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Smokers’ corner – cold turkey

Mark Jorgensen trades fags for food and bins the NHS quit kit

Published on November 3rd 2010.


Smokers’ corner – cold turkey

Day eight
The day after my last entry, my NHS Stop Smoking pack complete with DVD arrived. Granted it was a week after I needed it, but it arrived.

Quitting smoking may be all well and good but if I end up looking like a manatee in a suit having to have the side of my apartment block cut off to be airlifted out like one of those poor sods from Jerry Springer, then Smudge Jones will have a lot to answer for.

As the struggles of not smoking had begun to reach a jittery and agitated crescendo, in my post box this one little pack was here to save me from giving up this whole charade and lock myself away to chain smoke 40 Woodbines.

I excitedly scampered upstairs to watch the DVD like a man trying to catch a sneaky watch of his favourite grubby while the wife pops to the shops. Tearing open the envelope, I tossed aside all of the paperwork included inside and put the disk into my DVD player.

The verdict? It’s garbage – I might as well have watched a bongo flick. There is a menu which consists of a number of different sections like ‘Why get support?’, ‘Local stop smoking services’, ‘The Together Programme’, each of which has an uncomfortably cheesy selection of case study real individuals who have used the NHS to kick the habit. The whole thing has an air about it of a daytime advert encouraging you to consolidate your debts into one manageable monthly payment. The ones where they get ‘ordinary’ people to tell you how easy it is and how much it’s changed their lives in a clunky and patronising manner.

Moreover, it provides absolutely no other content than what I’d been told on the phone, other than some statistics about how more likely you are to quit if you use patches - which I’m not allowed, for the purposes of these articles.DVD is in the bin.

Day nine
It’s the weekend and I’m off to Notting Hill Carnival. No, actually I’m not. Just as I pull up outside a friend’s house a tyre blows out before I’d even left the city centre. Furious.

Despite my previous claims that I didn’t enjoy smoking, a cigarette to appease frustration and/or anger is a huge exception. I opt for eight Budweiser and a Chinese takeaway through gritted teeth as the trip is postponed until morning. I don’t know if I’m romanticising the effects of smoking in such mental conditions but despite comments from friends about it was better my tyre blowout now than on the motorway, they may as well have been hitting a pan with a spoon for all the good it did, whereas a Marlboro light would’ve solved all problems.

Day ten
Finally in London and straight out drinking in Camden. I’ve been on a few nights out during this prohibition so far and managed to not smoke with relative ease, but being out of Manchester it seemed to be more challenging. Not sure whether it was the holiday feeling which was tempting me more, but I certainly came closest yet to smoking. At one point finding myself standing outside a bar, drunk, I was offered a cigarette by the girl I was talking to. I agonised for about ten seconds before politely declining. She must have thought I was an absolute nutcase just staring crazily at the cigarette she held out as if it were a magic eye picture.

I did have a huge takeaway on the way home as a reward.

Day elevenCarnival day. Today would be difficult. After nearly giving in the previous night, the prospect of standing outside all day in a rum-soaked jamboree seemed to be a potential stumbling block. It was. Being packed in amongst that many people it was inevitable that I was going to have smoke blown in my face a lot and after a couple of hours I was getting twitchy again.

I managed to meet these temptations head on by eating roughly three quarters of my bodyweight in jerk chicken. I’m noticing more and more that I’ve perhaps just subsidised one vice with another. Whether it be through having the lung capacity of a 12-year-old or the gut of a Sumo wrestler, I may have to put any marathon aspirations on hold.

Day twelve
Mornings for me would usually consist of alarm, snooze, alarm, snooze, alarm, snooze, up, shower, skip breakfast and have a fag instead, then shuffle to work whilst chain smoking.

Not now. My smoking urges have started to subside (a little), my urges for food have increased dramatically. I’ve got up and cooked breakfast for myself every morning for the last few days, then elevenses, lunch, then a meal in the evening interspersed with little snacks in between.

Quitting smoking may be all well and good but if I end up looking like a manatee in a suit having to have the side of my apartment block cut off to be airlifted out like one of those poor sods from Jerry Springer, then Smudge Jones will have a lot to answer for.

Day thirteen
This is fairly grim so I’ll keep it brief. I’d read somewhere that as you stop smoking the tar resonating in your lungs will begin to clear and you’ll notice that you start to cough up a lot of phlegm. I have a major issue with public spitting so can see the obvious issues arising. Why don’t non-smoking organisations provide any help on this? I don’t know what they could offer but then that’s not my job is it? Never mind your crappy DVDs and together programmes, NHS, come back to me when you have an effective and sanitary solution for disposing of a phlegm influx more subtle than a bucket hanging around the neck.

Day fourteen
It’s now two weeks. While I’m really pleased with myself that I’ve come this far I still have a nagging suspicion in my head that it’s only a matter of time before I smoke. I don’t think I’m being defeatist nor a realist for that matter, I’m just sulking as despite the fact that the ‘cravings’ have lessened, I just really want a fag.

I’d better eat something quickly.

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