I’m not going to resort to scare tactics with ugly pictures or bore you with stats. It’s just that I quit smoking about 5 weeks ago (Monday, March 9 at 9am was my very last cigarette) and didn’t want it to go unnoticed lol
This is a very long and rambly post reflecting on that.
I believe the very first time I put a cigarette in my mouth was when I was a junior in highschool and was out ditching school for “senior ditch day”. I watched a bunch of guys and girls chainsmoke cigarettes and sheesha/hookah pipes all morning long and without any prodding, asked the person next to me if I could have a cigarette. It tasted spicy and bitter and all around gross that I couldn’t even finish it.
I did enjoy the buzz I got off it though. No, I mean I really enjoyed the buzz I got off it. However, that was that.
Then, much much later, while hanging out with the man who would become my future ex-husband (we went to the same school), he proclaimed that I should take a drag from his cigarette (he was already a chainsmoker way before I ever met him) and I happily obliged, wanting another hit of that enjoyable buzz. Expecting the awful taste this time, it wasn’t as bad as I’d remembered and I thoroughly enjoyed my second cigarette.
He always made sure it was away from prying eyes because he didn’t want my “reputation to be tarnished” (which unfortunately was a very real issue in our culture, where women who smoked, were viewed as immoral), but it was mainly because he already knew we were gonna’ get married someday (which we did) and he didn’t want it to reflect badly on him.
Even when he asked for my hand in marriage from my family (as most Arabs do) many years later, he made it a point to tell me privately, that once we became husband and wife, I was “forbidden” from smoking ever again. It had absolutely nothing to do with my health and everything to do with him and his reputation if “people found out his wife was a smoker”, setting aside that he was the main reason I’d become addicted to smoking in the first place!
That said, I don’t believe it was my ex-husband’s intention to get me addicted to smoking cigarettes. We were both very young and very dumb. Somehow, it just sorta’ happened.
As a teenager, I worked my way up to wanting a pack of my own (to smoke at my own leisure). I’d wait until my entire family had gone to bed, lock the door of my bedroom, turn off the lights, slide open my bedroom window, crawl out onto the second story windowsill of my bedroom, call my ex-husband and light up a cigarette and leisurely smoke it while I talked to him. It became my nightly routine.
Between talking to my “first love” (and only love) or at least what I thought was love (“love” = dopamine) and between smoking a cigarette (all those nasty chemicals = more dopamine) and the thrill of doing both of those things (things I wasn’t supposed to be doing), my dopamine levels were through the roof!
To top it all off, smoking out in the open air and watching the cigarette smoke curl into the moonlight felt otherworldly! I had fallen in love with smoking and all that it entailed! Even just holding a cigarette between my fingers made me feel impossibly cool, as cliche as that sounded.
I believe I was 17 years old at the time. The ex-husband and I went our separate ways but my smoking habit remained.
While watching the movie The Day After Tomorrow at home, I got a bit too excited and for the very first time, decided to smoke two cigarettes back to back. I felt incredibly nauseous during the rest of the movie and all day after that! It was awful! The movie came out in 2004 so I believe I was 20 around that time.
Not wanting to experience that level of nausea ever again, I forced myself to smoke two cigarettes back to back daily, until I could handle it (logic). It backfired and I started smoking more regularly, not just as a treat at night.
The process of masking the smell
However, smoking during the day was a whole process because I couldn’t risk anyone finding out about my smoking habit. The smell of cigarettes would cling to everything, from fingers, to clothes and even hair! Not to mention breath.
I had to switch shirts, or at least change out of the one I was wearing while smoking and tie my hair up (using my trusty scrunchie) making sure the wind wasn’t going to be blowing the smoke back in my direction, so the scent wouldn’t cling to my hair and clothes. I also had to brush my teeth right after and chew on extra minty gum and if possible, even eat something, all just to hopefully mask the smell of cigarettes on my breath.
I also had to wash my hands extremely thoroughly and then slather them with some sort of scented lotion or hand cream. Finally, I’d spritz a cloud of perfume up in the air and walk underneath it, letting it lightly mist me all over. Like I said, it was a whole process.
The chainsmoking begins
Since I was going be going through this whole song and dance (of masking the smell of cigarettes) afterwards, I figured I might as well make it worth it by smoking more than one or two cigarettes… at a time… and just have a chainsmoking session (logic).
As you can imagine, my chainsmoking sessions and the process afterwards took up quite some time, which was one of the main reasons I was always late to everything (even events at our own home like big family gatherings with cousins and second cousins and such).
