I don’t remember when I quit smoking. It must have been in 2008. After smoking cigarettes for more than 30 years, I kicked the habit — something I thought was almost impossible. I had given up smoking several times, only to light up one or two days later.
When I finally quit, it seemed easy. That was because I had stopped smoking at home many years ago when my wife complained of nausea during pregnancy. And my smoking made it worse. So every time I wanted to smoke, I had to step out, which was a hassle. That meant most of my smoking was restricted to office hours — a practice I continued even after the birth of my children.
Every day, I couldn’t wait to get to the office. As soon as I reached my desk, I used to throw my bag and rush to the smoking room. It felt good to puff away. It was soothing. Relaxing too.
The addiction was real. Every time I wanted to de-stress, I reached for a cigarette. When friends got together, we lit up. Every meal away from home was followed by a cigarette. Worse, every badminton session, cricket nets or tennis game ended with tea and cigarettes. Wrong time to smoke, but I did. Because I loved it.
At around 20 cigarettes a day, I didn’t consider myself a heavy smoker. I knew people who could easily go through two packs of the 20s every day. Some others claimed they would finish four packs a day. So my 20 paled in comparison, and it also bestowed a false sense of security: I did feel that I was abusing my lungs. This is why I never made a concerted attempt to stub out smoking.
I started smoking in college. Initially, it was peer pressure, and soon the fun gave way to addiction. Cigarettes became a crutch to help study, write and relax. As a journalist, I always used to light a cigarette before loading the paper on a typewriter. Those were the days before air-conditioned newspaper offices with teleprinters and telexes, so we could smoke in the office whenever we pleased.
How did I quit smoking? A sore throat that refused to go away had me worried. Was it cancer? I wondered. That worry persuaded me to give up smoking for a few days. It was tough. I refused to keep cigarettes with me and stayed away from the smoking room in the office.
The few days stretched for a week, and my throat got better. If I can keep off cigarettes for a week, why don’t I stay away permanently? I did. And I’m glad I did. My taste returned. My stamina too.
I no longer enjoy smoking. Over the years, I tried to puff a couple of times, but the pleasure was gone. It tasted horrible.
Cigarettes, I don’t miss them.