Monday, October 18, 2010

THE DAY AFTER I QUIT SMOKING - THE MYTH OF WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS

THE DAY AFTER I QUIT SMOKING
THE MYTH OF WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS
By
VIKRAM KARVE

 
Here is the story of the day after I quit smoking...


One of the things that deters smokers from quitting decisively in one go is the fear of withdrawal symptoms.

This results in smokers resorting to half-baked remedies like gradual reduction, nicotine patches, low tar cigarettes and various other futile therapies. In my opinion this exaggerated importance given to withdrawal symptoms is just a big myth, a ploy, an excuse by addicts to avoid giving up smoking.

The so-called withdrawal symptoms are nothing but craving.

The best and most effective way of quitting smoking is to just stop smoking, totally, in one go, and then never to smoke again.

Don’t be afraid of the so-called “withdrawal symptoms” – you can easily tackle the craving. You can take my word for it – I successfully did it and conquered the craving for smoking once and for all.I have written earlier and described how I quit smoking. I’m sure you must have read it right here in my blog.

Now let me describe to you the day after I quit smoking. [and banish the fear of "withdrawal symptoms" from your minds once and for all!].I woke up early, at five-thirty as usual, made a cup of tea, and the moment I took a sip of the piping hot delicious tea, I felt the familiar crave for my first cigarette of the day.

I kept down the cup of tea, made a note of the craving in my diary, had a glass of hot water (quickly heated in the microwave oven), completed my ablutions, and stepped out of my house, crossed the Maharshi Karve Road, and began a brisk walk-cum-jog around the verdant tranquil Oval Maidan, deeply rinsing my lungs with the pure refreshing morning air, which made me feel on top of the world.

The Clock on Mumbai University’s Rajabai Tower silhouetted against the calm bluish gray sky, was striking six, and I felt invigorated by the fresh cool air cleansing my lungs. I had overcome my craving and not smoked what used to be my first cigarette of the day.

I then went on my daily morning walk on Marine Drive to Chowpatty and on my way back I spotted my friends ‘N’ and ‘S’ across the road beckoning me for our customary post-exercise tea and cigarette at the stall opposite Mantralaya. I felt tempted, but my resolve firm, I waved out to them, looked away and ran towards my house.

They must have thought I’d gone crazy, but it didn’t matter – I had avoided what used to be my second cigarette of the day.

I made a note of it my diary, as I would do the entire day of all the stimuli that triggered in me the urge to smoke – what I would call my “smoking anchors” which could be anything, internal and external, tangible or intangible – people, situations, events, feelings, smells, emotions, tendencies, moods, foods, social or organizational trends, practices, norms, peer pressure; and most importantly how I tackled and triumphed over these stimuli.


After breakfast, I didn’t drink my usual cup of coffee – a strong “smoking anchor” which triggered in me a desperate desire to smoke, and drank a glass of bland milk instead, thereby averting what used to be my third cigarette of the day.

It was nine, as I walked to work, and I hadn’t smoked a single cigarette.

It was a long day ahead and I had to be cognizant, observe myself inwardly and devise strategies to tackle situations that elicited craving for smoking – recognize and neutralize my “smoking anchors”, so to speak.

Anchoring is a naturally occurring phenomenon, a natural process that usually occurs without our awareness.

An anchor is any representation in the human nervous system that triggers any other representation. Anchors can operate in any representational system (sight, sound, feeling, sensation, smell, taste).

You create an anchor when you unconsciously set up a stimulus response pattern. Response [smoking] becomes associated with (anchored to) some stimulus; in such a way that perception of the stimulus (the anchor) leads by reflex to the anchored response [smoking] occurring.

Repeated stimulus–response action, reinforces anchors and this is a vicious circle, especially in the context of “smoking anchors”.

The trick is to identify your “smoking anchors”, become conscious of these anchors and ensure you do not activate them.


The moment I reached office I saw my colleague ‘B’ eagerly waiting for me, as he did every day. Actually he was eagerly waiting to bum a cigarette from me for his first smoke of the day [“I smoke only other’s cigarettes” was his motto!].

