I’m a smoker. Unfortunately. Even more unfortunate, I didn’t start smoking until I was 22. How ridiculous. I’d survived 5 years of secondary school, hence 5 years of pressure from my peers to smoke and I was always strong enough, as a shy teenager to say no. It started in university. I was a social smoker, but I never inhaled. I never realised I wasn’t inhaling correctly, I just thought, what’s all this fuss about smoking. I can have one or two on a night out and then not smoke again for months.
I remember the very first time I inhaled a cigarette. Boy I nearly died. I was travelling in South East Asia and had separated from the previous group I was travelling with to meet another group. I was in Singapore on my own staying at a pretty nice hostel in Little India. I went to the shop one day and decided to buy a packet of Marlboro Lights. Out of pure boredom I think. Devilish things!! I remember opening the pack outside the shop and lighting the cigarette and inhaling it. I think I actually inhaled it by accident. But all of a sudden I was choking and in convulsions trying to get my breath back. Breathing back to normal and I took another puff. I felt slightly dizzy and a little bit giddy. Strange to say, but I really liked the feeling. I finished that packet of cigarettes and now almost six and a half years later I’m still smoking.
My habits are pretty erratic. Some weeks I smoke 10 a day, others it’s a pack a day. Sometimes it can reach a pack and half if it’s a day like St Patrick’s Day or some holiday, or drinking celebration. ‘Sure why not celebrate with a cigarette’. None of my friends smoke. I can only think of two who might have the odd social smoke. But my boyfriend smokes.
I do actually like smoking. Well maybe it’s more I like the ritual of smoking: my cigarette while I listen to the radio in the morning on the way to work; my cigarette and cup of tea at 11 o’clock break; cigarette after a fulfilling lunch; another at 4pm break; the best one of the day after dinner; and whatever else follows for the rest of the evening. I firmly believe it’s more the ritual. I hate the smell. I douse myself in perfume and wash my hands every time I smoke, paranoid the smell is following me around. I hate standing outside in the rain trying to puff away. I hate the cost. I hate the social stigma. I hate the health consequences. There are lots of things I hate about smoking.
As some of my readers may be aware, I’m approaching 30. I decided to set a number of goals for myself to complete before reaching 30. Quitting the dreaded cigarettes is one of them. I tried briefly last year and didn’t smoke for about 3 weeks, then started having one with a drink on the weekends, until I was back on them full-time after 3 months. A pathetic attempt I know. I also tried about 5 years ago when I was travelling in Australia. Someone told me about Allen Carr‘s self help book. I read the first couple chapters and said, ‘yes this is good’. But I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to quit and quickly dropped the book.
I believe you have to be in a certain frame of mind to quit. To have the willpower and belief that you can actually do it. That I can actually break those habits. And for the first time in years, I really feel like I’m in that place. I really really want to quit. I see it in my fitness. Although I’m fit, I would be much fitter if I quit. I see the look of disappointment in my parent’s faces when I smoke (reformed smokers: they’ve been off them 9 years now!). I see the health risks and have seen too many people die from cancer and smoking related diseases over the past couple years. But I see how much it’s costing me. At my current rate of smoking, if I were to keep this up, (the past couple weeks it’s been 20 a day), that’s costing me €3,321.50 a year. I just had to re-check that. That is a phenomenal amount of money. I can’t afford to go abroad on holidays this year, but maybe if I’d quit the cancer sticks, then maybe I could have gone to an exotic long haul destination and lay out in the sun for two weeks. Idiot.
So I went to the library yesterday to borrow Allen Carr‘s book. I know a book isn’t going to cure me and I’d be the first to scoff at self-help books, but I think it will give me that extra bit of motivation to achieve my goal. Unfortunately, the book was out. I finished work early yesterday to race into town to get the book. Roadworks on the way in, so the shop closed just as I made it to the doors. A sign? No! I will definitely have that book in my hands by the end of the week and will be reading it through next week and hopefully will be a non-smoker the week after. I really can’t promise anything to anyone and probably won’t tell family or friends I’m attempting to quit (not that anyone notices when you’re not smoking, only when you do smoke!), but I really will try my damnedest this time.
But back to the title: What does a smoker look like? Regularly, when I meet friends of a friend or a work colleague and they discover I smoke, the first comment people always say is: You don’t look like a smoker. I always think, what a silly comment to make. What does a smoker look like? Are we supposed to be the rebellious type? Do they all have yellowed teeth and fingertips? Are all smokers wrinkled and older looking? Can you always tell a smoker by their low deep wispy voice? I think it’s absurd. Although I’m a smoker, I don’t have yellow teeth or fingertips. Perhaps because I’m a bit neurotic about that and wash my hands after every cigarette. Nothing worse than the smell of smoke off your hands. I look very young for my age and am still regularly i.d.-ed going to clubs and pubs, at the grand old age of 28. I don’t have a deep voice. So I really do wonder sometimes what people mean by that sort of comment….another sill stereotype.