Friday, 15 February 2013

An Affair with Allen Carr

Ladies and gents of the bloggersphere, I am going to be frank in this post. I hate being a smoker, but the only one that can change that is me. And so I am. And I'm writing about it to finally get it all out, every last ugly, embarrassing bit and remind myself why I am changing.

I've been struggling to quit smoking for years, pretty much since I started. This might not make any sense to those who have never smoked, "if you don't like it, why do it?". Because it is an addiction, that's the only answer. I have tried patches, gum, cold turkey, hypnotism, Champix, electronic cigarettes, Allen Carr books and audio, the works. Nothing has worked. 

The most effective method in my opinion is the Allen Carr method, referred to as EasyWay, despite the fact that I above I say that it hasn't worked. Let me explain my experiences, and his. He was a 100-a-day man who couldn't get through the simplest of tasks without chain-smoking, who one day had a lightbulb moment and stopped and it was completely painfree. In his book or on his audio book, Allen explains the mystery of smoking, the nicotine trap, dispels those reasons that we all think we smoke. He actually makes you look forward to not smoking anymore.

My experiences with Allen are as follows. I first read the book around 2005, when I was on my placement year from university. It was great, I finished the book, stopped smoking, went on about it and then got cocky on an evening out and thought I could have just one. I was wrong. I quickly fell back into the trap. I tried to read it again in my final year of university but at that point in my life I was having major anxiety attacks about my exams and was on mild anti-depressants and just couldn't stop. I carried on smoking, with some half arsed efforts to stop in between. I even tried sitting outside and chainsmoking until I was physically sick in the hope I could 'put myself off'. The most embarrassing bit of my story, is that, and the fact that it didn't get me to stop at all.

I tried Champix, which worked temporarily. However, it came with side effects. It gave me rotten constipation, and I was in quite a lot of pain by the time I admitted defeat and stopped taking the stuff. Again, I got cocky and had "just one" and then started all over again. I tried patches, but the same happened, I ended up ripping one off one day because my will to smoke was clearly stronger than my will to not smoke. I tried Champix again but the same thing happened as before. It wasn't worth the abdominal pain.

Before Christmas 2012, I decided to try Champix again, and waited two weeks for a GP appointment, but she refused to give it to me, on account of the fact I'd tried it before, and that she thought it was a psychological thing. She advised me to try Allen Carr again. I read the book before Christmas, but the material didn't sink in, and I had the odd few over the holiday period, and as soon as I came back to work was back on my usual smoking pattern which goes something like this:

Monday morning comes, I wake up craving a cigarette. Instead of waiting for it to pass, I go straight to the shop when I leave the house and buy 10. I smoke 4 on my way to work, one mid-morning, two at lunch, two in the afternoon and one on the way home. I do this because I don't want to have any cigarettes left tomorrow. Except tomorrow, what happens? I repeat the cycle. I buy matches instead of lighters because if I had a lighter I'd be admitting I am a smoker, then at the end of the day I'd throw them away only to buy more the next day. I've wasted so much money on matches! On the odd occasion that I get to work and don't buy cigarettes, as soon as I see a colleague who smokes, I cadge one of them, just one. Then another, then another until I can tell they are getting irritated with me, and I give in and buy my own. I tell myself I can't now stop midweek so continue smoking til Friday then stop all weekend. Then Monday comes again.

The fact I can go all weekend speaks volumes. I even quit for 2 weeks when we went to Tokyo, then on the last night, got tempted, the boyfriend spent ages trying to talk me out of it bit I did it anyway, then immediately regretted it. Then Monday came again.

This, in short, is pathetic and needs to stop. Cigarettes brainwash you into thinking that you need one, that you can't get by without one. You continue to believe that one day you will wake up and not want to smoke anymore. That won't happen. You need to make a concerted effort understand the trap of smoking, and then stop doing it. Allen Carr believes that stopping smoking doesn't take willpower, because that implies there is something to give up when in fact the opposite is true. I agree with him, but seem to lack the willpower just to get through the tiny niggling craving. The second I leave the shop and light up, I regret it, knowing I don't need it, but am now lumbered with a packet of 10, which I might as well now smoke as I've wasted the money on them.

