Written by Elaine Weddle

If your attempt to quit smoking during Stoptober didn’t go to plan, take heart, you really are one step closer to success.

In my mid-twenties I smoked 30 a day.  Hard to know how I found the time to inhale all that smoke during waking hours. The thing was that I looked forward to each and every one; the delicious first fag of the day, the post-breakfast puff, the one on the way to the tube, the one on the tube, another walking up Tottenham Court Road to the office, the one with the first coffee at work…the opportunities were endless.

Finally, the day dawned when I could no longer ignore the fact that all that smoke was expensive and smelly and might clog up my arteries. I was going to quit smoking.

The first quit attempt

When a friend talked me into attending a six-week course that practically guaranteed success, I agreed.  Twenty people turned up.  We paid heavily for the privilege of sitting for two whole hours WITHOUT A CIGARETTE while we were drilled on how not to smoke.  One man, a 60-a-day city broker, whose skin was the colour of a winter sky, was visibly shaking at the prospect of losing his lifelong companion.

As the weeks went by, we swapped our high-tar brands for milder options, until we could only smoke ultra mild cigarettes with holes in the filter.  There were lots of rules on when and how you could indulge.  We trained ourselves out of the post-dinner cigarette by waiting an hour after a meal, or the first cigarette of the day by gritting our teeth for a whole hour before lighting up in the morning. There was a lot of teeth brushing and orange juice, so after 42 days the moments when it was permissible to smoke were few.  And yet, we could still smoke up until the day we quit.  On that day, I stopped, and it wasn’t difficult.  And it stuck.

Quit attempts 2- 65

Okay, it stuck for several years until I fell in love with a smoker.  I’m not blaming him or anyone for my return to tobacco. It was my choice.  I don’t know how many times I tried to quit over subsequent years, but it felt like a weekly activity.  A heavy weekend followed by a solemn Sunday night promise to cut out the baccy.  But when Monday morning arrived, I caved.

Back then, you could smoke almost anywhere, ashtrays overflowed on office desks and you needed fog lights to navigate your way across a pub.  In restaurants, people lit up before a meal, in between courses and as soon they’ve taken their last mouthful of dessert.  It was impossible to escape that irresistible aroma.  Sometimes the latest quit attempt failed before I’d left the house on a Monday morning, often by lunchtime and almost certainly by the evening. I went into each attempt to stop without preparation or planning.  I was determined.  I really was. It just wasn’t enough.

Quit attempt 66

Sometimes nature does you a favour. Pregnancy did put stop to it.  I didn’t buy cigarettes, I didn’t smoke cigarettes, but once the initial nausea had worn off, I still wanted a cigarette.  On some occasions, I could be found downwind outside pubs on hot summer evenings inhaling deeply.

When the children were young, I started having the occasional dinner party fag or I nipped into the back garden with a roll-up because I was stressed about work, or tired, or bored, or hungry or something.  That was OK, I wasn’t really smoking, I was just having the odd one.

Quit attempt 67

On returning to England after living in France, I was smoking again and there was no denying it.  My eldest daughter hated it, even though I never smoked in the house and hid them outside in the shed, she would find them and triumphantly flush them down the toilet or throw them in the bin. I had to stop.

Then I saw an advert for a hypnotherapy session at a local hotel.  I arrived to discover 50 people queuing up outside and nervously puffing away. The session was conducted by a man who wouldn’t have been out of place in a second-hand car showroom. He memorised the details we had given him on our forms, and in the style of a true showman he put on a performance.  Then, after about an hour he went about hypnotising us all.

We were ‘under’ for around 45 minutes, but it felt more like ten.  We were advised that we could stop now or wait a week or two.  I decided not to smoke that evening and see how it went.  I didn’t smoke the next day, or the next week, and haven’t had a cigarette since and that was 22 years ago.

This is not an advert for hypnotherapy. I have no way of knowing how many others in that room walked away a non-smoker.  It simply worked for me on that day.

I now know that for many, it may take 30 or more attempts before they successfully quit smoking.  So don’t stop stopping – each time you try, you are that much closer to finally being smoke free.

Looking for support?

One You East Sussex stop smoking advisors can support you throughout your quit attempt. They will see you (up to a maximum of 12 appointments) to help you remain smoke free. Did you know you are four times more likely to quit for good with support?