Thumb big st0103 rwp 20170109 0003

Smoking cigarettes is not smoking hot. Well it is in the sense that the end that is on fire will burn you if you touch it, but it is so not hot in the sense of it being sexy, or glamorous, or desirable.

Kissing a smoker is like licking an ashtray. Seriously. Only another smoker, or someone who was drunk or on drugs, or someone who really wanted to be with you, would do it. It is gross. Even breathing in the air that a smoker is breathing out can be bad.

I used to smoke like a chimney

I used to smoke like a chimney, as well as drink like a fish. I thought I was so hot (or at least cool). Looking back, if I saw my younger self now, I would not think she was hot (or cool). Misguided, yes; messed up, perhaps; but hot? Not!

I used to smoke 30 cigarettes a day, from first thing in the morning to last thing at night, which was quite a feat as I worked long hours in a hospital where you were not allowed to smoke at all, so I managed to suck all those cigarettes down before and after work, and in the short breaks we had during the day.

I finally gave up smoking when I was 30 after getting sick of being sick with chronic bronchitis and rotting teeth and inflamed gums and bad breath, and getting sick of sneaking outside at work and standing in the freezing wind and rain in the back alley of the hospital with the rubbish bins; and generally feeling like a social outcast, and having people shoot me disapproving looks when I smoked near them. Plus, my boyfriend at the time did not smoke, and he made it clear that he would prefer that I did not smoke either, which was fair enough.

Six months after I stopped the weather was starting to cool down again and I went to my winter wardrobe (yes, I had two wardrobes, I was childless then!) for something and the smell of smoke on my winter coat nearly made me throw up. I could not believe how bad it smelt. I was devastated and went and apologised profusely to my boyfriend for making him put up with that smell for all those years.

I am a fastidiously clean person and used to clean my teeth several times a day, have two or three showers a day and wash my hair every day (I still do)… I could not believe that I had been walking around with that stench on my clothes.

Why did I start smoking?

So why did I start smoking? My parents both smoked when I was growing up. Everybody smoked then. They grew up in the era when doctors recommended smoking cigarettes for relaxation and they were both in need of relaxation, so they both smoked (and drank). When I was young I found it disgusting, and swore to myself that I would never smoke or drink when I grew up.

Yet as I moved into my teenage years, and felt the tension of life in an ever-increasing way, I too turned to cigarettes and alcohol to try and cope, as that was all I knew – the only strategy I had ever been shown for coping with the ups and downs of life.

I don’t tend to do things by halves and before I knew it I was smoking and drinking heavily. This behaviour escalated when I moved away from my home in a small country town to the big city and lived in a University College, where smoking and drinking were not only sanctioned, they were almost compulsory, at least in my circle of friends. And of course I found myself making friends with people who were living the way I wanted to live.

I had a great capacity for abusing myself then – for overriding the messages from my body telling me that these habits were not great for me – to try and quell the great anxiousness I felt about myself and life. I found the intensity of life an assault on my body and my being, and had no other way of dealing with this anxiety than what I had been shown as I was growing up.

So how did I stop smoking?

So how did I stop smoking? Back then, there were no well-known ways to stop. So I just did. No patches, chewing gum, hypnosis, psychotherapy… I just stopped. I am a very will-full person, and I decided it was time to start using that will in my favour.

Before I stopped smoking I had to stop drinking alcohol as I knew there was no way I would be able to control myself once I started to drink. It took me two more years after giving up drinking to pluck up the courage to stop smoking. And when I decided to do it I stopped drinking coffee too, as the association between the two behaviours was so strong for me.

One day, I had just had enough. So I smoked my last cigarette and that was the end of it.

I literally brainwashed myself out of smoking. I figured that if I used to think smoking was disgusting, and I brainwashed myself into smoking, I could brainwash myself out of it. I do not know if that is actually true, nor if it would work for anyone else, but it did for me. Every time the urge or craving to smoke came upon me, I would just say to myself: But that doesn’t make any sense, because I don’t smoke. I am a non-smoker. It was that simple: not easy, but simple.

For the first 48 hours I was not sure if I would get through the weekend without killing myself and murdering my boyfriend (not in that order), but we both survived. It was pretty intense though… I just felt so angry with everyone and everything.

Cigarettes are possibly the greatest numbing device on the planet. If you don’t want to feel something, the fastest way to numb yourself is to have a cigarette. The trouble is, those feelings don’t go anywhere, they just get buried in your body and have to surface another day. So when I stopped smoking, 15 years of buried and undealt-with emotions bubbled up and out of me. No wonder it was intense!

Once I got through that weekend though, I started to enjoy the benefits of being a non-smoker. I ate a strawberry and thought I was in heaven, it looked and tasted so delicious. All my senses were heightened, and smells and tastes were deliciously exquisite.

I could not believe how good food tasted and I did put on a bit of weight to begin with because I was enjoying it so much, but I just stepped up my level of exercise as well and did not worry too much about the weight. I changed my routine, and instead of going straight home from work I would go via the gym and have a workout or a swim so that I did not fall back into old patterns of behaviour. My boyfriend was delighted with the changes in me and my behaviours, and so was I.

Delving ever-deeper

As I peeled away yet another layer of numbing behaviours, I had to look more deeply at why I had been turning to them in the first place. This has been an ongoing life-long process, delving ever-deeper into why I do what I do.

I no longer give myself a hard time about my nutty thoughts and behaviours, but view myself with kindness, curiosity and understanding, as I would anyone else. I don’t judge myself for what I do or don’t do, but remain open and willing to let go of that which no longer serves me, and cherish and cultivate that which does.

I understand why people smoke cigarettes, for I was once one of those people, but no part of me would want to treat myself that way now, all for the sake of not feeling something for just a moment.

For life’s challenges cannot be avoided, they can only be delayed; so if you are feeling hurt, why hurt yourself further by smoking? If you have been hurt, take steps to deal with it as best you can. Get help if you need it. But smoking cigarettes will not help you, it will only add to your problems as you burn your money and your lungs and rot your teeth and your gums, and put your problems off for another day.

The truth about smoking

We think we smoke to look cool, fit in, calm our nerves, relax, or any of the many reasons we offer when people ask us why we smoke. But there is a deeper truth at play here.

We smoke to try and fill the eternal, ceaseless unrest and the bottomless emptiness that we feel, because we miss ourselves. We have disconnected from the truth of who we are and how we are to live and this is the greatest pain we feel and the unbearable tension in our bodies.

We cannot ever stop feeling it, but for just a moment, a cigarette can numb us from this pain and dis-ease… and so even though we all know what smoking cigarettes does to us, on we go, sucking that toxic smoke into our lungs, trying to warm the cold and dry the damp and fill the emptiness and numb the sadness that is there when we have left ourselves.

The only way to truly give up smoking is to reconnect with ourselves, with that warm yumminess that lives inside us, that feeling we remember from when we were young but have lost somewhere along the way. It only takes a moment to reconnect by re-learning to breathe gently, the way that babies do. The Gentle Breath Meditation™ is our tool for reconnection . . . and in that reconnection there is no need for cigarettes and the addiction of smoking holds no power over us, for we realise that the true fire lives within.


Filed under

HealingConnectionConfidenceAddictionAnxietyHurtGentle BreathAlcoholDrugs

  • Thumb small rebecca wingrave

    Photography: Rebecca Wingrave, Photographer

    I am a tender and sensitive woman who is inspired by the playfulness of children and the beauty of nature. I love photographing people and capturing magical and joyful moments on my camera.