Monday, 2 May 2011

Day 2 - My jaw hurts from chewing gum

The sun is setting on my 2nd day as a quitter!

As I sit here at my laptop I am reflecting on how I am feeling just on 48 hours since my last cigarette. 
My little computer corner at my retreat

I feel proud, agitated, quiet, amazed, eager, hungry, determined, different.  When I look in the mirror I can already see a difference in my skin - I've always had great skin, but it seems a little brighter and more hydrated. 

I had a phonecall from the QUIT line today, I contacted them last week, as a back up to help if I needed it this week. I asked them to call Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Funny when I got the voicemail I realised that I was pleased they'd called, but felt like I didn't need the support today.  It's strange being alone.  I'm always surrounded by alot of noise, 2 kids at home, 2 businesses, computers, phones, tv, a dog etc. equals alot of noise.  So I am actually really enjoying not speaking and just pleasing myself. It's also quite confronting as when those cravings hit (and they are coming and going like labour pains at the moment!) I have no one to rely on but myself!  That's probably a good thing. I think.

Today I've been thinking alot about why I started smoking in the first place.  I started smoking over 24 years ago, in September 1987 to be exact, in Appingedam, The Netherlands.  My parents will tell you that I was always ANTI-Smoking, my dad smoked until I was about 7 (he gave up 33 years ago this January! Go Dad!) but I remember vaguely smoke smells and I remember more that he used to chew alot of Juicy Fruit gum.  Apart from my dad, I don't remember anyone around me smoking. My first taste of a cigarette was when my cousins and I found an old, stale packet of cigarettes in a bungalow at my grandparents house during a visit (my youngest uncle had smoked for a time and left them in the drawer there).  We got sprung with the cigarettes and my grandpa made us light a cigarette and try it - of course we all thought it was disgusting and vowed never to touch them. Uh huh!

So flash forward to September 1987, I was 16 years old, and was in Appingedam, (a small village in northern Holland in the province of Groningen). I was an exchange student with YFU (Youth for Understanding) and had been with my "host family" for a little over 8 weeks.  I was really struggling to fit in with my new "family" but LOVED my new friends and school.  One of the pluses was at 16 I was suddenly allowed to go to discos!  In Australia you had to be 18.  In the village there was ONE disco, it was called "Temptation" - conjurs up all sorts of weird thoughts doesn't it - but it was a great building where I would park my push bike (a mandatory part of life in Holland) in the bike rack at the front with the other hundreds, meet my friends, take off our winter coats and scarves and leave them in the "cloak room" then make it to the inside where we would drink "Sinas" which was a glammed up form of soft drink whilst dancing to the latest tunes (for those old enough to remember, the top 5 included "Beds are Burning" by Midnight Oil, "Kick" by INXS and "Never going to give you up" by Rick Astley!) oh the memories. 

I can remember exactly the reason I started smoking. I was feeling quite down, I was unhappy with the family, I had tried to "talk" with them (but with language barrier, cultural differences and mental illness (this didn't become apparent or public until much later, but my host mum was quite sick)) I was at my witts end.  I remember intentionally walking over to a cigarette machine which was in the corner near the bar, inserting a couple of 1 guilder coins and hitting the "Marlboro Lights" button. Before I knew it, I had a pack of 10 cigarettes (American style, heavier tobacco and longer cigarettes) and I consciously opened the pack up and asked my friend for a "light".  I then proceeded to sit and cough my lungs out until I got past my body's reaction to reject the smoke and I could smoke the cigarette.  That first packet of 10 cigarettes probably lasted me about 2 weeks - I kept trying, sometimes smoking just a few drags and then butting it out and returning it to the pack for next time.

If I reflect on this now - I cannot believe that I did that to myself, and that 24 years later I am here in a personal retreat dealing with that decision years later.  At the time it was teenage rebellion - I knew that my parents would never believe I, the self rightous anti-smoker would NEVER smoke - that my host family who especially requested a non-smoker would now have to deal with someone who smoked! AND my new friends, who all smoked, would be impressed! Wouldn't they? AND that emotional part of me who was 16, miles and miles from home, confused and rebellious had a part that was just mine! Incredible isn't it.

So flash forward again to three days ago.  The QUIT ads on television terrify me more thank I can ever express, yet when they come on TV I get up and go for a cigarette (seriously!) or grab the remote and change the channel.  I buy (whoops - I mean bought) packets of cigarettes and ignored the scary ads on the packaging - yes it terrified me, but I was able to block out the emotions.  When I picked up a pack of cigarettes, or made the decision to go for a cigarette (I always smoke outside, never inside - so I have to actually Go out to smoke) I would NEVER think of those ads, advertising, or look at the pacakge. I would simply, sit, pull out a cigarette, light it, and inhale deeply. End of story.

So what makes a highly intelligent woman who has everything to live for able to ignore all the warning signs and continue to smoke?  That is often the question pitched at me.  I can't answer that question. Yet.

Today - the ashtray is empty!

Today, it's the end of day 2, I am still a quitter. Today has been harder than yesterday, I've consumed healthy food (yoghurt & honey, hommus & vegies, about to have steak salad for dinner) and not so healthy - dark chocolate (more than the recommended!!), Pringles chips (1/2 pack) - but I feel good. My jaw hurts from chewing gum.  I've been for a walk along the beach at Inverloch. I'm about to settle in for the night and read some more of my book and watch some TV.  Life is good. I miss my boys more than I can say, but by Saturday it's going to be worth it, to have a partner and mum who's a non-smoker and a quitter in the best sense of the word!

The sun setting on my 2nd day.

Until tomorrow. Love your shape! Jx


  1. Hi janine.
    I feel so srry we couldn't get you to quit smoking once you started to live with our family- but as you say..., you were young and rebellious:) It hurt to see what you were doing to your health and youth starting to smoke so early, knowing it would get harder and harder for you over the years to quit.
    So I'm very proud of you now and I really whish you all the strength, love and ,stamina and support you can get.
    Tomorrow we'll go to Grietjes funeral, you knew here well and you know she died of cancer. I'm afraid smoking was partly the cause of her death. So besides all the reasons you can think of for not smoking, if the craving gets too hard- have a look at her picture and I hope you'll have the strength to stay away of them.

    We'll sent you love and support through the stars, since Grietje is now one of them.
    Keep up! Love Elsbeth

  2. Great work Janine!

    It's so interesting to hear about the way you pushed your way through them tasting so bad at first - as a non-smoker who has had one puff on one cigarette once in my life (and it made me so sick I couldn't go out that night) that's always been the hardest part for me to understand!

    Enjoy your retreat and continue to push through the 'contraction cravings'. You obviously did it when you gave birth so for sure you can do it now!

    And thanks for giving Quit and Cancer Council Victoria the opportunity to work with you on this, and share your story with other wannabe quitters.

    Helen and Jess x


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