I politely told him I had quit smoking and told him to look elsewhere. He looked at me in disbelief; taunted, jeered and badgered me a bit, but when I stood firm, he disappeared.

I had avoided what would have been my fourth cigarette of the day!


I removed my ashtray from my office, declared the entire place a "no-smoking zone" and put up signs to that effect. The working day began. It was a tough and stressful working day.

I was tired, when my boss called me across and offered me a cigarette. I looked at the cigarette pack yearningly, tempted, overcome by a strong craving, desperate to have just that “one” cigarette.

Nothing like a “refreshing” smoke to drive my blues away and revitalize me – the “panacea” to my “stressed-out” state! It was now or never!

I politely excused myself on the pretext of going to the toilet, but rushed out into the open and took a brisk walk rinsing my lungs with fresh air, and by the time I returned I had lost the craving to smoke and realized, like in the Oval early in the morning, that physical exercise is probably the best antidote.

Also, I had avoided what would have been my fifth cigarette of the day.


Now I am going to stop counting...!

People may think I’m crazy, but even now I rush out of my office once in a while to take a brisk walk in the open and not only do I lose the craving for a smoke but I feel distressed and invigorated as well.

Conversely, once I rushed into a “no-smoking” cinema when I desperately felt like a smoke while strolling in the evening.

Often, after dinner, when I used to feel like a smoke, I rushed into the Oxford Bookstore next door, for a long leisurely browse till my craving dissipated.

And, of course, one has to change his lifestyle, activities, and, maybe, even friends.

Always try to be with likeminded people who you would like to emulate – if you want to quit smoking try to be in the company of non-smokers.


It was simple after that, but my diary for that defining day makes interesting reading of smoking anchors – saunf or supari after lunch, afternoon tea, the company of smokers, paan… But the crucial test came in the evening.

My dear friend ‘A’ landed up for a drink. Now ‘A’ is a guy who doesn’t smoke in front of his kids and wife. 

I am sure she knows as a husband cannot keep secrets from his wife - especially "minor" vices...

So since he doesn’t smoke in his own home he makes up in other people’s houses. But mind you, he doesn’t bum cigarettes – in fact he gets a pack and generously leaves the remaining behind for the host.

We poured out a rum–paani each, clinked our glasses, said cheers, and sipped. 

My friend ‘A’ lit a cigarette and offered the pack to me.

At the end of a hot, humid and tiring day, the fortifying beverage induced a heavenly ambrosial sensation which permeated throughout the body and what better way to synergise the enjoyment than to smoke a cigarette along with the drink and enhance the pleasure to sheer bliss.

Till that moment, for me, drinking and smoking were inextricably intertwined – they complemented, accentuated each other and accorded me the ultimate supreme pleasure. I enjoyed my smoke the most along with a drink. I realized that drinking was my strongest “smoking anchor” and if I had to quit smoking permanently I would have to give up drinking forever. So that’s what I did.

At this defining moment of my life, I quit drinking forever. 

It’s been more than seven years now and I do not smoke and I do not drink.

I will never smoke again – I have quit smoking forever.

I may be tempted, but I know I can overcome the urge, for I have mastered the art of taking charge of my “smoking anchors”.

And from time to time, I shall look at my old diary to remember and cherish that cardinal day of my life – ‘the day after I quit smoking’.

Dear Reader, I did not experience any withdrawal symptoms...! Did you...? 

VIKRAM KARVE
       
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.
VIKRAM KARVE educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU, Lawrence School Lovedale, and Bishop’s School Pune, is an Electronics and Communications Engineer by profession, a Human Resource Manager and Trainer by occupation, a Teacher by vocation, a Creative Writer by inclination and a Foodie by passion. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles in magazines and journals for many years before the advent of blogging. His delicious foodie blogs have been compiled in a book "Appetite for a Stroll". Vikram lives in Pune with his family and pet Doberman girl Sherry, with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

Vikram Karve Creative Writing Blog -  http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com  
Academic Journal Vikram Karve –  http://karvediat.blogspot.com
Professional Profile of Vikram Karve -  http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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