How I quit smoking?

quit-smoking-illustration-man-speech-bubble-telling-angry-cigarette-character-cartoon-41247975.jpgOn July of 2015 I decided I was going to quit smoking. After more than a decade into smoking I was finally ready to call it the quits. However, this by no means was my first attempt. There had been numerous failed attempts in the past. This time, I felt more ready than ever, and was more determined to do it. Now, more than a year later I can safely say I am no longer a smoker, and that smoking and cigarettes don’t entice me either.

As a former smoker myself, I am aware that many smokers want to call it the quits. However, I also know from my past experience that it is a tough ask, and I also know from experience that it is not impossible.

I want to share my experience so as to encourage myself never to smoke again, and also hope that my experience can be helpful to anyone who is looking to quit smoking.

So how did I really quit smoking –

  1.       Deciding to quit

quit smoking

First and foremost, I just decided that I had had enough of it. I wanted to smoke no more. I wanted to be able to run and play without running out of breath 30 seconds into starting those activities. I wanted to get rid of that constant smoker’s cough (many smokers will be denial regarding the smoker’s cough, but get real).

Like many smokers out there I too have had experiences of deciding to quit many times prior to this. I, however, wanted to really do it this time around.

  1.       Research and a perspective change

After deciding to quit, I jumped into researching all the benefits of not smoking. The findings were very uplifting and I wanted to experience the benefits of not smoking.

060412_1252_ChangeYourP2.jpgUpon my research I also stumbled upon a perspective. This perspective suggested that instead of seeing my past failed attempts of trying to quit smoking as failure, I should rather see them as gained experience. This new found perspective encouraged me, and I felt confident enough that I would be able to quit this time.

  1.       Getting hold of the mind

“Mind is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master” says Robin Sharma, and this quote holds true when you are trying to quit smoking. Smoking, like any other habit, is hardwired to your system because you have done it for so long and quitting will test you physically and mentally. Research shows that it takes around three days for your body to throw out the nicotine present in your system. After which you are no longer physically attracted to nicotine present in the cigarette, and then starts the nicotine withdrawal effect. This withdrawal effect is made worse by the ongoing mental challenge. The mind is a tricky little bugger and it’ll say things to you to get you back to smoking (it did for me). “Just one cigarette,” it’ll say; other times it’ll be like, “you’ve gone clean for a week. That’s something – just one cigarette now. It’ll do you no harm.”  The key is to stay strong-willed and to not let the mind overpower you. Slowly, the voices will die down. The physical as well as the mental addiction will eventually subside.

This is not by any means an action that happens overnight, and as with any other practice, quitting smoking also takes time. But if you stick to your guns, the urge to smoke will eventually disappear.

  1.       Putting them running shoes on (being a freak)

As I quit smoking, I wanted to give myself more reasons ( as if I did not already have many)  to not take up smoking ever again. So, I put my running shoes, on and started to run every day. With no deliberate smoke ingestion, I was able to run without getting the wind knocked out of me in thirty seconds.  Running brought a breath of fresh air into my life (literally). I began enjoying pushing my body to run 3 miles at first, eventually followed by 5 miles, and even 10 miles

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Finally,

  1.     Started reading

Also, as a smoker, I know one of the times when people smoke a lot is whilst waiting for someone/something. I used to do it too, but then I found a better thing to do- i started reading instead. I started carrying a book with me everywhere I went, sometimes even in my mobile device. So, in order to curb that urge of smoking, I dove into the books. Eventually, the urge always died down minutes later.

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Intensity beats extensity

My latest endeavor sees me trying to get in touch with various people, converse with them, and get a perspective of how they view life. These people that I try to get in touch with all made some sort of connection with me. They’ve either inspired me, motivated me, or just made me feel good about being a human.

Today, I got to meet one such amazing human. I had written to him few days back on his Facebook page, and he had agreed to meet me. I was absolutely delighted,  Raghu Aditya was going to be the first person I was going to meet for this new project of mine. I came to know about him about a month back whilst going through an article on M&S. Right there and then, I wanted to meet this amazing person.

The article is titled “Friend of the furred and the Feathered”, and the first few line aptly conveys who he is and what he does.

Raghu Aditya has devoted his life to bettering the lives of animals, so much so that he is willing to put his life on hold for the sake of theirs.” – M&S

We sat on this elevated platform of  Krishna Mandir, Patan and he shared his insight, and his outlook on life. Initially, there was a just that bit of silence, and I said him “I did ask to meet you, but now that I am here, I don’t know what to converse about.”  To which he replied, “It’s okay. We need to enjoy the silence as well. Occasional silence is nothing to worry about.” This has  to be one of the most poignant moment of the conversation, as it made me feel easy, and I was not bothered by any occasional silence that crept in later on.

