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ASHTRAYS IN THE WAITING ROOM! How I became (and stayed) a non-smoker.

This is a fairy story with a happy ending…

Once upon a time, there was a young woman, heavily pregnant with her first child.

She was naturally a little anxious, not knowing what to expect, in those days there was no real motorway system let alone an internet highway and ‘google’ was something you did over babies’ prams. The little information that she had gleaned from friends would make even Stephen King tremble.

So, she decided to do what any sensible young mother-to-be would do and made an appointment with the doctor. He listened to her concerns and said:

“There there, now don’t you worry dear, you just go home, put your feet up, have a couple of nice cigarettes, they will help you relax “.

This may seem horrendous to younger readers, but remember, the dangers of smoking had not been fully identified, doctors would have ashtrays in their waiting rooms, and you could even smoke in parts of hospitals, in cinemas, planes, trains – anywhere!

These were the sort of press ads that ran and there was the belief that if it was advertised it was the true AND if the doctor said it was good for you, well, it must be!

So in all innocence, the young girl bought a packet of ten Woodbine, went home and did just what the doctor ordered …..

….. heavily pregnant, she had her first hit of nicotine!

That young woman was my mother and that is why I am convinced I entered this world gasping for nicotine rather than air. Well, not quite but certainly at a very early age I would sit in the bathroom, with my friend Moira, trusty can of air freshener in one hand, puffing away on a Consulate menthol ciggie, blowing smoke rings and feeling very sophisticated and grown up.

I remember vividly how proud I felt when I could exhale the smoke out of my mouth and then inhale it up my nose. Funny how one remembers strange little things like this, but it was a big achievement for me at the time.

I loved my little friend Mr Nicotine, always there for me, always supportive, calming me down and helping me through the challenges of life as well as enjoying the good times – Shirley Bassey thought diamonds were her best friend, I thought nicotine was mine.

I am what they call a Metal Element person. In the Chinese philosophy of the 5 Elements, Metal governs large intestine and lung and those organs can be your strength and your weakness. For many years, even when I started in the alternative health field, I smoked. I knew my body metabolised it well and I never had any coughs, sore throats etc., Remember, it was totally acceptable to smoke, especially in Europe and it just didn’t have the stigma that it (deservedly) has today. I was an addict but hey! Who cares? It didn’t seem to bother my body one jot!!

Suffice to say, one day it caught up with me and what was my strength became my weakness and almost overnight, my body no longer tolerated smoking as it had done.

How did it catch up? I developed bronchial pneumonia and I genuinely thought I would die. It was a real slap around the face that woke me up and made me realise I had a very important choice to make. My lungs were damaged, and I work on them every day to keep them as strong as possible.

This is what I do, and you can do it right now:

1. Rub firmly up and down the breastbone then up and down either side of it

2. With fingertips ‘rake out’ to the shoulders,

3. Massage the Lung 1 area - at end of clavicle

4. Trace the meridian on both arms squeezing the thumbs as you come off

5. End by massaging firmly the Lung Source point. LU9. On the wrist.

The idea behind this is to loosen energetic plaque on the pathway and allow energy to flow along the meridian, influencing the lungs themselves. If the sternum points especially are sore, then you need this whether you are a smoker or suffer congestion in that area.

I didn’t want to say goodbye to my little friend who had been with me, through thick and thin for so many decades. I panicked, I was anxious, I felt a dreadful sorrow even at the thought of giving up the dreaded weed. In fact, the overwhelming emotion for me in the first few weeks, was one of pure GRIEF – an understandable one as Metal governs grief. Whatever emotion hits you, honour it knowing that ‘this too shall pass’.

How on earth was I going to give up? I accepted it was time to become a non-smoker, but I realised it was going to be one of the most difficult things in my life to achieve. I wasn’t a social smoker that could take it or leave it, I was a full-blown addict.

I say to you, if I can give it up anyone can.

Yes, it was hard but there were things that really helped me and I want to share a few with you now – it may not make it easy, but choose those that hit a note with you and I promise you they will make it ‘easier’.

I found freedom some 14 years ago and I give thanks to the illness that caused me to make the choice. I will never take even one puff of a cigarette – to be honest though, I don’t really want to, so it’s no longer an issue!

