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Quitting smoking after fourty years: 'Awareness is key' - Marc Schrijvers

Employeneur Marc Schrijvers, Process Development Engineer at Océ, shares how a training day inspired him to finally quit smoking.

I had been a smoker for almost forty years. Occasionally, I managed to quit for a couple of months, but the habit always proved too strong to shake – until my supervisor at Océ alerted me to a one-day training course called ‘I quit’. 

The coach was very convincing. He’d been a heavy smoker himself: forty cigarettes a day. So he knew what it feels like to be addicted to nicotine. The information he gave us wasn’t just the usual ‘smoking is bad’ narrative – he presented us with the reasons why smoking is bad. Horrible information, really, and that’s exactly what made it so compelling.

Did you know, for instance, that cigarettes contain rat poison? Tiny quantities, but still… The coach said the reason is that constipation is one of the side effects of nicotine – the rat poison counters it. Realising that I was putting rat poison in my body several times a day was a powerful wake-up call.
Then the coach went on to tell us about the process of quitting, and the psychological battle it involves – or rather, the two battles. The first one against ‘the small monster’, and the second one against ‘the big monster.’ 

‘The small monster’ is the physical addiction. Beating the small monster only takes a couple of very tough days. That’s when the battle against ‘the big monster’ starts: fighting the psychological addiction. You can quit for a couple of weeks, but sooner or later, you’ll find yourself in circumstances that more or less force you to smoke – at least that’s how it feels at the time. The trigger could be anything: a distressing situation like a death in the family, or a relaxing situation, like a wonderful day at the beach. Completely different circumstances, but your response will be the same: surely, I can smoke a cigarette now? 

The coach helped me to realize that that’s just the big monster talking. Smoking won’t help: it won’t bring the family member back to life, and it won’t make an already perfect day even more perfect.
It’s been six months now since I quit smoking. Of course, I’m tempted every now and then to light up – but I only have to think back to the training course, and the lessons about the psychological battles, to squash the impulse.

It also helps that I feel much better since I quit: I’ve got my sense of smell back, food tastes better, and my general fitness has improved hugely. I’ve also started to walk more, and I eat more healthily. It’s quite amazing – I’d been smoking for almost forty years, and it only took a four-hour training day to kick the habit. I’ve always had the will to quit, but as the coach told us: you’ll never make it on willpower alone. You have to combine the will to quit with the right kind of awareness – that’s when you really start improving your health.

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