I’ve always known that this day would come, where I would reflect on the journey I started in June 2019. I challenged myself to quit smoking and here we are.
Constantly finding myself under tremendous stress trying to juggle work, studies and life in general, resulted in me picking up the habit of smoking.
The first time I smoked was when I landed my first job. I was working at an Italian restaurant in Bruma, Johannesburg, while also studying part-time. I loved that place!
The area was buzzing with young folks working at nearby banks who enjoyed smoking while having their morning coffee. I joined in and my favourite thing became a shot of espresso and a cigarette.
The environment allowed this habit to grow in so many ways - like the motorbike culture in the area and my boss, Gianni, whom I crushed on for days (my then-boyfriend, who’s now my husband, will kill me for this)! Gianni and I had cigarette breaks all day!
I’ve never experienced the cravings real smokers always talk about. Up until today, I still don’t know what craving a cigarette feels like. I just smoked because a Vogue Light cigarette made me look chic while having my coffee.
However, I later got to a point where I witnessed myself succumb to smoking even when I was not drinking coffee, or during happy hour, and this was my wake-up call. I knew my body had had enough when I started being sick; I constantly had a blocked nose, chesty cough and wheezing.
It’s for health reasons that I found myself committing to at least start out with a few months of not smoking.
The month of June saw me fail a couple of times. Sometimes I would tell my myself, “You smoked yesterday, you might as well start afresh next week”.
Sometimes I would have stressful days. Planning a photoshoot is not easy as you never know whether your subjects of the day will show up or not, or you’ll have a crisis that will take the whole day to resolve. Anything can happen, and those were definitely the days where I failed.
I was saved mostly by being in a fitness group with my sisters. That helped because I knew my focus was getting some workouts in that day. Nevertheless, it was not as easy as I thought it would be.
The lightbulb moment
I’ve always loved the Eastern way of life. My mother introduced me to it back in the day through her travels to Asia. I realised one day at 03:00 (I know it’s weird) that meditation has the power to heal illnesses that the mind may have challenges dealing with.
I consulted with a registered counsellor [in 2018], Faith Komane, to get a deeper understanding of why I smoked, and also combined this with yoga classes. This opened a whole new way of viewing the bad habit of smoking.
As I meditated each morning, I had difficulties finding reasons to smoke. That’s when I knew that I had found my key to great skin, healthy lungs and saying goodbye to dark and burnt lips. I had no shame seeking help, and the surrendering strategy that developed naturally with meditation took away heavy thoughts that would normally trigger lighting up a smoke.
The realisation that my body has the ability to start the day at 03:00 stuns me every time. I sometimes feel exhausted if the day seems to drag on a bit longer, but I also feel powerful having meditated, completed an assignment, or caught up with e-mails at such odd hours.
I now have a burning desire to live an awakened life where I fully pay attention to myself and my surroundings, and avoid the triggers that lead to smoking (I have no real desire to smoke since I’m ‘Zenned out’). I believe that meditation is a form of treatment.
Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power Of Now, also guides me as I pray to sustain these new ways of living. I don’t live to punish myself if I fail in a day. I always remind myself of the placebo effect and all feels well again, as I understand how I can apply this theory to make changes in my life.
Registered counsellor, Faith Komane, says, “Smoking tobacco is both a physical and psychological addiction due to the addictive properties of nicotine. Therefore, making a decision to quit smoking is difficult due to the physical withdrawal symptoms, as well as the cravings.”
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Here are some tips on how to break the habit:
1. Have a reason for quitting
‘Once you decide to stop smoking, you need to have a reason for doing so. This will motivate you to see the process through.
2. Have a deadline
Set a stop date so that it becomes easier to work towards that goal to break the habit.
3. Have a plan
Are you planning on going cold turkey, or reduce the amount of intake until you finally stop? Formulating a plan helps you to do research on medications and therapies that can help you quit.
4. Understand your smoking habits and triggers
Do you smoke after meals, when drinking alcohol, or when stressed? Once you know your smoking triggers, then it helps you to know where you have to make lifestyle changes.
5. Manage cravings
Substitute smoking with healthier alternatives — this could be eating a snack to keep yourself busy, and by remembering why you decided to quit.
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