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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Georgiou

Thoughts of a smoker...the impacts of changing habits

Six months ago, I ended my marriage and partnership of 18 Years. It took all my courage and strength to accept that I was no longer in love with my husband, and admit to myself I was not happy with my current situation. The realisation that I was about to change my families life forever, has been taking it's toll on my mental health. My work life is stressful as I navigate and advocate for others experience of trauma and life struggles. This in itself is a burden to my wellbeing, both physically and mentally. With the added stressors in my personal life, I could feel myself needing a form of stress relief that I had given up decades ago.

I began smoking again.

Over the years I had dabbled with partaking a drunken puff here and there, but never did I think I would allow myself to become addicted again to something I know is harmful to me.

The first packet I purchased was memorable...I was in London on the way back from a conference, and it was pouring down with rain. I'd felt like I had been masking my emotional pain all day and I chose to walk around London that evening in the dark, letting the rain absorb into me, mixing with my tears as I aimlessly wandered, wondering what I was going to do now in the next stages of my life.

As I passed someone on the street smoking, the vapour hit me like a security blanket.

The urge for a cigarette was so strong I dived into the nearest supermarket, dishevelled and sopping wet. Not having smoked since the new smoking laws had come about, I felt like an alien at the tobacco counter. I didn't know what I wanted or needed. The cashier was bemused and explained half of the products I was feebly trying to describe, no longer existed and wasn't legal to sell (menthol...just to clarify).

Eventually I was given a pack of 10 cigarettes with a menthol tip you had to present down and click! My mind was blown. I felt like an absolute idiot. I rushed outside back into the rain, a mixture of bewilderment and excitement, to open the packet I believed was the security I was craving. I then of course realised I didn't have a lighter...why would I? So I sheepishly returned back to the store and the amused cashier, to buy a lighter. At this point I think I must have looked as bad as I felt, as the security guard followed me outside and asked me if I was ok? I smiled and said no, not really, and seeing me shake and trying to light this cigarette like a new born lamb, offered to help me. I felt ashamed, but grateful at the same time. I thanked him and rushed off. I was hoping I would choke or splutter or detest the taste of my first drag...but instead I felt instantly calmer and a sense of relief washed over me.

I was annoyed with myself, but also kind of proud. My husband had always been a poignant antismoker in a judgemental way and had shamed me many times for being an ex-smoker. In that moment I felt empowered. It was like a bit of a rebellious FU moment to the control I had felt throughout my marriage.

As the days went on, I'd allow myself a smoking break at the end of the day...a pack of 10 lasted over a week. Which was good due to the diabolical cost (literally still can not get over how stupidly expensive they are!).

I reassured myself this would be's temporary and given the circumstances, to not be so hard on myself.

I began smoking in secret as I didn't want to feel judged or my children to see this version of their mum. But this became consuming to my thoughts, thinking how I could find some peace and space for my next smoke alone. I could feel my moods changing, when I would get interrupted or potentially miss an opportunity for a sneaky cigarette.

After a particularly hard day at work, I was invited for a smoke in the car park with a colleague. This then became my regular safe space to break-up my day and have the familiar and social "fag breaks" that I thought I had left behind years ago. This gave me a new sense of belonging and freedom, which felt right for me in them moments and smoking was helping me keep calm and feel less anxious.

Currently, six months later I am smoking between 10 and 20 cigarettes a day. Most people including my children and family know (although even at almost 40 I still haven't told my parents!). I resent the cost, the smell, the urge to break up my day and most of all the lack of will power I seem to have established. Which is something I have always prided myself on. 'It will be OK', I told my children, 'I know I can give up when I want...I just need this right now', fully believing my own bullshit. Now I feel burdened by the fact I don't like admitting I smoke when I'm with people as I am constantly worried I will be reality most people don't even care. As my teenage son said to me, when he busted me in the garden one evening...Mum, its not that deep. He was more annoyed I had tried to hide it but understood why (proud mum moment, but also embarrassing when your teens seem to have a handle on maturity more than myself in that specific moment). But it is that I am addicted to a crutch that is burning a hole in my bank account when I need every penny and I know rationally, despite the instant reward of calm, smoking is damaging my health. I feel it in my lungs upon waking and sleeping. I am a big fan of singing and it has changed my voice, unfortunately not in a sexy, sultry Eartha Kitt way either! My lung capacity when exercising has decreased and I'm constantly paranoid about smelling of stale smoke. My gums have started bleeding and are more sensitive than usual, and my skin is looking bleaker. OK, I could argue this is also to do with stress and fatigue in general, but I'm aware of the negative effects of smoking and I can see and feel the physical effects taking its toll already. I'm questioning my parenting and the example I am setting, leaving me feeling guilty and ashamed.

I have tried cutting back, I tried vaping (scarily on the advice from the NHS)...another new world experience when purchasing and trying to understand how to use vapes and the multitude of 'flavours'. But this made me ill and cough uncontrollably , making me convince myself that smoking was the better option!

I have every intention of quitting...but I'm just not there yet. There is a part of me that likes the routine and connections smoking has allowed me to have. This may seem counterproductive and a person grappling onto excuses- but let me explain.

Other than the obvious reasoning of the addictive chemicals coursing through my body, when I'm feeling anxious I have of course been forming habits. I've created safe spaces to talk to others on breaks that have allowed me to open up about things I wouldn't have spoken about prior. I have socialised with strangers, had spontaneous giggles and enlightening conversations. I have even been in positions to offer support and kindness to strangers that wouldn't have occurred had I not entered smoking areas.

My favourite habit I have formed is going outside more. I sit in my garden in the morning before the chaos of my day and use this smoking time to contemplate. As I have been doing this I listen to the wind, watch the birds flit around and listen to them sing and how they communicate with each other. I notice the insects living their busy lives and coexisting with each other. I notice the freshly weaved spiderweb with morning dew beads balancing on their amazing structures and it reminds me of the patience I require at this time in my life. I watch the clouds form their shapes and play games with myself, releasing my inner creative child like thoughts, allowing my imagination to create shapes and imagery. I feel the sun on my skin as I sit and ponder, it helps me experience being at one with nature and grounded, and often revitalised. In the evenings I wander out into the darkness and listen to the clicks and the tweets of crickets, observing bats dart and play in the air. I admire the silhouettes of the trees against the darkening sky, and when the nightsky is clear, I lose myself staring into the stars, manifesting my intentions into the universe and reflect on my day, releasing my emotions accrued throughout.

I'm aware I could be doing this without a cigarette...and I hope soon, I am able to. But I guess my point is, that even when we know we are making negative life choices, or have made mistakes, and we are not allowing our best versions of ourselves to come through, there are always positives to look for and experience. I am my hardest critic and judge, and I am still muddling through a lot of heartache and upheaval, but smoking...although please do not misunderstand- I'm not endorsing smoking, has been a support for me and given me the gift of time, interaction, peace and clarity.

Hopefully, through these reflective moments, I will help build up my strength and trust in myself to know that I do not need smoking as a crutch and I can replace it with healthier coping mechanisms. But it's also allowed me to face and accept the fact I am not perfect, I am a flawed human who is seeking emotional enlightenment and going through a tough period of life.

If anyone has any tips on reducing smoking please get in touch, but more importantly, if anyone is judging themselves on their own negative habits then, maybe use this as a reminder that you are not alone and we all have habits we are not proud of. But as

habits can be formed, with guidance and support, they can also be changed.

A lady smoking and thinking


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