Honestly, if it were up to me, I’d have a cigarette perpetually wedged between my lips wherever I went. However, in our “culture”, your actions as an individual don’t reflect solely on you, but also on your immediate family and the family name as a whole, blah blah blah.
Also, a lot of the cousins and second cousins had their own vices (for example, cousin xyz who was about ten or so years older, had to have her nightly sheesha session), but their vices were kept hidden and not spoken about.
My unnecessary display of honesty (hai guyz! I smoke!) would serve no purpose other than “bring shame and embarrassment to the family” and more specifically, my mom and dad, who were well respected people and actually prominent members of our society. It certainly wasn’t going to galvanize the cousins into standing up and sharing their vices, decreasing from the stigma attached to whichever vice nor the burden the parents felt as raising someone with said vice. There were layers upon layers of politics to this thing.
Then there was the public’s perception, which was why I had to avoid smoking in public… forever. Firstly, because if someone saw me smoking in public, my immediate family might get wind of it and finally find out that I smoke. Obviously, I didn’t want that to happen.
Second, if a female smokes in Kuwait (regardless of anything and everything else, as in age, nationality, whatever else), she’s labeled as immoral. Someone reading this, might think that’s not true because they might have a female friend that smokes, but they don’t judge her. Well, you’re the exception, not the rule.
Smoking is frowned upon in general (for health reasons), but when you’re a female in a very small, conservative, Muslim country, and you smoke? You either deal with all the repercussions or do it in private.
Frankly, I find it absurd that inhaling and exhaling smoke out in the open air or even in the privacy of my very own home, can be subjugated to so much discussion and judgment from virtual strangers. It certainly wasn’t something smart nor healthy, but I was only harming myself… so, why would you care?
It’s a sore point with me because on more than one occasion, I would’ve loved to have lit up a cigarette and taken a deep drag, while out in public (particularly during stressful sitations)…. but I couldn’t… because people.
Obviously, I’d be mindful of others and wouldn’t smoke in enclosed spaces like a movie theater or whatever (which isn’t allowed regardless but I’m just sayin’) or around people who were eating or around people with kids or around people in general. I’d do it out in the open air and not upwind of people. But I couldn’t smoke in public (for the reasons mentioned and more) so I didn’t.
Other than being absurd, as childish as it may sound, I also found it a bit unfair lol On more than one occasion, I’d catch myself thinking that if I could smoke freely in public (social consequences be damned), that’s half the allure of smoking, gone. Meaning, if I could do it whenever and wherever I wanted, it wasn’t as special.
My smoking habit was very much on the down-low, up until I befriended this girl in University who was very open about smoking and was even somewhat of a klepto (everyone would complain that she’d stolen their lighter, which she probably did… fancy or cheap, she never met a lighter she didn’t wanna steal lol). The girl was a mess, but I thought it was refreshing that she didn’t care what anyone else thought, as opposed to the majority whom I thought cared too much.
With her, I began smoking out in public, but while she didn’t care who saw, I made it a point to make sure nobody was around when we lit up. I’d immediately start scanning the place for smoking areas (roof, empty stairwell, fire escape, secluded backdoor area, shrubbery, etc…) wherever we went.
Our circle of smokers grew and with it, I met girls who were just as addicted as I was and girls who were social smokers (as in bumming a cig to every 5-10 ciggs that I smoked). In fact, I met people who did a lot more than smoke. Honestly, cigarettes seemed quite tame and dare I say vanilla, in comparison, especially in the grand scheme of things. As absurd as I thought it was, I still tried to keep my habit somewhat of a secret (except around a handful of certain friends).
My ex-husband randomly appeared in the same University and after being apart for 5 years, we just sorta’ picked up where we left off, which in his case, was more royal demands and decrees from His Highness. For starters, he wanted me to drop my new friend, because she wasn’t wholesome. In defiance, she went from being a casual friend to my newfound bestie, because I don’t take well to demands.
While my ex-husband had no issue walking closely to me and carrying my stuff (clearly signifying we were a couple), he went through a lot of trouble to shield me from people’s eyes, whenever I lit up a cigarette to smoke. I explained to him that this behavior was contradictory, but he said it was common knowledge since highschool that everyone knew him and I were going to get married someday, meaning it was okay for us to be seen together, according to him. However, it was not okay for me to be seen smoking in public by anyone other than him.
I was going through great pains not to be seen by anyone regardless of whether he told me to be careful or not, because of the family blah blah blah However, the fact that he wanted to pick and choose what to avoid and what to do to “preserve my pristine reputation” was where I had an issue. It was for several reasons, but we went our separate ways for another 5 years.
