Post World No Tobacco Day (May 31), here is an anonymous confession of a nicotine addict, or what everyone else calls a chain-smoker. I don’t have a terminal disease. I didn’t quit on my doctor’s insistence or my family’s emotional blackmail. I am not religious, so Godmen and evangelists are out of the question. The escalating cost might have had a miniscule role to play, but that’s it, as far as external factors are concerned. The truth is I never planned to quit.
Like all smokers’, my system, too, had become adept at clouding my judgment when it came to my own addiction. The rational part of my brain knew how bad smoking was. Yet, the other, crippled by a habit that I feel is widely underestimated, would always win. The logic is simple: smokers don’t consider themselves drug addicts. They are just in denial about a habit that’s eating them alive.
My journey began on an anticlimactic note. I had finished one too many packets at a party one night. My lungs weren’t in pain the next morning, but I found myself just tired and temporarily bored of the activity itself. So, I thought I’ll keep the daily number to three for a bit. I had one-and-a-half cigarettes the next day. The morning after, I was just going to light the first one of the day when I got busy with work. Usually, I would have let the world burn while I took those seven minutes off, but that boredom persisted. I knew I was coming back for that killer post-lunch smoke anyway.
On day two, I woke up unbelieving that I hadn’t smoked a single one the day before. My pack had eight Donskoy cigarettes and one stub intact. “Good, I wouldn’t have to stop to buy a pack on my way to work,” I thought. The next two days passed in a similar manner; I missed the morning cigarettes because I was busy, and kept planning to have the post-lunch and post-dinner one, but just never found the right moment. Since I had no plans to quit, I didn’t feel the need to tell anyone that I hadn’t smoked in three days.
On day five, some friends realised I wasn’t lighting up as often, and asked me if I had quit. “Was I really quitting cigarettes after 10 long years?” I thought to myself. But before the pressure mounted, I copped out and said, “Of course not.” To be honest, I didn’t have enough faith in myself, and I didn’t want to cry wolf in case I didn’t last.
Day six came, and with it, arrived the withdrawal symptoms. Nothing can prepare you for these. My stomach churned. My head ached. I gnashed my teeth, and felt like the world was against me even when this decision was entirely my own. I snapped at everyone in sight. I started eating more. I put on weight. There I was thinking quitting was supposed to be good for me. Only the food tasted better. I knew day 14 was as far as I was going to go. So, I started easing myself back into regular life.
The first major test: I went out drinking. For those who are social, this is half the problem. People will ask you for a lighter, offer you drags, leave you holding on to their lit cigarettes, blow smoke into your face and laugh every time you say you don’t want one. It was like leaving an alcoholic in a wine shop. “You’re quitting or what?” they’d mock. “Of course not,” I’d say.
To combat the urge, I decided to hold a cigarette. It smelled tempting. I stood around smokers. Never once did I let my body feel deprived of it. I got through the night, and many more. I felt damn good because my abstinence was giving me the motivation I needed every day. My friends figured my plan, and started subliminally encouraging me to delay that ‘inevitable’ smoke.
People say nothing feels better than quitting smoking; that you’ll hate the cigarette once you succeed. But that’s not true. In the short run, the disadvantages of quitting far outweigh the advantages. And the long run always seems too far away to be bothered about it. Even today, there are days when I crave it. I love it, and I always will. I lied to myself once when I started smoking, thinking I’ll quit in a few years. I wasn’t going to fool myself again. On May 31, I had been cigarette-free for 100 days. I had allowed myself a smoke on day 100, but I got lazy. Maybe I’ll have one today, maybe I’ll have one in the next year, I don’t know, because, in reality, I don’t ever remember quitting.