I was really eager to know what  got him to start caring for the animals. He recounted his story of how he used to not be as kind to insects as a kid, and his father told him that those insects felt as much pain. Upon knowing that these insects felt pain, he decided to not take part in such activities. This childhood awareness got him to being the person he is today.

“Animals understand the basic language. Not justdogs, but every animal and birds.” he said. “We just have to be patient enough to learn it.” he added. He then exemplified this concept by saying when talking to dumb people using sign language, if one is patient enough to learn the sign language the conversation will get better and surprisingly the dumb person will seem interesting. However, if one loses the patience, then the person able to speak will not find the dumb person interesting.”All animals understand love, compassion, and kindness. You just need to be patient enough to learn it., and when you do you understand love –  non-judgmental  and pure” he says referring to love he gets from the animals.

As, we conversed  we touched on the topic of choices and our many interests. “What seems like many things right now may not be many things.” he said. Giving his own example he told me, he himself had a lot of things, but now connecting the dots he looks back and sees they were all related. His love for animals, his passion for music and other things. “Intensity beats extensity every time” he quoted.

By this time we were sipping tea that had been brought up to us by a local vendor. After we were done with the tea Raghu asked me if  I wanted to join him. He said he had to check up on a dog who had had an eye surgery few days back. I agreed and followed him, and very soon saw a dog lazily sleeping. Raghu approached him and called out “Lucy” upon which the dog excitedly started wagging. Raghu checked Lucy’s eyes, unfortunately the injury had not healed and it looked as if the stitches had come off. Raghu made few calls and applied ointment to the dog’s eye and we left.

By then it was time to go home, and as we bid goodbye, I was mightily pleased having met Raghu. I feel privileged to have had the chance to meet him and converse. I am glad I wrote to him and now we are “Strangers No More”.

Raghu’s message is simple “I am not a vet, nor was I trained to do this. But if I can do it, we  all can practice the act of kindness in our own community.”

 

2015 – Hindsight 20/20

It’s almost the end of the year 2015, which as clichéd as it sounds feels like started just few days ago.  And here I am doing my year review – as a matter of fact my first ever. I don’t want to dwell too much into particular incidents or follow a monthly chronological order but instead will try and identify six key lessons that served me particularly well this year.

  1. It’s not the start or the end but the journey that matters

We’d all love to have a positive and a solid start and that would be the ideal scenario but this is not always possible. At the end of 2014, I had no idea I would have one of the most horrible start to 2015. But to be fair to 2015 it was not all its doing – I pretty much carried the baggage of 2014 into 2015. And the mayhem with which 2015 started was just compounded by the extra baggage I’d carried from 2014. As the early days of 2015 rolled on, before I’d known it months had passed. I was a miserable wreck on so many levels.  That feeling of stagnancy in life was at its peak and I felt I was a victim of life.

Then I snapped – in hindsight I can say for the better.  I think I reached the saturation point of stagnancy – what happened next was I said “I don’t want this for me.” The moment I said this wind sort of changed its course-maybe. But now towards end of this year with few days remaining that day late in June when I told myself I was done with stagnancy – it all changed for me. And i think it is fair to say that I am looking forward to carrying this momentum on to 2016 and start on the front foot. Will I be carrying any extra baggage with me? NOPE

  1. From Mind-full to Mindful

This was without a shadow of doubt the best decision I made and it continues to be one. With the start of 2015 the head was filled with loads of stuffs and constant overthinking made it worse. The worse got even more unbearable when I was constantly worrying about the things I could not influence. It was around this time I was feeling horribly down in life. Towards the end of June, one evening as I sat there probably with hands on my head – surfing the net, my mind full of unproductive ramblings, I just felt that I did not want this anymore. And then the very next moment my hands fell on this book “Mindfulness: How to find peace in this frantic world.” I did not know whether this book would work for me. But I did seek for that ever eluding “peace” and if this book was going to show me the way, I was more than willing to follow. What happened then on was surreal and i was on a journey from being mind full to being mindful.  And as the days turned to weeks, it was an easy call for me to make – the latter was way better than the former.

Soon, after I found Headspace app which really was a great way to practice mindfulness (meditation). And I am almost seven months into the practice and I love every bit of it. For everyone who thinks about mindfulness is about spiritual or religious practice- it’s not. It’s a practice where you basically more aware. And in order to be mindful one need not sit crossed legged or in some weird postures and with incense stick burning – those are just a myth. You can do it sitting on a chair or even lying down- it’s all about being in the present. Also, you need not spend hours on it, being mindful for ten minutes a day is enough.