I have even tried to keep my lack of success in stopping a secret from my boyfriend. I don't consider him stupid, he must know I have been smoking but I don't want to rub his face in it, so I chew gum before I get home and cover myself in perfume so it's not shoved in his face. I want to be able to be completely honest with him, and the best way to do this is not do the thing I have to try and hide anymore.So I'm going to get him to read this to understand the horrible icky stuff that goes on in my head.

I have downloaded and listened to the Allen Carr audiobook twice since Christmas and despite understanding and believing everything he says, I haven't been able to stop putting bloody cigarettes in my mouth and smoking them. But I am going to NOW, and here is why:

1. It's BAD for me
2. It costs me a small fortune. While my habit is only 10 a day on weekdays, I could give myself an instant £1k payrise by stopping.
3. There are actually no advantages to smoking. At all. None.
4. I hate myself every time I do it.
5. My boyfriend hates it. Your boyfriend hates it. Everybody's boyfriend hates it. Everybody who doesn't do it hates it, and come to think of it, many of us that do, do too.
6. I don't want to get another year older and still be smoking (my 28th birthday is 3 weeks away). I say this every year.
7. I don't want to be craving cigarettes on our wedding day, or in fact have any other day blighted by them. Our wedding is now booked which is yet another motivation to stop.
8. I want a family. I don't want to have trouble conceiving because I smoke. I don't want my children growing up thinking smoking is OK, or not respecting me because I still do it.
9. I want to look good. Smoking ruins the way you look and smell. There is no getting round this.
10. I want to feel good, be fit, healthy, run. I can't do this if I keep smoking.
11. It doesn't help me concentrate, relax me, relieve stress, relieve boredom. Having to go out every now and again and freeze to 'relieve' my craving is actually a massive inconvenience.

There are so many reasons to start stopping and no reasons to carry on at all.

'Just one cigarette' doesn't exist. I've had so many 'just one cigarette's, 'last cigarettes'. The truth is every time you smoke, you are keeping what Mr Carr calls 'the nicotine monster' alive. So then you crave another, and another until you're smoking full time again, and despise yourself for it.

I am a drug addict. There is no escaping that. But what do drug addicts eventually do? They recover. That's what I am doing now. Patches and gum don't work either. I can't replace a drug addiction with the same drug, by doing so I'm keeping my body addicted to it. Cold turkey is the only way. I could cut down or become a casual smoker but I know already it's all or nothing, and as Allen says casual smokers are no better off than full time smokers, they just wait longer to scratch the itch, making each cigarette seem more precious and ultimately making it harder to stop.

I met a man the other day, I interviewed him for a job at my company.  He was the unhealthiest looking man I've ever met. He was clearly a smoker, with a cough and yellow fingers, he looked and came across as the saddest man you could ever hope to meet. I pitied him, but by carrying on smoking, I could only ever become him. And I'm not letting that happen.

This points in this post are a summary of pertinent points in the book which are my reasons for quitting. You can read the book yourself or listen to the tape, I'd recommend it if you find it a struggle to stop. Even though it's taken several tries, all that information is now right up there in my head and I am determined to keep it there, and not let cigarettes or other smokers tempt me back into something that is actually revolting, with NO advantages.

I'm going to look at this post every time i get that craving to remind myself why I'm freeing myself, and keep the audiobook on my phone for an instant reminder whenever I get a craving. On my way home tonight I had my last couple of cigarettes and then threw the remainder in the bin for the last time. By Monday, after more than 48 hours without smoking I'll be in a much better spot, and this time I'm taking the opportunity to use it as my leap pad. I'm going to run to work, I'm going to not see my smoking colleagues as opportunities to cadge a ciggie to scratch the itch, but instead I am going to pity them. 

I'm going to start living. Whether the 'little monster' likes it or not, I've smoked my last cigarette and I am going to rejoice in that.