I’m sure they’ve got it all wrong

May.30, 2009, filed under Miscellany

I gave up smoking a few weeks ago.

I know, I know. Right now you are motorboating like a stunned goldfish. “Say WHAT? But you’re one of these triathlon nutcases! You refuse to eat additives! You won’t even mix protein and carbohydrate, FFS! How could someone as obsessed with what you put into your body as you are possibly SMOKE?!”

I’m not going to justify my vices. They’re vices.

Put it this way: I like to exercise discretion over what toxins I allow to enter my body. I believe that everyone has the right and capacity to choose whether or not to poison themselves. I’m not going to turn into one of the evangelical anti-smoking types who won’t even permit a whiff of tar and nicotine to pass her sensitive nostrils. I still drink, after all. I support the legalisation of drugs. On the other hand, I reserve the right to get narked about having to breathe the pollution pumped out by motor vehicles and find it somewhat redundant to ban smoking in train stations when you still have to breathe the PM10s pumped out by the diesel locomotives. Even when I was a smoker I wouldn’t inflict my smoke on someone who didn’t smoke (if we had non-smokers round for a visit I’d go outside for my fag). Your body is your temple, and you get to decide what sort of temple that is. Mine is architecturally sound, demanding in upkeep, very well maintained and rather grubby.

I quit by the simple method of not buying baccy any more. I am a firm believer in the effectiveness of zero resource provision. If you want to stop eating so many crisps or bacon butties, don’t buy crisps and bacon. It’s not hard. It’s much easier not to hand over your money than it is to pull out your wallet. I confess I’d probably have had a harder time if baccy was available at the checkout the way sweeties and magazines are, but it’s not. You have to go to the kiosk and ask someone for it. That’s takes effort.

I strongly feel that giving up anything is much easier if you make it less effort not to have it. If it’s made a “big deal”, something that you do as a New Year’s resolution, or have anniversaries that you celebrate, it’s a hurdle to overcome or, worse, still part of your life. Giving up smoking isn’t something to celebrate simply because celebration turns it into a massive thing and we find massive things harder to do than little things. Giving up should be made as little a thing as possible.

I’m not saying that it is a little thing, not for everyone. I have certain advantages that I’m not going to discuss in detail, but suffice to say I have a non-addictive personality. I realise that for a lot of people giving up smoking is a big deal, and very hard, and I’m not here to belittle their achievements. What I’m suggesting is that, from a psychological point of view, turning it into a big deal in the first place is counter-productive. It should be made as small as possible, so that it seems easier. Small portions are easier to swallow than big ones, after all.

Telly adverts tell us that we need willpower plus substitute chemicals. The commercials for some nicotine replacement products are frankly terrifying. The thought of having to deal with hallucinations of giant cigarettes and little old ladies bearing offensive frozen chickens would put me right off the idea of giving up. I stick a patch on my arm and I’m assaulted by giant imaginary fags in the middle of the night? Fuck that. I’d rather keep my sanity.

Everywhere they look smokers are told that giving up is so hard that they need the support of the NHS and drugs and a variety of other things, and “requires willpower” is in the fine print at the bottom of the page.

I really think this is completely arse about tit. I don’t think it even requires that much willpower. What it requires is that you stop spending money on this particular toxin. What it requires is that you don’t walk up to the kiosk and ask the faintly disapproving man behind the counter to provide you with 25g of Cutter’s Choice and a packet of silver Rizlas before handing over an ailing cephalopod (six quid) and hoping for change.

The television campaigns make out like you need to make an effort. I quit by not making an effort any more.

Part of me wonders why the Government is making quitting into such a big deal that people need to go to support groups and take “therapeutic nicotine”. They are being told that they are embarking on something really difficult. Telling someone that what they are doing is really hard is not the way to encourage positive thinking. Positive thinking is the most valuable tool in success at anything.

I’m not making a big deal out of it. I can’t even remember when exactly I stopped. That, I think, is the best way to tackle this. I’m not putting money in the pockets of the replacement nicotine manufacturers, whose adverts, I would remind the honourable reader, are not there to aid your health but to earn them profit. I’m not obsessing over it. I’ve got through the grumpy stage by treating it as PMT and am currently working out how to deal with not having an appetite suppressant any more because I don’t want to put on weight. Other than that, it’s no biggie, and that’ll be the thing that keeps me off the fags.

It was never that big a deal in the first place. And who goes to any effort over something that’s no big deal?

No comments for this entry yet...

Leave a Reply