A moment of clarity’ on trying to quit smoking by accident

Link to original article in The Irish Times here

I gave up cigarettes by accident. It coincided – give or take a few weeks – with the start of Lent so one could say, I gave them up for Lent. I don’t do Lent. I’m not even Catholic.

Now Easter Sunday has come and gone, I can gorge myself on cigarettes and chocolate to celebrate my lengthy sacrifice.

But I dared myself not to smoke, and now I have to follow through, according to me.

Reluctantly of course.

Obviously it’s a really good decision, so I won’t go into the virtues of why smoking is bad – we know all that already. I’ve barely put out my last cigarette, so I’m not in a position to dish out advice like a smug puritan. I’d rather just share my short non-smoking journey to date.

Like many pregnancies, it was unplanned. I was on a skiing trip in Austria smoking, drinking and doing all my favourite things, when it was suggested to me by a heart surgeon that I stop. At my age, you build up a resistance to unsolicited advice, so I brushed it off and insisted that I would never stop.

The next day, I had what alcoholics and Jules Winnfiled (Samuel L Jackson) in Pulp Fiction call “a moment of clarity”.

I thought, am I that weak? Could I possibly, if I dared myself, stop smoking – just like that? Whatever about the health implications, it is the dare that propelled me do it.

Realistic dream

I started smoking in the toilets in school in 1989 when Charlie Haughey was taoiseach, the Berlin Wall was intact and Girl I’m Gonna Miss You from  Millie Vanilli was in the charts. Not once, since then have I gone: “They’re bad for me. No sh*t. Must stop immediately.” My attitude was to be fully committed. If I’m going to smoke, I’m not going to beat myself up about it. And I never did.

I used to dream of climbing 8,000m mountains without oxygen. It didn’t happen, so I thought I’ll just quit fags instead.

But just stopping from one minute to the next was like saying goodbye to an old friend. The nostalgia was overwhelming. I only stuck to one brand – Marlboro Red religiously, so preposterously, I even felt guilty that I was turning my back on Philip Morris.

I previously had a good run of giving up when I was pregnant and had to sit through the World Cup final with no fags or alcohol.

I’m half-German. It was awful.

After breastfeeding for 10 months, I chose to just social smoke. It’s perfectly legitimate, I surmised. I’ll smoke when I drink. I don’t drink that much, so it’s fine. Zero guilt. Also I’m good at swimming and walk loads.