How I went cold turkey and quit smoking for good
Christian Ince would never leave his house without his cigarettes.
He started smoking as a teenager. Thirty years later he was still going through a pack a day and four packs on the weekends.
Then one day he quit cold turkey.
The 53-year-old credits his success to the Allen Carr Easyway programme.
“I went to the workshop in May 2004,” Mr Ince said. “I guess it was because my wife didn't like me smoking. We had two children at the time and I really needed to quit.
“I had been smoking since I was 14 or 15 and had tried other things to stop, but they only worked for a short period. I decided to try this. I went to the five-hour seminar and haven't smoked since.”
Developed in 1983, the method has helped millions of smokers from around the world stomp the habit.
Instead of scaring people by talking about health risks such as lung cancer and emphysema, it aims to change how people feel about smoking so quitting becomes easier and more enjoyable.
Mr Ince said: “It took away the fear of quitting because I think most people who smoke view cigarettes as their best friend.
“It's a strange feeling, but it's the absolute truth. When you leave the house you check for things like your cell phone, wallet and keys, but when a smoker leaves the house they always make sure they have their cigarettes with them.”
Nicotine is addictive, but Mr Ince learned it only stayed in a person's system for 24 hours.
Most smokers don't give themselves a chance to eliminate the drug from their system, he said.
Mr Ince reached a point where he wanted to live a healthier life. He said as he got older he had started to put on weight. That, coupled with the regular smoking, is what he described as a “recipe for an early death”.
“I had been smoking for 30 years and pretty much enjoyed every cigarette, but it was gradually taking its toll on me,” he said. “If I put the trash down at the bottom of the hill just walking up the hill I would be out of breath.”
After he quit, a friend challenged him to start running.
He went on to complete his first Bermuda Day Half Marathon in 2009 — then again the next year.
In 2012, he was able to cross the finish line of the London Marathon.
“I put in an awful lot of training,” he said. “I'm not a runner and not built for running, but certainly couldn't have done that if I was still smoking.”
His family also motivated him to quit. “My wife really hated the smell,” he explained. “I also didn't want my children to pick it up. I have two daughters and at the time they were 11 and 15 and I didn't want to be a role model for smoking that's for sure.”
But he insists it's something you have to want for yourself. “The instructor can't do it for you,” he said. “You have to want to stop and decide to change your lifestyle as well.
“You don't go back to the bars or put yourself in a position where you are around other smokers and vulnerable. For me, every day was a new opportunity. I had to get to a point where I thought, ‘I've gone this far I might as well continue on'. I thought of it as a challenge.”
He's since offered to reimburse any of his friends who successfully complete the Allen Carr Easyway programme. “I send out an e-mail to every smoker I know and offer to pay the $300 if they quit for 12 months,” he said.
“No one has actually ever asked me for the money; I think they are so grateful to be rid of the habit. But I'd be happy to do it.
“The benefit I got from it and continue to get would be worth paying that money. To me it was the best money I ever spent for my health and my family's health.”
Looking for a New Year’s resolution? Liz Boden is encouraging smokers to make it their aim to quit in 2015.
Her charity, Open Airways, is partnering with insurance company BF&M to host the Allen Carr Easyway To Stop Smoking workshop on January 25.
“We are holding this one month after Christmas and want people to say, ‘This is what I am doing for myself in the New Year. I want me to be healthy, live long and enjoy my life’.”
Although there are many ways to quit smoking, Mrs Boden insists this is one of the most effective methods.
“There are two types of smokers,” she explained. “There are contented ones who are typically younger. They are happy smoking, not really worried about how it will affect them down the road.
“Then there are concerned smokers who realise they need to quit. Many say they wish they could and some say they even hate smoking, but they try and don’t know how. Allen Carr is different from any other method because it works. It has nothing to do with scare tactics and they don’t mention lung cancer or make you feel like a horrible person. There’s no guilt.”
Brenda Dale, from BF&M, said the insurance company was always looking for ways to partner with health-and wellness-related charities in Bermuda.
“These charities do a lot of work in the community and we like to support their good efforts,” she explained.
“Without them Bermuda wouldn’t be as good a place as it is and a lot of people wouldn’t receive the help they need.”
Some people will turn to prescription medications to help curb the habit, she said.
According to Ms Dale, behaviour management was also key. “You have to understand why you are smoking, why you want to quit, what are the benefits of quitting and what is the best way to do that,” she said.
“There’s no one best method for everyone. It’s difficult to break a habit and you have to have the desire.”
To register for Allen Carr’s Easyway To Stop Smoking contact Mary Ewles on Oamee@transact.bm or 238-3261. The workshop costs $300.