Quitting the weed ain't about giving up

South Wales Evening Post - 31 December 2013

Twelve years ago to the day, a book came hurtling across the living room at me. I'd managed to duck in time and was fairly unimpressed when I picked it up to find it was "Allen Carr's Easy Way to Stop Smoking"'.

I know. If you're a smoker then you're probably just about to turn the page. I fully understand. I would have done exactly the same thing myself once.

I smoked for 33 years and I was damned good at it. I could go through 60 a day and still have stashes in my car and desk drawer.

For all that, I quit in April 2002 and haven't touched one since.

As you might guess, I'm pretty chuffed with this personal achievement. If only because I was the last one to think it was ever possible.

It wasn't a matter of health. Every sharp cough reminded me about the damage I was doing to myself.

It wasn't expense either. My day job used to involve a fair bit of foreign travel and cheap cigs were in ready supply.

You see, I'd never tried to stop. I couldn't work out if I was more afraid of trying or of trying and failing.

It took me four months of reading the book from cover to cover to decide that I wanted to quit. That was the turning point.

Part of me thinks I was lucky in quitting the way I did, but I also learned some things that I'm happy to share here.

Firstly, and this is important, you're not giving up anything.

When you inhale cigarette smoke, the blood flow to your brain is fleetingly interrupted. The moment it resumes, the effect registers as agreeable. In this sense, smoking is a bit like gulping a lung-full of air after holding your head under water for twenty seconds or so. Think about this.

Another is that timing is everything. Some people choose new years or National No Smoking Day to quit.

It's up to you but my suggestion is that you plan things for yourself. Choose a time that suits you and develop your own strategy around it. Don't rush things and give yourself every chance to succeed.

Besides throwing that book across the room, the day-to-day help from my beloved was invaluable.Having someone to give you praise and encouragement is a big plus. I also used a prescription drug to help suppress the cravings. Your GP should be able to advise you and provide you with a suitable course.

I should warn you that you're likely to experience payback from your body as it purges itself of the muck you've been putting into it.

The other thing is rapid weight gain. My advice — and I wish I'd done it properly at the time — is to synch quitting with some physical exercise. It will boost your metabolic rate and produce feel-good hormones to counter the downside. Things soon improve.Avoiding temptation and stressful situations is often easier said than done.

I was involved in a car accident just months after quitting. I was quite badly shaken but still managed a reflex refusal of a proffered cigarette. Believe me, no one was more amazed than me after the event.

An added benefit is that you'll soon get to appreciate a new sense of freedom. Time was that I'd get into a panic on discovering that I only had two smokes left in a packet. Life would be put on hold until I could buy more. Quitting will give you time for the more meaningful stuff, I assure you.

That's it. I can't pretend to be any sort of expert but I hope that if you're planning to quit – or know someone who is - then you found this useful.

All that remains is to wish you and yours a happy and healthy new year.