Today is a really big day for me. Nine months ago today, at 4.15pm, I stopped smoking. This is, as far as I am concerned, a massive, huge, ginormous, remarkable, difficult and brilliant achievement, all in one. Let me start by sharing with you, and I know many of you are probably somewhat surprised right now, the story of my life as a smoker. I cannot underline how many people look at me with a big question mark in their face, when I say that I was a big smoker for 28 years of my life. I started smoking when I was 14 years old, in complete secret. All my friends from school were doing the same, on weekends, and we would meet in Guildford, the town close to where I went to school, hang out, chat, listen to music and smoke. I found out where my father kept his stash of filterless Kings, a Danish brand, my best friend and I would take a few, we would bring chewing gum, hand cream and perfume in our hand bags and off we went. We would giggle hysterically, knowing we were being naughty. That feeling of breaking boundaries filled us with such excitement, because we were both really good girls on an every day basis. Below is a picture of me, taken at a time when I smoked 20 cigarets per day. I don’t really look like a smoker, yet every time I lit another cigaret, it filled me with such great pleasure. I really really really loved smoking. And I didn’t for a single second consider the terrifying consequences that so tragically happen to many smokers out there.
Why did I love smoking, I remember the counsellor at the Alan Carr course asking me on the 9th of October 2017. I replied that I loved smoking, particularly after I put my children to bed because… “It was my time, my me time, being alone, outside on my back steps, a moment where I could really think about my day, process what had happened, almost meditate through my smoke, whilst bouncing dreams off the moon. I thought it made me feel good, it relaxed every part of me, it was a time when I gave myself the chance to deeply inhale…. and yes I’m sad to say, toxic, disgusting, lung and cell destroying, burning smoke, what I felt was a deep breathe, is what contributes to many people dying. Right now, this makes me think of my father, who could barely breathe in the end, his lungs having taken the toll of a lifetime of smoking, death being like strangulation, each breath more difficult than the next, until he couldn’t breathe any more…. have I put you off yet?
From I was 14-27, when I got pregnant wth my first born, I smoked 20-30 cigarettes every day. My ex-husband and I would even wake up in the middle of the night and have a “cosy” cigarette. I remember being impressed that we went through a carton of cigarettes every three to four days. Ten months after giving birth to Alexander, and as I stopped breast feeding, I went back to smoking again. This continued until I got pregnant with my second child, Josephine. After breast feeding her for 8 months, I went back to smoking once again, this time, however, I cut my daily consumption to around 10 cigarettes per day. I would justify my habit, by never smoking around my children (they had no idea I smoked till a year before I gave up.) This meant I was meticulous about washing my hands and brushing my teeth after each smoke. Because as you all know, smoking STINKS. Then I got pregnant with my third child, Nicholas, and after I finished breast feeding him, I went back to smoking 1-5 cigarettes per day. It was like a reward in my mind, after a really good working lunch, this would become my first cigarette of the day. After a few hours of working before I collected my children from school, this would be my second cigarette. I would be super keen to get my children to bed after their dinner and bath so I could have another sneaky ciggie, my third of the day…. and I would then schedule a phone call with a dear friend or family, and give myself yet another excuse to enjoy a cigarette, and before bed would be my last “reward’ of the day. I couldn’t imagine speaking on the phone and not smoking, I really dislike talking on the phone as it is, this made it do-able. If I went out for dinner with friends, this was a great reason to smoke a couple more.
For my birthday last year, one of my best girlfriends, Aimee, gave me a session with Alan Carr. I had just returned from a week in The States, where I launched my forth cook book, “Cook yourself happy, the Danish way.” I made sure that I smoked so many whilst in New York and LA, that I felt nicotine poisoned by the time I returned home. I had to make the decision to stop easier if I could, and what better way than nauseating poisoning. I must say that smoking in America is different. People do look at you like you come from another planet or have blue hair and pink eyes. Getting a light from someone on the street in California is more like asking for a glass of water in the desert.
I remember driving to Clapham on the morning of the 9th of October 2017. I was ready to stop what I felt was now a habit I no longer wanted to have. I was done with the smell and the taste in my mouth when I woke up, and I felt awful when my beloved children would ask me not to smoke. “Lead by example,” the many wise men say…. and smoking had started to feel so wrong, on all levels.
We were 12 people wanting to quit our smoking. The counsellor started off by saying 9/12 of us would never smoke again. I remember looking around the room thinking, who will fall back in…? I said a little prayer… “Please help me to be strong.” As the morning went by, with lots of talking and listening about all the pro’s and con’s of smoking, what it physically does to our bodies, minds and emotions, and having a smoking break every 45 minutes, I started to wonder if this was really going to work for me, I had serious doubts… Even at 2.30pm, I was very unsure what this method was, and not convinced it could work for me. We were then told to go and smoke our last ever cigarette. The counsellor recommended we go somewhere alone, and have a farewell ceremony, physically and mentally, (for many of us also emotionally.) with our last cigarette. I smoked my last cigarette to the filter and slightly burned my skin.. nothing was left. I then buried my filter and thought I may come back to visit it, if the need ever arose. We all went back inside, for a last briefing, an amazing reasoning and finally a meditation, and by 4.15pm I knew that I was never going to be so stupid again and smoke. It took the whole day to make any sense to me, and also for me to realise the great decision I had made. I cannot underline how incredible it feels to be a non-smoker and I cannot recommend The Alan Carr course more highly. Every aspect of your life will be elevated beyond your imagination. If I ever have a craving to smoke, I smoke a bread stick, as in the photo above, or a carrot stick. It is the best decision I have made in the last decade, and every part of my existence, especially my skin and taste buds, are grateful every day. And can I just say, it’s really not that difficult. Once you haver made the decision, it is simply a question of you honouring yourself, and showing your true inner strength.