Whether you’re a social smoker or have been a chain smoker for years, there’s no time like the present to kick this ugly, unhealthy habit squarely in the butt. We chatted to Lameez Raizenberg, corporate marketing manager at Virgin Life Care to find out how she did it.
When and why did you start smoking?
I started smoking at the age of 16. Most of my friends smoked, so I did too. As teens we thought that it was cool to smoke and I wanted to be with the “in crowd”. It’s a cliché, but it’s true.
Describe how smoking formed part of your lifestyle?
I wasn’t a heavy smoker. I smoked about five cigarettes a day. My first cigarette was just after 10am, then at 1pm and again at 3.30pm. I would have a smoke when I got home from work and another after supper. I’m sure many smokers will agree that there’s nothing as satisfying as a cigarette after a meal. When I socialised with friends, my smoking would triple and I would actually lose count. That’s when I would wake up the next morning feeling like death itself.
What motivated you to quit smoking?
I stopped because I love myself and my body! If you love and respect your health and your body enough, you will quit smoking. You just have to make that conscious decision that your body is the only vessel that you have, so look after it and respect it. If you are in good health, why jeopardise it by inhaling harmful substances into your lungs? Ultimately, your health and quality of life is in your hands.
Describe how you finally succeeded in kicking the habit.
I did it my way and in my time. I did not pressurise myself by going cold turkey as I don’t think this technique would have worked for me. I took baby steps by limiting the places I smoked. First, I stopped smoking in my car, and the passengers weren’t allowed to smoke in my car either. When I survived that, I stopped smoking in my house. It’s not fun standing outside smoking when the weather is bad – sometimes I just didn’t bother. When I felt strong enough to quit, my next challenge was managing my smoking routine. When I took my 10am smoke break at work, I would walk outside (like I would normally do) take a breath of fresh air, walk around the block and return back to my desk. Although I didn’t smoke, my body felt satisfied. What motivated me even more was becoming more active and I started to run for fun. Before I knew it, I had entered a 10km race. I couldn’t believe that I had done it! Previously I couldn’t even survive a 10-minute run on a treadmill before gasping for air. I felt so good that I entered another and another.
What were your biggest challenges?
My biggest challenge was my social circle, as it’s difficult to hang out with people that still smoke when you’re trying to break the habit. Sometimes I could not resist and would “borrow” a cigarette. I regretted it the next morning as my chest did not feel that great and when I ran, I felt like I was going to die. I would get angry with myself for once again doing my body harm.
My other challenge was to get my social circle to respect my decision and support me. If you do this, you’ll more than likely be the motivator for them to stop, too. If they don’t respect your decision, then you need to ask yourself whether they’re truly your friends and the type of people you want to surround yourself with? My friends actually smoke less when I’m in their company and they usually excuse themselves when they want to smoke.
Another challenge is eating. I thought that I would gain weight and I did, about 3kg, but being active helped me to redirect my attention. When I feel like nibbling, I just snack on fruit and drink lots water instead. Being active has helped me in many ways – to maintain my weight and feel good about my body and health.
How is life different for you now that you’ve stopped smoking?
My health has improved – I don’t wake up in the morning coughing and feeling tired and droopy. I ran a few races that I thought were never possible. I feel stronger and more in control, not to mention the fact that my breath smells much better! The money I save on cigarettes has become the money I spend on pampering myself with facials and massages. I love it!
What tips would you give those who are trying to quit smoking?
- Be true to yourself and don’t make excuses.
- Respect your health and your body.
- Do it in your time and your way – even if it takes you months to quit, you will eventually get there.
- If you do slip up, don’t be hard on yourself. Don’t give up and try again.
- If your social circle is a problem, try to avoid them until you’re strong enough to resist the urge to smoke.
- Ask your family and friends to respect your decision and gain their support.
- Be more active – go for walks in the park or outdoors as it will boost your mood. Consider joining a running club – you’ll meet new people and see new places.
Remember, you’ll reap what you sow. Think of the long-term consequences of your actions.
You’ll be surprised what you are able to do if you put your mind to it. Give yourself the best life ever – start with your health.
Cigarette butt photo by Matt Trostle