I’m twenty-nine and a half years old today. I started smoking when I was fourteen, sometime in April 1995. That’s over half my life ago.
At the age of fourteen, I was phenomenally nerdy. I generally wore fluffy tracksuits with socks and sandals. I had thick glasses and hair that was too long to be neat and too short to be cool. I didn’t really listen to the radio, and I knew nothing about pop music. Instead, I listened to tape-recorded stories of the lives of great composers. I used to get sick with worry about exams, and I told my mother everything. By the way, I’m still a nerd.
Around this time, my brother started smoking. He was far cooler than me. He got me to take a drag because he thought it would be funny. I hated it, but somehow convinced myself I’d like another.
Within a week, I had bought a pack of ten John Player Lights in the local petrol station.
Suddenly, my nerd status began to crumble. People looked at me completely differently when they knew I smoked. I had cred. I started listening to Atlantic 252. I grew my hair long. I started staying up late at night.
My brother didn’t want to take responsibility for the fact that I was smoking, so he told my older brother, who then told my father. I promised to quit. Over the next three years, my father caught me smoking sixteen times. Sixteen. I’m not great at stealth.
I dumped my one friend in secondary school quite cruelly at this stage and started hanging out with some cooler boys, most of whom also smoked. By the time I was seventeen, I was nipping to the toilet during religion class, and occasionally during Spanish classes in order to smoke. At the time, my cigarette of choice was John Player Blue, a particularly noxious brand. I generally smoked about 15 a day.
During my Leaving Cert year, my parents decided to give up catching me smoke, and I was allowed smoke at home. in some ways, they almost supported me smoking. My brother also smoked at home (both my parents were non-smokers). The first time I remember giving up smoking was when I did it together with my brother. We were both back on the fags within days, but because we’d given up together, we didn’t want to tell each other. The only person who knew that we were both smoking, but that neither of us knew that the other was smoking was my mother. She had great fun with this. Whenever my brother went out, she’d run into my room telling me that he’d gone out and I could have a smoke. Little did I know that she was doing the same to my brother whenever I went out!
Smoking wasn’t as cool or as much fun when I was allowed to smoke at home. During first year of college I made a serious attempt to give up. I was off them for five months, and as far as I remember I found it relatively easy. Then one day I was sitting on a wall, thinking about how nice it would be to have a cigarette when I noticed a full box of Marlboro Lights and a lighter sitting next to me on a wall. I felt like God was telling me to smoke. I took up smoking again, and made no serious attempt to quit for years. Out of shame, I kept my smoking secret from my parents for the next three years. At this stage, I had gone over 20 a day.
In October 2004, I was living in Poland. I gave up again. It was absolutely horrible. It was gnaw-your-own-eyes-out hard. I lasted for five months again.
When I moved back to Ireland, I tried again and again. On December 22nd, 2006 I was living in Dublin and I was at a UCC Philosoph reunion. I bummed a Silk Cut Blue from someone. That was my last cigarette for…you’ve guessed it…five months. I started smoking again when an old college friend of mine, who always smokes and never has cigarettes bought a pack and insisted I take it, because she couldn’t possibly keep it. I buckled. I buckled bad.
I’ve been on 30 a day more-or-less all the time since. I remember one off-period of five days, and at the start of Project Connor I was doing quite well.
Today is another new start. I’m now a fully-signed-up member of the quit smoking forum at About.com. It’s by far the most impressive quitting forum of the billions out there. I’m pinning my colours to the mast. I’m a happy non-smoker. I’ll report again soon.