Giving up Smoking - Wendy Cope
There's not a Shakespeare sonnet
Or a Beethoven Quartet
That is easier to like than you,
or harder to forget.
You think that sounds extravagant?
I haven't finished yet
I like you more than I would like
To have a cigarette.
Wendy Cope gave up smoking shortly before writing this poem. She writes: "People who have never been addicted to nicotine don't understand what an intense love poem this is."
Tomorrow it will be two weeks since I joined the ranks of the “I Recently Quit Smoking.” For 20 years I systematically poisoned my body with more chemicals and strange ingredients than you could wrap your head around (one being a substance derived from whale vomit). On 24 November I was having lunch at a restaurant with a dear friend. I lit a cigarette and (as usual, lately) within half a minute I felt incredibly ill. Without really considering the consequences of what I was doing I put out the cigarette, scooted what was left of the box over to my friend and told him that he could have them. That I was DONE. I remember saying to him: “If I do not stop smoking, I am going to die.”
If I had any idea whatsoever about what was waiting for me at first, I might have reconsidered my very impulsive decision to leave the nasty habit behind.
Now if I had any say in the matter, in order to persuade kids to not even consider taking up this filthy habit, I would change all the “Smoking Causes Cancer” posters to ones that say: “Don’t start, because giving up smoking will make you WANT to die.” I don’t recall ever being so sick, without actually being sick, EVER. For 8 days I experienced blinding headaches, coughing fits, insane sugar cravings, dangerously low blood sugar levels, upset tummy, tingling in my hands and feet (increased oxygen levels), blurred vision, insomnia, non-existent energy levels, coughing up black tar (really). Just as I thought that it couldn’t get any worse and that I was going to die, it did and I wished I would.
On the morning of day 9 I got out of bed, carefully tested my balance and realised that it was quite solid. I took a deep breath and noted that the constant nausea was gone. A very faint light was flickering at the end of the tunnel – maybe, just maybe I wasn’t going to end up spending a good part of my day lying on the cold tile floor (which is the only way I could find relief). My cat looked at me with hopeful eyes, wondering if she would possibly get a treat today and not be shouted at for … well, being a cat.
On day 10 I felt even better and decided to walk up to the shop to get some exercise. After 10 minutes I had to stop to catch my breath and realised that I had been walking so much faster than usual. My body had obviously been rid of the poison and was performing much better – I just needed my lungs to catch up. As more days passed, I started regaining my energy, I was able to sleep again at night and the rest of the nasty symptoms disappeared.
Today is day 13 and I feel GREAT. In spite of having gone through this insane process of my body getting rid of years worth of chemicals, cleaning out my system and the psychological processes that go with starving off such a strong addiction, giving up smoking is the best decision I have ever made.
My house smells clean. My kitchen smells of peaches and not of stale smoke. I go to sleep with the windows closed and I don’t wake up with a headache. I can invite my (non-smoking) neighbour inside without feeling bad about the clouds of smoke hanging in the air. My body feels clean and most of all, I am FREE of this addiction that has ruled my life for so many years.
Earlier this week I took all the money I would have spent on cigarettes over the first 10 days - ±R300 – and spent it on girly things for myself. Perfumed soap, Peppermint Green Tea, and a nice (and usually too expensive) magazine.
It feels great. I am smoke free and I am no longer an addict.
* This is my personal journey with giving up smoking. Not everyone’s experience will be the same and the symptoms will depend on the severity of your addiction. It is not my intention to discourage anyone from giving up smoking but only to demonstrate that no matter what, it can be done and that the immediate and long term benefits of doing so far outweigh the physical symptoms of quitting.