If you ask me what my biggest regret in life is, I would say – smoking.
I started like any other youngster, you know.
“Let me try it. Just once. I won’t get addicted,” I thought. “I have the willpower to stop when I want. Everyone is doing it. It is cool. Just one won’t hurt!”
These are the things that went on in my mind and before I knew, I had become a chain smoker, with nine long years of heavy smoking behind me. Today, when I look back, I realize that even though it is that first puff that initiates one into this massive black hole; many associated aspects add to making it worse by the day. Stress, workload, and the company you keep all create a vicious cycle of smoking that is difficult to break. At first, I told myself that I find relief from stress when I smoke. However, honestly, smoking does nothing to reduce stress. It is just something you keep indulging in repeatedly out of a compulsive habit. Then, the people that you hang around with make all the difference in the world.
I remember that my smoking habit hit its peak when I was posted as an Assistant Sales Manager in Kanpur in UP. Almost everyone consumes tobacco in some or the other form there. It’s common and almost everywhere there. It was difficult to avoid, overlook, or escape from it in that city. With the new job, and the stress, I got even more entrenched. There was always some excuse to smoke. Just a casual meeting with my seniors, a break from all that workload, or just that incredible itch to hold a cigarette between my fingers.
Believe me, I knew I was not doing the right thing. I was conscious of it all the time. Here I was smoking 15 cigarettes a day and a part of me was constantly reminding me, “Smoking kills”. I even tried to quit. I tried hard, made several attempts. I tried every trick in the book. I started buying individual cigarettes instead of whole packs. I tried to keep myself away from my smokers’ circle. I tried it all. But smoking was more than just a habit now. It had become a toxic part of me and it was consuming me completely. You know, quitting a habit like smoking does not have any formula. I realized, there is no DIY guide for it, no step-by-step process works and nor do those patches do anything. It has to come from within; it has to happen instinctively and it did for me too. One fine day, I woke up and knew it was time, I had to stop and let go.
“Enough is enough!” I told myself. It was in 2015 when I had my epiphany. I was married by then. I had more responsibilities. Could I let this disgusting and unnecessary habit affect the future of my family was a question that often haunted me.
“What about the time when we plan to have a child? What kind of a father would I be if I smoked around my pregnant wife or worse, smoked in front of my child?”
Therefore, during my posting in Colombo, I finally decided not to smoke another cigarette again. It was the hardest decision and yet my best so far. But no one ever said quitting was easy. The oral fixation that one has with cigarettes is incredible. I had to find a replacement, eating was the easiest, and simplest one I zeroed in on. Soon, I was not just eating, I was binging. I would even walk to a bakery close to my workplace every day to just eat.
The result? I started gaining weight. It was frustrating to see myself not look the same anymore. It was frustrating to have that constant urge to smoke. But this time, I stayed focused through it all. And slowly the positives started showing through. I noticed I was happier when I did not smoke. I began to feel healthier. I could do more because that mind-numbing pain in my back began to disappear. In fact I had learnt to live with it and never realized that smoking could be causing it. But when it began fading away, life sprung back to normalcy.
Smoking has many long terms harmful effects but what a lot of people do not realise is that it also has short-term problems. Once you quit smoking, you start seeing the difference in both your mental as well as your physical health. It is only recently that I came across the Prega News Quit Before You Start Campaign and decided to share my story because it addresses the same concerns I had a few years back. It indeed is true that even passive smoking during pregnancy or smoking at the time of conception too can lead to extreme genetic disorders in children. Passive smoke is potent enough to alter the DNA of an unborn child, even inside the womb!
Guys, what are we even thinking when we smoke that thing and why is it even a part of our world? Quite honestly, the stats shook me to my core. I am happy I took that decision and did not risk my child being born with deformities. I cannot even think of how shattered my family would be and what would happen to my wife and child if this habit really did kill me.
Today, I have a son and I am proud of the fact that he will never see his father smoke. Someday, I will share my journey with him. I will tell my son, “Smoking is not cool. There are so many things that are way cooler.” And the coolest thing to do is to quit. If you are someone who is struggling to ditch this habit, take that pledge to quit before you start.
I have done it and so can you. It will not be easy, but it will most certainly be worth it.