I was a smoker for the best part of 17 years. I started taking sneaky drags of Sweet Afton ( yack) at 13, progressed onto Rothmans by 15 and was a full on Consulate smoker for most of my adult life, apart from when I lived in Spain and then I was a Dunhill menthol gal.
Smoking for me was about being cool, edgy, rebellious even. It was also a source of comfort. As a miserable teenager I used cigarettes as an emotional crutch, hurtling away from the world to go puff my resentments into the atmosphere. In my twenties it was not uncommon for me to place cigarettes higher on the chain of necessity than food. A friend of mine, Joy, used to comment she knew I was around when there was an empty coffee cup and an over flowing ashtray filed with ash and the sheared tops of cigarettes ( another annoying habit, I used to nip the very top of cigarettes off, very rarely smoked a full length one).
To my great shame I smoked throughout my pregnancy, I smoked while driving, I smoked while waiting for anything, I smoked instead of eating breakfast, I smoked on night outs, I smoked on nights in, I smoked in airports, bars, churches, outside schools, hotels, cafes, oh lordy, click suck inhale. I was relentless.
Then I hit 30 and I decided to give them up for two reasons. One, I was about to be thirty and having lost a father to a smoking related illness I decided to cop myself on, the other reason was the real catalyst. My daughter was inching into teenagehood, a perilous time when parental hypocrisy can be held up to close scrutiny.
How, I reasoned, was I supposed to demand my child not smoke whilst standing there with a fag hanging from my hand? Oh I might try the ‘do as I say not as I do’ line, but here be dragons. It was not likely to work. Lead by example was the only way through Mordor, teenage hood.
So the fags had to go.
But how? I had never given up smoking before, it was nigh on impossible wasn’t it? I had heard the horror stories. I imagined myself lying in a bed a la Trainspotting, watching a tobacco filled piñata baby crawling towards me, with eye burning embers of delicious smoky coals.
What would I do with my hands? What would I do in traffic jams? What would I do when I finished a chapter? Wither the rewards for getting through the blasted day?
In the end I was saved by Allen Carr, he of the easy way to do stuff. Through reading his ‘Easy Way To Stop Smoking’ I allowed some rather sneaky CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) to influence my thinking. I managed to shift my ‘smoky smoky nom nom’ thinking to ‘smoke? Now why on Earth would anyone want to do that?’ I managed this 180 degree flip in the space of 24 hours. I didn’t even finish the pack of cigarettes I had, leaving them to wither and dry up on the landing until I threw them out a week or two later.
And then, voila, I was no longer a smoker. I found other ways to reward myself for life’s little trials and tribulations. I eventually got into sport and this turned out to be rather a good thing for the mind and the body.
Feeling all smug about my ‘sacrifice’ for my child’s future health, I basked in my ‘rightness’ for a number of years until the reality of life gave my tush a solid kick. Teenagers don’t play by grown up rules.
I caught Jordan smoking.
Whereupon I turned directly – puff- into my mother.
‘You bloody great eejit!’ I said. ‘Smoking! Stupid, rah rah only eejits smoke, expense, blah blah think of your lungs, reeking yadda yadda, numpty cancer cancer numpty, grounded! For all eternity!’
Naturally, as all teenagers are wont to do, this caused sulky glares and sullen promises of ‘yeah I won’t smoke, I said I won’t didn’t I?’
Hmm, I had said much the same clap trap to my own mother to get her off my back, and then went skippity bop off to smoke furiously behind her back. Was Jordan any different?
Of course not. Every time she came home my nostrils twitched.
‘You stink to the high heavens of smoke.’
‘I was with smokers, it gets on your clothes you know.’
While washing her clothes I would find a lighter and go on a tedious rampage.
‘Look! Look!’ I would say brandishing it triumphantly. ‘See, see?’
So triumphant I would repeat myself.
‘It’s not mine,’ little misssullenpants would assert, ‘I was minding it for someone.’
‘Oh balls! I didn’t come down in the last shower.’ I would counter, turning not just into my mother, but her mother too.
And so the status quo held for many months, she smoked behind my back, I’d find out and lecture her. I’d cry, I’d shout, I’d threaten. I would go on and on about the dangers of smoking. She would promise to never smoke again, I’d feel smug, then she’d post a picture of herself on Facebook, with a cigarette in hand. I go on the warpath, do the lecture stuff, and so the cycle would continue.
Then one day I was in my office looking up cadaveric spasms and it hit me square between the eyes. No not a spasm, a solution! I was going this the wrong way. She was a Hunt after all and we don’t do well with threats and ultimatums. There was a better way to get through to this flesh of my flesh why I didn’t want her to smoke.
‘Jordan, just to let you know, I am taking up smoking again.’ I informed her, when she came into my office looking for a loan of a hair bobbin.
She gave an incredulous look.
‘Well, see, I’ve been thinking about it. I don’t want you to smoke, we know that. But see the thing is I only gave up smoking because I didn’t want you to smoke. But if you’re going to smoke anyway I might as well restart.’
She put both her hands on her ( skinny) hips. ‘Don’t be ridiculous.’
‘It’s not ridiculous Darling,’ I said. ‘In fact it makes perfect sense to me. I think I still have some of my old ashtrays in storage.’
‘I don’t want you smoking.’ She said, using a tone that suggested the lineage of our fallen apples are close to the family tree indeed.
‘Oh? Why would it bother you?’
‘Because it’s bad for you and I don’t want you to get sick, Jesus why do you think?’
I looked at her. I said nothing, I merely raised an eyebrow.
She frowned, looked down for a long time and said in a small voice. ‘I see what you mean.’
And as far as I know she stopped smoking not long after that.
Children, they are tricky complicated people, but logical. Instead of always lecturing we must sometimes stretch our minds so that they might reach conclusions on their own.
That said, keeping a close eye on Facebook helps too.