First time I pulled out of a cigarette I was 14. I was with friends at a party surrounded by beautiful girls I wanted to impress.
Then the question came,
“Have you smoked cigarettes?”
“Yes” – I said without skipping a beat.
“Show us how you smoke then.”
Immediately someone put a cigarette and a lighter in my hands. 10 people were staring at me waiting for the moment of truth.
I light up the cigarette and tried to pull just a bit.
It didn’t work.
I almost coughed my lungs out while everybody else was laughing like there was no tomorrow.
After this I began smoking, I wasn’t going to be the loser.
At first, I was asking people for a cigarette at parties. At some point, I began buying and smoking regularly.
If you’re shocked that a 15 years old can buy cigarettes you’ve probably never been to the Balkans. Also, saying that your uncle sends you for cigarettes tend to work well.
At 20, I applied for a University in Germany. After the exams, I learned that my aunt had lung cancer. She was about 40 and a heavy smoker.
She fought bravely but when the doctors found out what was going on it was already too late.
By this time I was already smoking a lot. On a good day, one pack of cigarettes wasn’t enough. However, seeing what happened to my aunt made me really question my habits and I eventually decided to quit.
I figured that quitting during or after University would be much harder than before. Stress always made me smoke like a chimney.
The problem was that I had no idea how to quit.
Only thing I knew was that most people fail.
I began reading on the internet and watching youtube videos to see how to approach the issue. And after a few weeks, the plan was laid down.
I was going to quit smoking 6 months later.
I was accepted at the german University I mentioned and so it made sense to postpone quitting for some time and take advantage of the new setting.
A new country where cigarettes are expensive, build new habits and find new friends who didn’t smoke ( everybody I met, later on, was a smoker but that’s a topic for another day ).
The first step of my plan was to tell everybody about it.
My closest friends are the type of people that were going to make my life a nightmare had I not followed my words. I knew that and wanted to make full use of social shaming in a productive way.
The next step was to decide on when exactly I was to smoke my last cigarette. In the end, I traveled to Germany with one pack of cigarettes that was to be my last one, ever.
The hardest but the most important part of quitting was to start looking at myself as a non-smoker. See, I had built all this personality around smoking, drinking and partying.
I was the type of guy who was turning the lights off during the night and was just smoking while listening to music.
Yep, I enjoyed it that much.
For me to stop smoking equaled being the boring guy in the room.
I couldn’t wrap my head around drinking coffee without smoking, drinking alcohol without smoking and all of that.
Looking back, these 6 months that I had to wait were crucial. They helped me realize and accept that smoking doesn’t change who I am.
6 months passed like nothing and I had to hop on my flight to Germany.
But before that, there was something I had to do.
I promised to each one of my friends to have one last cigarette together. I still clearly remember this. It was one of the most bonding experiences in my life ever, something very small I’ll never forget.
I hopped on my plane with a single pack of cigarettes that had to be my last one. I didn’t reduce consumption, I had already read that it doesn’t work. Instead, I smoked as much as I wanted to and made sure I enjoyed every second of it.
And until I realized it I had just one cigarette left.
For the special occasion, I went to the most beautiful park in the city, laid down on the green grass near the lake and smoked my last ever cigarette while enjoying the sun. ( yes, there’s a sun in Germany)
I felt a specific emptiness while I was walking back home. It felt like I left a part of myself back near the lake.
Now the hardest part was coming.
I had to never smoke a cigarette again.
I knew that here’s where most people fail. They tell themselves it’s just one cigarette and then they start smoking again.
The trick is to never put a cigarette in your mouth again.
It sounds simple right?
I’d be lying if I said it was really hard to quit.
This was the most shocking part of all of it.
I craved cigarettes but I didn’t fight against it and I believe that helped me a ton.
I never said to myself “a cigarette right now would be great”. Every time I felt a strong urge to smoke I just accepted it as a part of the journey.
The first month was hard but manageable. The third month, the urges became significantly less. The sixth month, I had pretty much forgotten about it.
What nobody tells you when you decide to quit smoking is that you’ll crave cigarettes until the day you die. It’s just how it is. The mistake is to assume that at some point you’ll stop craving cigarettes.
You never stop, just the more time it passes the less strong the urges become.
Almost 5 years later I can still say that I smoked my last cigarette near that lake on that sunny day.
I still crave a cigarette from time to time, like literally right now and that’s fine.