How to become an irregular smoker

No, this is not to ask non-smokers to start puffing away; it’s for smokers who would like to cut down.

First, you must want to live. If you feel that life is pointless, and you don’t care if you die tomorrow, by all means, smoke as much as you can afford.

Second, you must have a strong desire to cut down. The reason you’re smoking in the first place is because you enjoy it – the nicotine rush; the way it goes with teh tarik; as a way to release tension and chill out. On the other hand, you know it’s stupid – it’s a waste of money; it causes cancer; your mouth stinks. But your nicotine-altered mind has counterarguments for everything: everyone has a hobby and this is mine; we’re going to die anyway; and there’s always chewing gum.

Therefore you will need a “higher-order” reason. For some people, it’s religion (a “return” to God). For a friend of mine, it was the birth of his first child. For others, it’s increased self-awareness and a desire to regain control of one’s life.

Once you have a reason, it’s just a matter of technique. Cold turkey is definitely one method: just stop. But what I’m going to describe here is something more gradual.

First, you must recognize that smoking is not just a habit, it’s a lifestyle. So you need to make some big adjustments – no more after-office lepak sessions, for example, or even a new lunch crowd. As I said, big adjustments. So set your expectations accordingly.

Second, lie to yourself. If you say, “I’m going to quit smoking”, you’ll get stressed out by this herculean task and you’ll immediately need a cigarette. Start with small lies. After lunch, instead of lighting up, say to yourself, “I’m going to skip this one, just this once.” Once you’re able to do this for a couple of days, go for a bigger lie – the first cigarette of the day. After (or before) breakfast, say to yourself, “I’m going to smoke only in the evening, just for today.” Then, after a couple of weeks of this positive self-delusion, you can go for the whopper: “I’m not going to smoke, just for today.”

Third, stop buying packets and start buying sebatang-sebatang (loose). Most kedai mamak and some kedai runcit sell these. Seek and you will find.

Fourth, avoid the triggers, such as Nescafe, teh tarik or spicy meals, and drink lots of plain water. Lots.

Finally, don’t worry too much about the lapses. Cutting down is a continuous process that can take months and even years. Remember that reducing your intake by even one a day translates to more than 300 sticks a year. So celebrate every victory with a feeling of deep satisfaction! You are in control. Woohoo!

Further reading

3 Bulan (Malay)

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