My dad was a heavy smoker and I grew up surrounded by cigarettes and the smell of smoke. Up until I was about 13, I tried very hard to convince him that giving up would be best for all of us. At boarding school I remember doing projects on the hazards of smoking and coming home for the holidays and presenting them to him.
At 15 I came home from school for the Easter holidays. I wasn’t allowed to go out anywhere during that time (don’t ask – long story, and not mine to tell!). I was SO SO SO bored! I remember loitering around downstairs and seeing a packet of cigarettes behind the bar (finding cigarettes in our home was never a problem since my dad smoked). I decided it was time that I tried my first cigarette. It was *disgusting*. I think I almost threw up. But the next day, I took another one from the packet and rushed up to my bathroom to smoke it. I did this every day for about 3 weeks. Sometimes twice a day.
When I went back to school, of course it wasn’t as easy as that… I would sometimes go out into the woods with other ‘smokers’. Or we would smoke out of our dorm windows late at night and hope that we didn’t get caught! We’d go into town on Saturdays and sit in the pub (even though we were all underage). We would find any opportunity to have a cigarette without being caught by a member of staff or an older girl.
Once I was at university, it was great! I could smoke whenever I wanted to! Sometimes I was smoking up to 10 cigarettes a day. The Hub and I started seeing each other at this time and he was (is) a smoker too. I think that influenced me to smoke more.
All this smoking was done behind my parents’ backs. They probably suspected and/or knew about it – but it is never something I could tell them because in our culture – girls don’t smoke. The same way they don’t have boyfriends!
Over the years I gave up for a week here or a month there – but always started again. I never really worried about stopping, because I was sure that when I wanted to, I would just do it. And it wouldn’t be difficult.
After getting married, the Hub and I were quite happy smoking in our home (but only in the TV room) or smoking when we went out and about (still ‘hiding’ it from our parents – ridiculous when we’re in our thirties, I know). We even didn’t mind people smoking when they came over. I loved the early morning cigarette and the after dinner cigarette. And I remember how I rushed home from school, anticipating the cigarette I was about to have (I never smoked during the school day) and relishing every inhalation.
After we were married for two years, we decided we would start a family. I still didn’t give up smoking. And I wasn’t getting pregnant. A year later, I read Alan Carr’s The Easy Way to Stop Smoking (it was my dad’s copy – but he was still smoking). And I managed to stop smoking for about 6 weeks. Why I started again, I can’t tell you – but I know it had something to do with the Hub being away on business and me being… Lonely? Bored?
We had been trying to get pregnant for about 18 months when I heard that my dad had stopped smoking! I was shocked! He smoked 50 a day for 50 years! So in the Summer of 2009 I decided if my dad could do it, then I could do it too – and I was going to do it the way my he did it.
No Nicorette gum or patches or anything like that. He had hypnotherapy and hasn’t touched a cigarette since.
After our summer holiday (in Miami – it was fabulous), I called the hypnotherapist (Phil Benjamin – he is amazing) my dad saw. The first thing he asked was, ‘Are you sure it is YOU that wants to quit?’ I assured him it was. He said that he won’t see people unless he is sure that they are stopping for the right reasons. I made an appointment to see him later that week. He told me to have my last cigarette before I arrived at his office and to throw the rest of the pack and lighter away before I rang the bell.
We spent about an hour and a half talking about why I had started, my smoking habits, how many times I had tried to stop and the things that worried me about stopping. The things that worried me most about giving up were 1. My husband had made it quite clear that he wasn’t going to stop – and would I be able to be strong enough not to smoke. 2. Over-eating (I already had/have a tendency to do that!). 3. There is no indoor smoking ban in Lagos – and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to go out to a bar or a club and have a few drinks and not smoke. Those two things have always gone hand-in-hand… Phil addressed all those issues brilliantly and made me see how strong I actually am. He also wanted to know why I felt it was time I stopped. My main reason was, of course, that we were having difficulty getting pregnant and I hoped that stopping would help.
People have asked me what it felt like, did he put me to sleep, swing a pendulum in front of my face and put me to sleep, was I in a trance and did it really work?
After talking through everything, Phil made it very clear that he wasn’t going to put me to sleep and that I would be awake throughout the session. I was sitting in a comfortable reclining chair and just had to put my head back and relax. For about thirty minutes he just spoke to me – I can’t even remember exactly what he said. I think he just reiterated the things we talked about during the consultation. He pitched his voice differently at various points and I remember thinking, ‘I’m going to start laughing in a minute’ and ‘Is it working?’
No, I didn’t start laughing and yes, it worked! I haven’t smoked at all since and I’m rather proud of myself!
I got pregnant four months later and I’m sure that this is one of the reasons why!
I know it worked only because I was sure I wanted to give up. Someone I know went to see Phil a few months after I did. His wife had been on at him to stop smoking and he thought that hypnotherapy was the way to go. He went in there with doubts as to whether it would work, came out thinking it was a load of bollocks and was sure that it only worked for some people because it cost them £300. He is still a smoker.
Now I find it disgusting when people around me are smoking and it actually makes me feel ill. I hate the smell in my hair and on my clothes and I don’t like it when people smoke in my home. And since I got pregnant, the Hub hasn’t been allowed to smoke in the house.
Having said all that, I still miss it! I think it is more the habit of smoking than actually smoking that I miss. And I don’t think that feeling will go away easily. Earlier this year I really thought I was going to crack and have a cigarette and considered calling Phil to see if he could do a ‘top-up’ kind of session. In the end I didn’t need to.
Mind over matter!