Six months later: how I quit smoking

Want to quit smoking? If you're a smoker, you probably do – kind of. But it's not as easy as reading a book or chewing some gum – and it's making it last that's the really tough part. In a way, I consider myself as much an expert on quitting as anyone else; as Mark Twain said, "Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I've done it thousands of times." But I won't pretend that by the time you get to the end of this post, you'll never want to smoke again. It might just help motivate you to take that one little step closer to quitting – here's hoping. Joan Mad Men smoking

I don't remember the first cigarette I ever tried. I suspect it was at Old Wesley Rugby Club, or at a house party – although the older I get, the hazier my memory gets. I'm no longer sure if I went to Wesley 10 times, or 100; did I even go to many house parties? Who knows. Either way, I had my first cigarette as a teenager, when it was a great way to get talking to other teenagers (usually boys, I'll admit), and I was arrogant enough to believe I'd never need to "try" to quit smoking.

I started to smoke in earnest – regularly, and during the day – after the introduction of the smoking ban, in 2004, at the age of 19. The smoking area was where the conversation happened and, yes, where we met guys. Writing that down seems so incredibly ridiculous but, when you think about it, there is no good reason to start smoking. All of the reasons are extremely, incredibly stupid.

I then smoked, on and off, every day for about nine years. Again, writing that down seems weird – was it really nine years? I went in and out of relationships; I gave up for a few weeks here, or a few months there. During my college years, I sang in the NUI Galway choir – and I smoked the whole time. It's just so dumb, thinking about it.

There are so many shit things about smoking – but you know them all. I had regular chest infections; I had a constant cough; I snored really heavily (which eased off when I stopped, but really didn't stop completely until I lost two stone – go figure); I smelled horrendous; I spent about €30 a week on cigarettes.

Telling my mother I smoked was probably one of the worst things. She had lost both parents to lung cancer (I'm a dick, I know) – and, before I told her, on a day she had come to visit me in Galway, she had no clue I smoked, too. We had gone for coffee with a friend and I took the coward's way out, telling her while he was sitting next to me, knowing she couldn't have an extreme reaction in front of a relative stranger. Later, she cried.

Betty Mad Men smoking

The longest I ever quit smoking for was for about a year, in 2013 – although I was only totally clean until around August, when I began slipping into the one here, one there, danger zone. I gave up on New Year's Day; it was a New Year's Resolution I thought I would keep. And I did, for a time. I started out using patches – I was never convinced whether they acted as a placebo of sorts, but I was concerned enough about the possibility of overdosing on nicotine that I never smoked while patched up.

It wasn't until my relationship ended that I started again – not due to stress or heartbreak, embarrassingly, but because he had always joked that he'd dump me if I started again. When we ended things, I thought, well, I can do what I want now. (That's what it means to be an intelligent, liberated woman.)

It was another 18 months before I'd try to quit smoking again – I kind of gave up trying to quit smoking, if that makes sense. I figured I would smoke forever – like some people did – and it would probably kill me, but, you know, something will kill us all eventually.

The last time I quit smoking? I got some bad news on the medical front – nothing life-threatening, but enough to make me re-evaluate. On the phone to the consultant, I suddenly realised, here was something I had zero control over, threatening to fuck up my future in a major way. Meanwhile, I was guaranteeing myself serious problems down the line – and for what?

From the moment I had that phone conversation, I haven't had a single cigarette. I didn't even have that farewell cigarette; I just decided, this is it. It's over. I quit smoking.

People always used to say to me, you'll quit smoking when you're ready. Or, you'll get to a point where you just don't want to smoke any more. I never believed that – and I don't even think I believe it now, but I haven't even had a single craving since I quit smoking. I don't think it's because I was "ready"; I think it's because I was terrified. (I have, I'll admit, had some incredibly grumpy periods where I acted like a total bitch.)

I didn't say this was going to be a "how to quit smoking" guide for anyone else – it's just my story. But there are so many things that are way, way better since giving up, such as:

  • I have more money. Okay, this isn't totally true – I don't have any more cash money now than I did when I was smoking, but I have way more nice lunches; I can buy way more Americanos; I shop (slightly) more. I'm the kind of person who'll always find a way to spend her money, but at least now I spend it on better stuff.
  • I don't snore any more. Yep, some of that is to do with weightloss, but the really chesty, phlegmy gross bits – they're all down to smoking.
  • I never have to go outside in the freezing cold during dinner / drinks / a gig / work. That is a major, major plus.
  • My fingers don't smell. It's the really gross part of smoking that no one talks about – your fingers always smell.
  • When I drink (I currently don't drink, mind you), my hangovers are about 50% of the agony they used to be. Plus – no headache and no sore throat.

Deciding to quit smoking was one of the best things I ever did – and, unlike the last time I gave up, this time I can say I honestly never, ever wish I had a cigarette. I used to wonder if I'd ever have a day where I didn't want to smoke; now, every day is one of those days. It's a great feeling. I'm sorry that I had to be scared shitless in order for it to happen, but I'm glad it gave me the push to quit.

If you're quitting or trying to quit smoking, feel free to reach out on social media and we'll have the LOLZ – or leave a comment below. And if you're not trying to quit, then don't; enjoy it while you can. I always did.