Being hard on myself is somewhat of a hobby. Anything that I can use against myself, I probably will, and I have a few pet subjects that I’ll keep harking back to when I’m doing a bit too well generally. A fine perpetual example of this would be my weight.
My Dad asked me the other day if I was happy with the person I turned out to be. Surprisingly, I answered yes. I said I was happy with the person I turned out to be on the inside and that I’d consciously worked on that, but I was still working on the outside, which was less complicated and not as important.
If he’d asked me the same question six weeks ago, I’d have said ‘No.’
On the 5th of December, I stopped smoking cold turkey. I’ve smoked in some capacity for nearly 18 years and made numerous attempts to stop with nicotine replacement, classes, cessation programmes, the lot. The longest I’ve lasted is two months, and that was a New Years resolution a few years ago. So why am I mentioning this now and what’s it got to do with internal happiness?
The motivation to stop is usually the glaringly obvious health facts about smoking and the increasing cost of doing so. (A 20-a-day smoker will now spend up to £280 a month.) Stopping for me had very little to do with either.
I’ve not lasted as long as the last time I quit (yet). I don’t need to. I know that I’m done this time – I’m not ‘lasting’, I’m an ex-smoker. I’ve gone from strength to strength over the weeks, and I now know I’m not going back. Ever. I can honestly say hand-on-heart it is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. It really, really is. I’ve put on weight. Everyone knows that’s the last thing I want right now. There is no way I’m ever putting myself through those first two weeks of withdrawal EVER AGAIN.
Stopping for me was completely about the impact on my mental health. Smoking was one of those subjects that I could keep beating myself up about – I’m intelligent. Intelligent people don’t purposefully give themselves cancer and pay for the privilege. When it comes to running, I’m a fraud. Proper runners don’t smoke. I’ll never lead a ‘proper’ healthy lifestyle because I’m a dirty smoker. I struggle with social anxiety and quite a lot of the time I’m uptight about what people (even complete strangers) think of me face-to-face, and I assume they are searching for flaws and judging me. People seeing me smoking made me anxious. “What must these people walking past think of me?”
Because of this, I stopped smoking in my car over a year ago, when I bought a new vehicle. Six months later, I was no longer smoking in public, unless I was standing outside a pub having been drinking. I was ashamed. The anxiety far outweighed the pleasure of actually smoking in public. I’ve never smoked in my house.
One of the things that all the health groups tout is the ‘Amazing benefits’ and ‘how healthy you’ll feel’ after stopping smoking. I’m telling you now, it’s a load of crap. I don’t feel full of energy, I’m not sleeping better, (I had withdrawal insomnia for the first three weeks on top of my normal insomnia problems) the money I’ve saved has been spent on other things, and my skin still looks like that of a pubescent just before the school dance. Non-smokers morning breath is the most horrendous thing I have ever encountered. As a smoker, you know you wake up with a mouth like a stale ashtray. But that’s okay, because as soon as you’ve got some coffee, it’s going to be a fresh ashtray. As a non-smoker, oh my god… what IS that?
However… I am at peace with myself. I’m no longer killing myself a cigarette at a time. I have one less thing to beat myself up about. I have one less social anxiety to deal with. It made me answer my dad positively. After 18 years, that’s worth more than all the health benefits in the world.
“If you do not like where you are in life, move. You are not a tree.”
This is one of my favourite quotes just now. And I did it. I realised I’m not a tree.