Okay, let’s get going ……

Before I actually became a non-smoker, I became a MINDFUL SMOKER, so I said to myself I could smoke as many ciggies as I wanted but for each one, I had to:

- STOP what I was doing

- SIT DOWN and enjoy the ritual and the ciggie with all my senses

- MY THOUGHTS were to be on it alone and nothing else

I focussed on eliminating the ‘mindless smoking’ first, so I could then identify the core smoking habits/situations I had to tackle.

Once you decide you WANT to be a non-smoker, go and buy Alan Carr’s EASYWAY TO STOP SMOKING (and no - I’m not on commission!) you’ll find it can be an invaluable tool to inspire and motivate, helping you realise that ‘my friend nicotine’ is in fact nothing less than a sneaky, manipulative little monster that causes the problem, not solves it. Keep a copy of it with you and if you feel tempted, just open it at any page and read a section – it will help keep you on track.

Be prepared for some strange emotional reactions. On day 3 I burst into tears – and felt a sharp poignant painful grief as if I had lost a loved one, I mourned the passing of my mate nicotine – I felt so alone, the grief felt VERY real.

Feel the grief, fear and sorrow - but KNOW, without a shadow of a doubt, that it will pass, and a time will come when you can laugh at yourself.

Take it one small ‘baby’ step at a time – don’t panic and think ‘I can never have a ciggie ever again’ – try ‘I cannot have a ciggie for the next hour, let’s just deal with that’. Don’t think beyond that.

Give yourself goals and of course, rewards. What are you spending on tobacco a week? I just asked Mr Google and the current average price of a packet of cigarettes in the UK is £10.80p! Wow!!! If you smoke a packet a day it could be a habit that costs you almost £4,000 a year. My mind boggles, I remember I said I’d quit when they reached £1 a packet!

Whatever your annual cost, use the money from your first year of being a non-smoker for something that gives you pleasure in a healthy, constructive way. Beautiful flowers for your home or office, high quality supplements, a dream holiday …. Make it something you love and enjoy.

It’s a big part of your life and so in giving up you create a vacuum that HAS to be filled by something else (make it a healthy something!) or else you’ll relapse.

I personally swapped smoking for learning Spanish once a week, one to one, with a great teacher from Madrid. They say that anything that expands the brain, that increases your self-awareness, gives a pleasure similar to that stimulated by smoking and puts us in a place that we can more easily resist the quick fix …. So, I gave it a try. I replaced the smoking habit with the ‘learning’ habit.

I also had little weekly rewards – a trip to the cinema, a crazy nail varnish, a novel - all around the £5-£10 mark.

Remember, when you are tempted to have a ciggie, that first one will cost you more than £40,000 [i.e. the cost of a smoking habit over the next 10 years or so]

To patch or not to patch? I went cold turkey, removed all traces of nicotine from my life, mentally I just braced myself and jumped off the cliff into the ‘fag- less’ void. But if you feel you would benefit from using a nicotine replacement such as a patch, then use it. Both have their merits, it depends what suits your personality: are you an ‘all or nothing’ girl or ‘slow and steady’ type? I’m slightly nervous about ‘vapping’ as the jury seems to still be out on any risks it may have.

A cough may develop when you give up, it is the body’s way of expelling toxins. If it becomes a problem try Astragalus Root [available in capsules] It is an excellent herb for any respiratory tract condition, especially the throat. It should not be taken long term.

NAC - N-acetyl cysteine is an amino acid that helps loosen up mucus which will shift tarry deposits from the lungs.

Cravings can hit hard, fast and at any time – always have OATSTRAW – AVENA SATIVA to hand [Bioforce/A.Vogel produce a good tincture as do VIRIDIAN] put 3-4 dropperfuls in a litre bottle of water, whenever a craving strikes take a few sips, It is full of B group vitamins which act on the nervous system to relieve depression, exhaustion and stress – can even help with grumpiness….. believe me I was the Empress of Grumpiness.

Toxins can be released into the body when you give up the dreaded weed. To support the liver in its monumental task of processing these toxins, take MILK THISTLE for a couple of weeks.