Search
Close this search box.

How I Went From 30,000 to 0 Cigarettes

My journey to quitting smoking

a man smoking a cigarette
Photo by Nguyen Linh on Unsplash

I started smoking when I was 15. I quit at 26. In just over a decade, I allowed the smoke of about 30,000 cigarettes to enter my lungs.

Smoking 30,000 cigarettes means I smoked, on average, less than ten a day.

I would smoke to self-medicate negative feelings, appear cool in the eyes of girls, socialise, and kill time. I enjoyed smoking but felt guilty for doing it.

When waking up with a sore throat, I would promise myself I would smoke less. I shouldn’t have smoked this one, I would think a couple of hours later while putting out a Marlboro Light.

Smoking has 0 benefits — I knew that.

But it’s hard to quit, especially when everyone around you keeps putting cigarettes in their mouths. Your friends smoke, your girlfriend smokes, your colleagues, your parents.

Today I’m 36 and haven’t touched a cigarette in ten years.

How did I do it?

What Didn’t Work

I tried not to buy cigarettes. It didn’t work. I would scrounge them off my friends until they couldn’t stand me anymore and forced me to get my own.

I tried to cut down my nicotine intake. The idea was to keep reducing the number of cigarettes until I would magically become a non-smoker. It didn’t work. Parties, boredom, coffee breaks, your girlfriend pisses you off — there’s always an excuse to light a cigarette.

The most promising time to stop was when I was ill. You realise that taking cough syrup after a cigarette is like trying to save a drowning man by throwing him a life jacket made of concrete. So I would go without smoking for a few days and think, Yeah man! You’re killing it!

But then you get well, your friend offers you a ciggy and you go, “All right, okay, just one. Just this one, I swear.” The next day you find yourself at the tobacco shop buying a new packet — and you think you’re a loser.

E-cigarettes weren’t popular. Atomic Habits didn’t exist.

The truth is that I just got lucky — really lucky.

What Worked

It was March 2013. I was a long-term backpacker in Australia, a country where a work break is called ‘smoko’. I was living and working as a lime picker on a farm in a remote area of Queensland.

No one around me smoked.

I thought This is the right time. It’s now or never again. I managed to resist the temptation for three days. On day 4, I thought that if I could resist for three days, I could then resist for one more. That’s exactly what I thought on day 5 too: I resisted for 4 days. There’s no way I couldn’t do it for another day.

I didn’t smoke for a month.

My throat was clearer in the morning, my hair didn’t smell of burned toast, and, best of all, I stopped feeling guilty and frustrated for introducing nasty combustion fumes into my body.

I thought I had made it. But it wasn’t over yet.

Just One Cigarette

After a month on that lime farm, I moved to an Australian hostel full of backpackers like me. When I say backpackers, I don’t mean these:

Backpackers walking in a field
Photo by Austin Ban on Unsplash

I mean these:

Young people smoking and playing music outside
Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexel

I was sitting at a table with 25-year-old people from all over the world who were smoking the impossible.

“C’mon give me a cigarette,” I said to Ambra, a friend from Italy I’d just made.

“Hey, no, you told me you quit!”

“Com’on, just one. I need it. Give me one. Please. One only!”

“No! You quit! And you won’t like the taste of a cigarette anyway. You’re doing great. Why throw everything out the window now?!” This f*cker was telling me off while smoking the most appealing cigarette I’d ever seen in my life.

But I remember thinking If I can resist now, then it’ll be over — forever.

Would I be smoking today if Ambra hadn’t been there? Hard to say. But my lungs are healthy because of her too.

Conclusion

This is just one of the many stories from former smokers. There’s no right recipe to quit smoking so you’ll have to find your own way out.

In my experience, the following can definitely help you:

  • Surround yourself with people who would hate to see you fail.
  • Be kinder to yourself than I was to myself.
  • Spend as much time as possible with non-smokers.
  • Notice when the conditions are working in your favour and jump at the opportunity of quitting as soon as possible.

I hope my story will make you go cigarette-free for one day, so you can then start thinking that if you could be a non-smoker for 24 hours, you could easily be a non-smoker for 25 hours, then 26, then 1 year, then forever.

Just don’t forget to tell us what you did to quit smoking. That will help other people stop buying nasty, useless, time-wasting cancer sticks.

Click on my glass of beer to sign up for Better Writers, my weekly newsletter for online writers who speak English as a second language. I share writing tips, insights, and resources to help you do one thing: become a better writer.