  1. Reading is to mind what exercise is to body

Another one of my best decision this year – to start reading more. I have never been a voracious reader and I don’t consider myself one. But ever since I started reading a lot more than I previously had – everything seemed better. Not that I had solved all my problems, I hadn’t – all of them were right there but I just had better things to do now than to sit or lie down and overthink about things that were well out of my control. I would have my mindfulness sessions and the reading sessions would be long and endless every day. I did not have any particular genre of books as such and I read pretty much everything- Fiction, non-fiction, self-help, autobiography and even religious Scriptures. I was reading blogs, journals – I was reading and was in the thick of the excitement of reading.  Also, by the time I started reading I already had about a months’ practice of the mindfulness sessions and these sessions really contributed for me to be able to read and make a habit out of it. I say this with immense joy that I have actually been able to read much more in the course of five months than I have done in the previous five years (I am excluding academic books).  Reading also enabled my mind to ease off and I did not have much time to think about stuffs that really did not add much value to my life but instead just made me feel miserable. And with the reading habit came the writing habit and soon I was writing more. I intend to start a podcast or a V-blog to share my sentiments very soon- which again I think will be a product of me reading more.

  1. Smoking is injurious to health

When I first started smoking almost a decade ago I was well aware that smoking was injurious and it kills. But I wouldn’t often argue just for the heck of it – “what doesn’t?” I’d say. But a week after my encounter with the mindfulness book I was ready to give up smoking for the umpteenth time.   But this time I was equipped with a little bit more grit, determination and above all experience. The fact that I had failed on so many attempts previously to give up smoking was actually encouraging. Many a times failure drags us down and we tend to believe that I am not going to succeed because I’ve failed so many times. But this time was different I actually saw my failure as my experience and felt I was better equipped to deal with effects of quitting smoking. Here again my mindful practice came to my aid. When I felt like smoking I tried to get rid of the urge and told myself it was all in the head and it was more the mental battle rather than the physical. And a week turned into two, then three and here I am today almost six months smoke free. And the lungs feel great.

  1. Running for life

Months after I started my mindfulness session, I was reading, writing more frequently and had not smoked, it just occurred to me one afternoon early November – I am going to run the marathon. I had no idea where this thought came from but I just wanted to run. And so the very next morning I laced up my runners and took to the road. I was amazed how refreshing this was and given I had quit smoking for couple of months now I could really run so much better.  It was soon two weeks into my running program and I was pleasantly surprised to see myself loving to wake up early every morning, lace up and run. I had actually started running for life and not idiomatically but literally. I just loved it.  When I got injured two weeks later with a torn ligament and was bed ridden for the next two weeks I kept the flame burning and my desire to start running was immense. This led me to believe that I was going to run as long as I could.

 Initially when I had this thought that I wanted to run for some reason deep down inside I just wanted it to a long distance run. And both running and reading about long distance running has brought about new insight about life as a whole. It is amazing how life and long distance running (marathon) co-relate to one another.  I want to write more about the co-relation but not just yet, not until I have got a taste of running an actual marathon.

  1. Keeping the feet firmly on the ground

This by far is the lesson of the year- to keep the feet on the ground. When I started this year I was sinking slowly but surely. I was a train wreck and six feet under the ground from where I just could not see the light. But then everything changed for the better and right now I feel great about myself. And I know for a fact that with this amazing feel that I get at times it is easy to get carried away. So it becomes more important that put my feet on the ground. I am in love with this journey where it is so much about self-investment and I want to keep at it without getting carried away by the positives that comes my way. Or not beat myself in time of turmoil.

Finally, I believe now everything is a choice. It starts with multiple options but then one was to make a choice and stick to it.

(My 2015 has been a great learning curve and I can’t wait for the 2016. There’s so much to do, so many plans and but I understand that whatever the circumstance I am going to deal with it a lot better and enjoy it.)

Day 8

Yesterday’s rest proved vital and i woke up today just in time with the alarm i felt refreshed, rejuvenated and rearing to go. An amazing self discovery was the sleepy head and drowsiness lasted only a little while. Maybe i am getting used to the idea of waking up early. I’ve yet got 13 days more to go but almost half way there and soon i will be all the way there. It was indeed a pleasure to wake up to a wonderful feeling.

Day 6

No jumping like a cat today to turn off the alarm but instead i was up 3 minutes before the alarm went off. I then turned the alarm off and shook away the morning drowsiness with  cold water, which works almost always. Today the early morning thoughts were all over the place though. I found it hard to concentrate when doing the mindfulness session. It was tougher even to concentrate on the book i picked. I did manage to keep my focus a bit but then again it would delve into wayward thoughts. It’s going to be one of those days i thought where the mind would be filled with questions and would be rather gloomy. With this thought in mind i set out to jog.   

Day 5

I was startled awake by the ringing alarm this morning. I was still in the middle of a dream and when the alarm went off i jumped like a cat. But once i turned off the alarm and recovered back my poise things were back to normal. It was cold though and i wanted to snuggle in that warm cozy bed and sleep. But, well that surely was not an option that i’d consider. So, i just sat up and started reading. I have to say this doubts creep in my mind if this is the right way to wake up and even more so this early. It feels right so far so gotta keep on doing irrespective of the doubts.