Rachel Butler: My life as a smoker and sheer terror of dying for a cigarette
SMOKING is stupid.
Everybody knows that – especially smokers.
It turns your lungs black and your fingers yellow, makes your breath smell and turns you into an anti-social person. You become a prisoner to nicotine. It dictates your whole life.
When you're making your dinner, you're not thinking about how nice the food will taste. Instead, your mind is racing forward to the moment you put your fork down so you can go outside for a cigarette.
That's another horrible thing about smoking – going outside in the freezing cold, rain and snow, just so you can satisfy your drug-addicted brain to get its fix.
There's nothing good about it. It's not even cool any more. So why is it I have been addicted to this horrible drug for so long?
I'm ashamed of it. So embarrassed that I don't even like talking to my family about being a dirty smoker.
Over the years, I've said I wanted to quit so many times – but I struggled.
I'd buy patches and nicotine gum but fail to even open the packet. Smoking had become such a big part of my life. I'd convinced myself that having a cigarette was the highlight of my day. How sad and pathetic.
Two years ago, I did quit – albeit briefly. My boyfriend hates smoking and wanted me to quit for my health. He even gave me an incentive – if I quit successfully for three months, he'd take me away for a weekend break.
I did and we had an amazing time in Paris. I started to really believe I could change my life for good.
But then the odd cigarette started creeping in and, a year ago, I found myself as a full-time smoker again.
I swore it would be the odd cigarette here and there – but soon the yellow fingers and bad breath made a permanent comeback.
I tried for so long to keep it a secret from my boyfriend. It goes without saying that, when he found out, he was quite angry. Quitting soon became the last thing on my mind. I'd resigned myself to being a smoker for life.
But a few weeks ago, I started to have images of sitting in a doctor's office and being told I had lung cancer. How would I feel? Angry with myself, that's what. There'd be no going back. I would be dying because of my own stupidity.
At the end of 2012, I made a vow that I had to turn my life around and quit for good. Last week, I booked an appointment to see a stop-smoking specialist.
I admit, I didn't feel ready to quit – but then again, do smokers ever feel ready?
The specialist was amazing. She didn't make me feel stupid but she did talk me through why I should stop.
I was given patches but it took two days before I found the courage to put one on.
This time, I'm determined to do it – and for good.
I want to be able to run upstairs and not feel out of breath. I want to be able to talk to people without worrying about my breath making them feel sick.
More importantly, I want to be able to live a long, healthy life.
Quitting is tough, I'm not going to lie. But when I feel like I'm craving a cigarette, there's one thing I think to myself: if you knew the next cigarette you smoke would be the one to give you lung cancer, would you smoke it? Of course you wouldn't.