On a long flight by myself to Germany, where I was dying for a cigarette during the entire flight, it dawned on me how truly addicted I was to smoking. It occurred to me in passing, but I thought, “I’m going to quit smoking”. However, as soon as I left the airport, I lit up a cigarette, any thoughts on quitting long gone.
Unlike most places in Kuwait, smoking was pretty much prohibited everywhere in Germany, aside from out in the open air and the designated smoking areas that smelled like sour milk. I thought smoking inside one of those little closed off rooms seemed very undignified and I much preferred to smoke outside in the freezing cold.
Back in Kuwait, I smoked with a vengeance, making up for lost time. My parents were elderly now. My older sister had gotten married and moved out ages ago. My brothers had their own private living quarters, far from mine. I was pretty much on my own and didn’t have to hide my smoking as much, because there was no one at home to notice. So, I chainsmoked.
As soon as I’d wake up, first thing in the morning, I’d light a cigarette. Not check my phone. Not take a sip of whatever. Straight to smoking. For the past 10 years or so, I’ve learned to start my day with a cigarette!
After every meal, I’d smoke a cigarette or two. If I was hungry, I’d smoke. I also smoked whenever I faced a problem. I smoked as a reward after solving the problem or finishing a task or chore or whatever. At work, I’d sneak off to the bathroom for cigarette breaks and smoke with my co-workers. I smoked when I met up with my friends or if they came over. I chainsmoked when I was writing or working on my blog. I chainsmoked while I was gaming (even while destroying zombies on Call of Duty) and I chainsmoked while watching tv shows. I was pretty much smoking all day, every day.
I got married to my ex-husband, got divorced, faced some issues and worked my way up to smoking x2 packs a day. Smoking soothed me when I was upset or anxious. Realizing I was starting to smoke mindlessly, I worked my way back down to a pack and a half, a day.
I just really enjoyed smoking and all that it entailed! It felt so… satisfying!
The idea of quitting was always at the back of my mind though, nagging at me. I kept pushing it off, thinking someday, but not today. On Monday, March 9 at 9 in the morning I had my very last cigarette.
Had I known it was going to be my last one, I would’ve savored it. Sadly, at the time, I didn’t know it was going to be my last one. Honestly, it was a spur of the moment decision. There was a chain of events that led to my quitting, but at the root of it, the decision was spontaneous.
Basically, I decided to quit and threw out everything I had. I didn’t want to drag it out for longer than necessary, by gradually decreasing the amount of cigarettes because it felt… demeaning lol If I was going to quit, I might as well quit cold turkey, so I did.
Not gonna’ lie, it wasn’t easy. I’d started smoking at around 17 and now I was 35, so I’d been smoking for almost 20 years! I’ve had my fill of fun smoking and it was now time to quit.
The health problems that would eventually arise with smoking were not something I looked forward to, but more than that, I thought of myself as an intelligent person and smoking was not an intelligent choice. Both of those were equally important in my mind and mostly why thoughts of quitting kept popping in my head randomly over the years.
The first few days were the hardest! I missed the act of it, more than anything. I missed propping a cigarette between my lips, lighting it, taking a deep drag and exhaling curls of smoke overhead.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lit up a cigarette and sat back and watched the plumes of smoke curling into each other, back-lit by the setting sun! It was absolutely mesmerizing! I was never going to be able to do that again.
Immediately, I thought about several substitutes. Sheesha/Hookah Pipes were just too much of a hassle to set up and frankly I found them both vulgar and obnoxious. I’d only indulge once every 3-4 years on a whim, with friends who enjoyed Sheesha on the daily (ugh). It’s not really my thing.
I thought about vaping, but it seemed like I was substituting one problem with another. If I was going to pick up vaping, I might as well just stick to smoking. There was too much controversy surrounding the stuff and I didn’t understand the science behind it. Plus, I didn’t know where I’d be able to find reliable sellers (I have trust issues with our local retailers), but above all, people who vape are always way too eager to convert everyone else into vaping (like vegans) which I really don’t like. Also, in my opinion vaping seemed douche-y (alienating readers left and right with my opinions today lol).
Several people have tried turning me on to IQOS which heats the tobacco instead of actually burning it, which would be the most ideal substitute, in my case. However, I much preferred to rip the band-aid off, rather than torturing myself by slowly lifting up the corners and painstakingly pulling off the band-aid little by little only to prolong my suffering.
