Tuesday, May 28, 2013

One Year On: Allen Carr's Easyway to Stop Smoking


[Image: Awesome Books]

I wanted to wait a considerable amount of time before reviewing this book. Firstly, before I do, let me give you some background information on smoking & how it affected me.

I grew up in a non-smoking household. I didn't really know any smokers. When a cousin offered me a cigarette around aged 16, I said no - but it haunted me after that. All I wanted to do was try it. I couldn't get my hands on cigarettes for ages, until a night out with other girls from my class in school. I was almost 17 at that time, I split the price of a pack of 10 with my friend, and that was it. My dirty little secret relationship began. At first, I'd save them for when I was out at the weekends, but then it got more and more frequent. By the time I reached 18 I was smoking 10-15 a day.

This toxic little affair continued for the next 10 and a half years. In that time, I had my son, now 8. That didn't stop me smoking. Numerous chest infections and inhaler prescriptions didn't stop me smoking. My GP constantly told me to try and quit them because I was taking the contraceptive pill and was at a high risk of blood clots - but that didn't stop me either.

What DID make me want to do something was waking up on average of three times a week with a sore, painful, heavy chest. I would have been around 26 at this time - did I stop? No, I swapped to lighter cigarettes. After a GP lecture, I tried patches for about two days. Nada. Then, I tried the disgusting gum. I don't think I got to day 2 with that. Finally, after another GP mini-lecture, I started taking a course of Champix. They worked, I stopped smoking for over a month- and got increasingly depressed. I couldn't sleep, when I did I had nightmares, I was paranoid, miserable, sad, constantly on edge - I looked and felt like I was off my head half the time (to the point where a lady in Boots refused to sell me tablets containing codeine) so I ditched the tablets. I bought an e-cig, and had nothing but contempt for everyone around me as they enjoyed their lovely cigarettes and I sat sucking on a plastic stick. I went back to the cigarettes.

In early 2012, I finally realised that I didn't enjoy smoking any more. I didn't find it relaxing, or enjoyable. Half the time I'd have a cigarette half smoked without even thinking about it. I tried again, using only willpower. When my husband (also a smoker) didn't up and leave me it's a miracle. I was like an absolute Antichrist, and thought about nothing but cigarettes for the three weeks I was off them. I ended up walking into a pub on Paddy's Day, having a few drinks, buying 20 cigarettes, and had about 4 left by the time I went home.

I was browsing Amazon (or it may have been Awesome Books, I don't remember) one night shortly after that, and came across Allen Carr's Easyway to Stop Smoking book. It was only a couple of euro second-hand, so I ordered it and thought nothing more of it. I bought the one aimed at women but essentially they're all the same.

In the meantime, we were planning our wedding for last October. Unfortunately, my husband's father was also becoming increasingly ill. He was a lifelong smoker and constantly nagged both of us to give up smoking ("they're a poison and a rob"). We did the usual 'nod and agree' thing, not really paying much attention. On the warm evening of May 27th last year, a Sunday, he was taken into hospital. As he waited for the ambulance, I saw him sitting in his room, in his best suit, waiting to be taken in to hospital, knowing he wasn't coming home, with a nebuliser mask in one frail, nicotine-stained hand and a lit cigarette in the other. That image will stay with me for as long as I live.

On Monday morning, May 28th, one year ago today, the book arrived in the post. I had no intentions of giving up that day, but it was warm outside and I decided to sit out the back garden and read it. I smoked the whole way through reading the book, as is advised. I read it all in one sitting, it took about 2-3 hours. I had my "final cigarette" and cursed it goodbye. When I had finished, I put the remainder of the pack of cigarettes into the bin. I have neither smoked, nor wanted to smoke, since. (this remains true as of today, Jan 9th 2016 - and today, Jan 14th 2022).

My husband's Dad passed away in September, 6 weeks before our wedding, from a combination of ailments  that can mostly be attributed to smoking. My husband gave up smoking shortly after his Dad passed, and hasn't smoked since either. He did it with pure, stubborn willpower and the very real fear that he would end up with a lung disease too if he didn't stop.

I can't tell people what exactly the book says, or what it does, because all it does is present you with facts. Some people reckon it "brainwashes" you in a way - I don't know whether it does or not, but if it did, I'm eternally grateful to it. I can honestly, 100%, hand-on-heart say that I have not had one craving since I stopped. In the first few days and weeks I had the odd "I'll go out for a smoke now" but instantly then thought "sure what am I at, I don't smoke". I planned a wedding on top of a family illness and bereavement and had no cravings, no bad moods. I actually cannot stand the smell of smoke now at all, and I don't envy smokers the way I did when I tried other methods.

I'm delighted to be able to say that I'm a non-smoker, and I'm really proud of my husband for doing it too. With regard to the weight thing - I did put on weight, but I can't, in good faith, attribute that to stopping smoking. My issues with food go much further back, and I reckon I'd have put it on anyway. There's lots of time to shift it - but I can now do that while knowing I'm completely free from nicotine for the first time in my adult life.

I'll finish up by answering a question I get asked all the time - no, I don't have any more money now than I did before. But I'm not counting out 20c pieces on a Wednesday to try and scrape a tenner together. And I don't get up in the morning with a sore chest and a diabolical sense of smell. My clothes don't stink. I can wear lipstick again. I can breathe properly again. I don't have to freeze my arse off standing outside when it's cold.  My excess risk of coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke has now dropped to less than half that of a smoker.

This book changed my life.