The Fifteenth of May

It’s the 15th May, 2014. On the 15th May 2011, country singer and star of The Voice, Blake Shelton, married fellow country singer Miranda Lambert. I don’t remember that, but I do remember that it was the morning after the Eurovision Song Contest 2011. That was the year that Azerbaijan won, with a song that sounded like something off the Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack. I liked the song well enough and I could easily imagine it playing in the background while two sexy, busy, talented surgeons kissed in the rain, possibly while also crying.

I remember the morning after that Eurovision well because that day, three years ago today, was when I had my last ever cigarette. I had the cigarette on the balcony of the house where I was living at the time. I slapped on a nicotine patch and put a nicotine inhaler in my pocket and I hoped against hope that this time it was different from all the other times.

And it was. I still occasionally get a pang of desire for a cigarette, at least twice a week. Sometimes it feels overpowering, but I know I’ll never smoke again. I haven’t had a single drag in three years and I never will again. They’re gross.

I don’t know what was different about that time. It just worked. And it had never worked before. I had tried all kinds of combinations of nicotine patches, gums and tablets. I had read Alan Carr’s Easyway to Stop Smoking at least four times. I had asked my doctor for medication to help me stop. I had tried to cut down. I had made bold declarations on Facebook and on my blog. I had joined support groups online. I had recited smokers’ prayers, tried self-hypnosis and positive affirmations. Nothing worked. Until something did.

And smoking was a daily humiliation. I was constantly borrowing money from friends to buy cigarettes. I frequently walked the streets of Dublin asking to bum cigarettes, or loitered outside the library in Trinity approaching strangers and asking them if I could “borrow” a fag. I would declare I had given up, only to be “caught” by my friends a week later, smoking down a dark laneway. Other people were inspired by my blog to give up smoking and, humiliatingly, I couldn’t do it. Nothing worked. Until something did.

I would soak a pack of cigarettes in water, rip them up and throw them in the bin, declaring that this was the end, only to be searching through the rubbish for them again the next day, smoking re-dried tobacco mixed with dirt. I threw away so many lighters. I dumped so many ashtrays. I would buy box of matches after box of matches, telling myself I wouldn’t need to buy a lighter because I’d be giving up again next week. And I didn’t. I kept on smoking. I would fashion an ashtray out of tinfoil because I wouldn’t need to buy a real ashtray because I was about to give up. In spite of every new declaration. Every new promise. Every new bold gesture. Every day where I’d end up smoking while sitting on the toilet and hating myself. Nothing worked. And it looked like nothing ever would. I couldn’t imagine a future where I didn’t smoke. I had started when I was fourteen. I had smoked for sixteen years. Quitting was impossible. Nothing ever worked. Until something did.

Three years. I’m officially a non-smoker.

I made a major change. I am capable of doing the impossible. And people (including me) get sick of me talking about change. Tonight, I’m going to bed with indigestion because, yet again, I had a chocolate cake after dinner (not a bun, not a biscuit, a whole cake). And I can’t count the number of times I’ve declared I will change my relationship with food.

Nothing works. Until something does.

I’m a happy non-smoker. I’ve saved well over €10,000 that I would have spent in the last three years on cigarettes. I’ve added years to my life. I no longer taste that horrible taste in my mouth in the morning. Hangovers are easier. Waking up is easier. I breathe easier. Life is better.

I did the impossible. And I have every intention of doing it again.

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