I was so angry! If I hadn’t picked up smoking when I was so young, I could’ve smoked more freely now without having to think of the accumulated harmful long-term effects. At the very least, if I hadn’t chainsmoked for all those years, I could’ve continued smoking one or two ciggs a night (as a treat), while still having peace of mind (too little to do much harm). I wouldn’t have had to quit completely.
I felt hopelessly trapped. I couldn’t imagine living the rest of my life without smoking. As silly as it may sound, I kept weighing it in my mind. Was living a relatively longer life really worth it, if I wasn’t going to enjoy that life because I’d given up smoking? Was it better to go back to smoking and whatever happens happens?
I felt incredibly irritated, because normally, I’d be making this decision (or any other tough decisions) while smoking a cigarette. The fact that I couldn’t light up and think, was annoying. Consequentially, everyone and everything around me started to annoy me as well. The fact that we were on lockdown due to the coronavirus, further exasperated the situation.
Mostly, I was heartbroken. It felt like I’d lost my bestfriend. Cigarettes had been there for me through thick and thin. It saw me through my darkest hours. It saw me through several heart-aches, including deaths of loved ones and other traumatic experiences. It saw me through my irritatingly long and unnecessarily drawn out divorce. It saw me through several friendships. It saw me through so much good as well! I’d pretty much spent my entire adult life smoking!
Naturally, I felt the loss very keenly and even though I tried not to, cried myself to sleep for two weeks straight. I mean, I pulled it together during the day, but at night, I’d give in. To my dismay, I even started dreaming about smoking a cigarette!
Tips & Tricks
I hadn’t read a book or even an article on how to quit smoking. I didn’t want to make it a whole song and dance. I just made a decision and immediately acted on it. Very spontaneous, very impulsive, very me.
Two things, I noticed. Whenever I got the urge to smoke, eating something crunchy really helped. Although, I prefer my cereal soggy, I started eating it right away, while it was still crunchy. I also was constantly eating Apples, Potato Chips, Fried Chicken, etc… Basically, anything with a crunch to it. To be fair, I was constantly eating in general (to avoid running out and buying a pack to smoke) to the extent that I gained 4kg lol but crunchy food helped with the cravings somewhat.
The other thing was chewing gum. Whenever I’d work on a post, between cropping the photos and resizing them and then writing and so on, I’d literally go through half a pack per post. Writing, in general, as in pen and paper in hand, didn’t feel real to me unless I had a cigarette dangling off my lips. Smoking had become so ingrained in my creative process that I didn’t know how to deal without it. I’ve attempted working on my blog several times now and substituted smoking with Wrigley’s DoubleMint Gum. It’s definitely not the same, but it helps a little.
So nothing groundbreaking, but I found that crunchy food and chewing gum really do help.
Literally, 3 days later, my entire family kept asking me what was different about me. Apparently, I smoked so much, that I’d turned my naturally pale pinkish lips a dark brown, almost black. After quitting, they instantly started reverting back to their natural color. Honestly, I’d forgotten what my natural lip color looked like because it’d been so long lol No wonder certain lipsticks pulled more fuchsia and purple on me (explains so much).
After quitting, my sense of smell has become incredibly heightened, to the extent that certain Bath & Body Works Shower Gels straight up hurt my nose now. That was an unanticipated and unpleasant side-effect. The scents I love are now killing me lol
The rest of the “healing” is probably all internal and still happening so I can’t say much about that.
One Month Later
I still miss smoking, but I’ve stopped crying about it lol The dreams of smoking have long since stopped and I’m no longer irritable and my family no longer fears approaching me lest I snap and snarl at them lol
I’m no longer constantly shoving food down my throat. Whenever I get a craving to smoke, I’ll pop a stick of gum in my mouth or munch on something crunchy, as I said. A healthier option that I’ve found has helped me a lot, believe it or not, is actually Popcorn!
As a legitimate chainsmoker, I was actually surprised by how easier it was to quit smoking! I’d assumed it was going to be much harder. Honestly, it was hard, but only the first two weeks and it was pretty much smooth sailing after that.
I still crave smoking and would absolutely love to light up a cigarette at any given moment and take a nice long deep drag from it, but I really don’t want to backslide and go through those horrible first two weeks ever again. One puff turns into two, and two turn into just one cigarette, and before you know it, I’m back to smoking a pack and a half a day. Pass.
I chose to quit during quarantine because if I could make in the ultimate stressful situation, I could definitely stick to not smoking in any and all other future stressful situations. While it wasn’t as hard as I was expecting it to be, quitting was still legitimately quite hard. I’m proud of myself.