a ton of weight, which the internet told me was bad.
For once da internets was right.
I didn’t take it very seriously.
That foolish 19-year-old echo had hung around long enough to fuel my bravado a while longer. I made a half-hearted attempt to cut down on the sugar, take the meds, be a good wholesome person and a happy productive member of society.
A Normalite. A normie.
Me. The bad boy. The rage against the system type. Anti everything. Rebel without a clue. And suddenly there I am, being all normal and conforming. Doesn’t that just make you sick?
At least I can still write characters who do all that crazy shit for me.
Problem was my feet.
My toes hurt. Sometimes they’d feel kinda numb.
I’d read up on this. It’s all about the sugar and the nervous system. Basically it means the nerve endings start to die.
Yuk. Fucking yuk yuk yuk.
The doctor told me to stop smoking. Quit, Davey Boi, or I’m gonna chop you up piece by piece. We’ll start with your little piggy-wigs…
Nope. Not gonna happen. These are my piggies.
In March I announced I’d be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in January 2017.
In April this year I quit smoking. It had been a long time coming, but I was done. I’d had enough and that was the final push I needed to vomit up the demon from my lungs and crush his stinky little skull under my boot.
I made that little fucker pop.
I’d begun to wonder what my lungs looked like.
There were chest pains, sharp wincing pains, and at times trouble breathing at night, and getting to sleep too. Maybe if I was cut in half I’d look like this:
But maybe blacker.
The doc had said quitting smoking could help my toes.
He gave me some Champix and with a twinkle in his eye said: “These magical pills will take you to a brave new land. With great medication comes great responsibility.”
That’s bollocks. No twinkle. Just a “best of luck” mutter or something as easily forgettable.
There are lots of scary stories online about how they make people depressed and lead to suicide attempts and a whole load of other BS I didn’t buy.
I gobbled these down like TicTacs.
The sort of TicTac you have one in the morning and another in the evening.
Smoking for two weeks before I quit was horrendous. Seven days in every cigarette tasted like shit. Actual shit. Like I’d dried out my own faeces, rolled some into a cigarette paper, lit it and inhaled.
Mmmmm burnt dry human turd that made me wretch.
You know, the watery mouth feeling just before you honk? That lovely instant throat/vom lube. Yep. I got that.
And the heaving of the stomach where you’re certain the Vom Express is coming in too fast and hot? Yep. That too.
And the sweats. Jesus I’d sweat like a Elvis at a breakfast buffet.
I hated it. But loved it more because it meant the little blue pill was screwing with my brain. In a good way.
I stubbed most of them out after a drag or two. And I stopped smoking at about day 16.
I continued on without a smoke.
You can go for a full 12 week course. I stopped at week 10.
I haven’t had a pill for about 2 weeks now. I don’t need them. I don’t need a smoke, or want one either.
Why did it work this time?
Because I wanted it to.
It was the right time to stop. I wasn’t pressured into it by anyone. I wanted to do it for me.
That little dirty addiction demon had out-stayed his welcome. I wanted to be free of the stink of smoke. I didn’t want to be hunting around for a paper or filter. I didn’t want to be ducking outside at work every so often for a crafty smoke. I wanted a good night’s sleep.
I wanted my piggies to get better.
And I wanted to climb that mountain.
Just look at it!!
I’m going to be on the very top of it!
If you fancy donating to the charity – ZSEA Zoological Society of East Anglia – click here to visit my Virgin Money Giving Page, you’ll be helping animals.
And you know what?
My piggies are better!
They feel happy. I sleep better. Jesus, so much better! Food tastes nice. I can exercise for longer and walk longer. It’s like I can feel my stamina increasing every week.
My diet is improved now I’m eating better, protein and carbs in the right amounts, though a chunk of choccy now and then, but fuck it, what’s life without a few luxuries!
For the longest time I had feared what life might be like without cigarettes.
Turns out it’s actually better.
Who the fuck knew!
Weird and unexpected side effects from not smoking:
- More money – okay, not unexpected as such, but surprising how much I was spending – around £160 per month.
- More energetic – we’re talking oodles of energy here!
- Mentally switched on – never expected nicotine to inhibit my mental stamina.
- Patience balance – when smoking I had heaps of patience (or laziness you could call it) but now I’ve regained an appreciation of what’s urgent and what can wait.
- Sense of humour – no idea how I could be a happier person, but I laugh more, smile more and enjoy every second of the day!
The only negative is the writing, and it’s not much of a negative, more a period of acclimatization. This is the longest thing I’ve written since April. Up to this point I’ve had to get up and walk away from the screen when I’ve felt a little…itchy.
I haven’t been able to sit still for a long enough period to get stuck into the writing. But that’s okay. I’m learning to appreciate the art of writing without a stick of smoke at hand. And that takes time and patience. After all I smoked and wrote for 20 years, so I’m happy to settle into a writing life without the smoking.
Today I opened the word doc for The Holt. I read a few bits here and there, checked through my chapter synopsis, made a few notes and closed the file. That was enough. For now. Sitting here writing this blog post has proved I can write and be happy without a smoke in my hand.
The big expedition.
It’s like a big crazy exciting thing on the horizon. You can’t stare at it for long because it’s too big and crazy and amazing and crazy to take in all at once.
So you have to chip away at it. Bit of fund-raising here and there. Watch some videos on kit and packing. Order stuff online for the expedition. Do some walking in the big chunky boots.
It’s all good.
I’ll be writing more about it soon enough.
I’m just glad I now know I can sit and write this shit for a couple of hours without going nuts.
As a quick reminder, when I question why I quit, I wriggle my lovely piggies and take a deep deep breath. Wriggling toes and lungs filled with air.
Gotta love the little things.