• Ann-Marie Johansen

Confessions Of A Smoke-A-Holic

I recently recieved this email. The name has been omitted and some content rewritten, but this story is so very similar to people I meet every week that I work with to assist to stop smoking

" Hi Ann-Marie, a friend gave me your details. Firstly could you please not return this email as I do not want my husband to see it...when possible please call me!!!

".....As I get home after work, my husband calls. He's going to be an hour late. The countdown begins: I whip together dinner for my two kids, pop in a DVD, pour a glass of wine, and slip outside. It's dark and a little chilly , and I have a perfect view through the kitchen window — I can see my kids, but their backs are to me. I light up: Inhale. Exhale. Sip of wine. When I hear a car door slam, I jump. Is he home? One more drag, then I add the butt to the pile under the porch.

An outdoorsy 37-year-old, I take great care of myself — I live on the Gold Coast, where I walk run regularly down the beach and cycle with my husband and children. I eat well, opting for quinoa and kale over fast food. But when no one's watching, this ol' pillar of health goes up in flames. I might smoke a few cigarettes a day, or more if I can get a way with it; I might go days without one if Im forced to have a weekend away with my husband. But I'm a closet smoker.

Wrapping the butts up and throwing them in the outside bin, I head inside, washing my hands at the kitchen sink. In the bathroom, I spritz some lavender body spray and walk through the mist. I eat a little toothpaste, rinse, and spit then gargle. Back in the kitchen, I scoop some peanut butter into my mouth so the flavour masks the smoke. Ready for my husband's hello kiss, I settle in next to my kids on the couch.

I understand the long list of ailments linked to cigarettes — heart disease, emphysema, cancer of everything. It's not the '80s, and I'm glad the Mad Men days of constant lighting up are gone. Smoking is stupid. But that doesn't stop me

My history with smoking is a long one. I grew up in Melbourne, spending hours perfecting the art of the inhalation and sneaking smokes from my parents. At school, I perfected my technique.and was one of the cool kids that would go behind the shed, and light up. A shared cigarette with a girlfriend in the bathroom always ended abruptly when someone walked in. I'd immediately drop it, run into a stall, and hide. And I'm still sneaking smokes today, ducking out of parties to light up taking shelter from judgmental acquaintances in side streets, leaving social events early. I even lie on medical forms, not to mention the census.

I imagined quitting at different milestones: when I got married, when I turned 30, and when I had babies. I stopped while I was pregnant, but started again after breast-feeding. Now I'm 37, and as my kids — 2 and 4 — grow up, my habit has greater consequences. Do I bid cigarettes farewell — or become a poor role model?

I don't feel good about it: I have a gross taste in my mouth and a headache. I curse my lack of self-control and mentally "quit" until the craving reappears again — after a stressful day or over drinks with friends. But I don't want my kids to think smoking's OK. So my days of sneaking cigarettes are numbered. This is one milestone I have to stick to for the health of my family — not to mention my own. I'd like to be able to watch my kids grow up. Please help!"

"The image of the smoker used to be someone who smokes at every opportunity, But legal restrictions have led to an increasing number of people who smoke just a few times a day", says Ann-Marie, owner of The Brisbane Stop Smoking Clinic & The Gold Coast Stop Smoking Clinic

I believe that smoking is a psychological addiction, hooked on the escape, the repetitive behaviour and not the nicotine. When people have a hard day, cigarettes are a coping mechanism, some even love the rush they get from sneaking around, and the cover-up that they've mastered.

I recently met a woman, who went to great lengths to hide it from everyone in her life, and only smoked at home...under the house, where she had a huge box filled of things to help and cover up her smoking. She would wear a shower cap, rubber gloves and have a shawl in this box as well as water, toothpaste and mints.

Being a smoke-a-holic means that as long as they (people that used to smoke) don't take a single drag off a cigarette, cigar or pipe, or chew tobacco, they will never again become hooked on cigarettes ever again. If, on the other hand, they do make the tragic mistake of experimenting with any nicotine product, they will reinforce their old habits. This will result either in returning to their old level of consumption or experiencing a full fledged withdrawal process. Neither situation is fun to go through.

So, once off of smoking, the ex-smoker must always remember just who and what he/she is - a smoke-a-holic for the rest of his life. Remembering this, you can remain truly independent from nicotine by following one simple practice - Never Take Another Puff".

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