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Rob's story

"Seriously, I tried everything - hypnosis and all."

It's a complex addiction. I did a stop-smoking course and was off the smokes for two whole weeks before thinking "I can just have one" and of course I was back on the rotten things in no time. If you have one you might as well have a hundred. That flippant little saying cost me too.

I got a brochure from the Quit campaign and in it was a graphic photo of a diseased lung stained by tar. I cut it out and taped it to the top of my computer screen at home to look at every time I wanted a cigarette. I ended up staring at it while I smoked at my desk.

Of course, part of the problem was that I had serious issues with depression. Maybe smoking was a latent form of self-abuse, slow suicide by stealth? But, hey, back then "everybody smoked".

There are two types of people in the world that you must never listen to:

  1. There's the person who says, "I can have a smoke every now and then, it doesn't worry me". He's LYING! If you listen to him, you'll sucker yourself into thinking you can do the same, and you can't.

  2. The second type of person is the one who says, "I gave up 10 years ago and I could still kill for one!" He's NOT lying! But if you listen to him, you'll never give up. You'll convince yourself there's no point.

It's all about getting it through to your head that you must never ever smoke again. You just have to develop a real hatred of the rotten things. I cannot stand the smell of them now.

You also have to learn to understand that those "withdrawal symptoms" are just signs that your body is recovering. The trembling fingers mean that oxygen is finally getting to capillaries that have been starved of oxygen for years. That crawling sensation in the lungs isn't your lungs saying "Gimme a smoke or I'll tear your chest hairs in from the inside" - it's the cilia starting to sweep out all the gunk. And there's a lot of gunk. When you cough up your first glob of filthy black tar that's just the tip of the iceberg - there's a lot more where that came from.

Starting smoking is the single dumbest thing I've ever done in my life. My Dad was an Advertising Rep for a tobacco company, so I grew up with the smell of fresh tobacco. I used to read the staff magazine which often had articles de-bunking the latest scientific evidence. It was all a lie.

My Aunty Daisy died of emphysema and my Mum spent the last 10 years of her life wheezing and coughing so I was fanatically anti-smoking in my teenage years. I was a swimmer. I was mad keen on spearfishing and SCUBA diving, and you need good lungs for that. The last thing I was ever going to do was smoke, but when I left school in 1978, I started work as a Clerk. Back then people were allowed to smoke in the office. I'd be chatting to colleagues, and they'd offer me a smoke and I don't know how many times I'd say, "No thanks I don't smoke". Then one payday lunch at the pub after a few beers I said "OK, give us one".

Worst mistake of my life. It cost me 20 years, 10 of which were spent desperately trying to give the filthy rotten things up. I find it ironic that I started smoking because I wanted to belong, yet even when I was the last smoker in my social group, the peer pressure to quit wasn’t as strong as the addiction. The final piece of the puzzle for me was oranges.

You cannot smoke after eating an orange. If you have a coffee, you "gotta" have a smoke. If you have a beer, you "gotta" have a smoke. But if you have an orange, it's almost impossible to smoke - it tastes vile!

You're still out of the office at tea break talking to your smoking mates but you're peeling an orange - gives you something to do with your hands - and eating the orange kills the craving somehow. Well, it worked for me anyway. Don't get me wrong - I still went through 2 weeks of hell but that worked where nothing else did. Oranges, icy cold filtered water, brushing my teeth and scrubbing my face every couple of hours with the roughest face washer I could find, talking incessantly - and I mean almost to the point of jabbing people in the chest type of talking, all combined to finally do the trick. There’s a reason why they say ex-smokers are the worst – you’re constantly having to re-enforce in your own mind why you’re going through this change, and if that means preaching and pontificating, well, so be it.

I've been off the stupid things for 16 years now and I really, really hate them. My Freediving days were over long ago. I used to hold my breath for nearly 2 minutes, now I can barely last 20 seconds. But I shudder to think what my lungs would be like now if I hadn’t stopped smoking. I curse the day I started.

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