Mike Cullen

Cold turkey and blunt as hell: One man’s endeavour to quit

I’ve been a quitting smoking for as long as I’ve been smoking. In fact, a lifetime spent dining on cold turkey and anger has taught me a few things.




Quitting smoking is just one of the “habit changes” I have on my 2017 to do list. There’s also quitting drinking, getting up off the couch, not spending money just because I have it and stopping comforting eating just because I’m sad. Two have already begun and I’ve written about them before. Today, I’ve decided the only way to change something is to take the “rip the band-aid off quickly” school of change. Replacing bad decisions with extensions of those bad decisions is useless. I know from my own experiences over the years with quitting the booze and the smokes that cutting back and replacing them with other options only leads to the situation where you find yourself hungover, puffing on a smoke and wondering where it all went wrong.

Earlier this month the Australian Government increased tobacco excise on roll-your-own tobacco. Never one to miss an opportunity, leader of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, Pauline Hanson, came out in support of e-cigs and not an increase in tobacco excise. In Australia, tobacco excise is one of those free pass things that either side of politics can have a kick at. For as long as I can remember, both sides of the political divide have taxed the hell out smokers in every budget they’ve written. So this move strikes me as opportunistic and disingenuous for a politician, even one in a minor party such as Pauline Hanson, to take this as their stance on the tax increases in the budget.

Big business tax cuts will cost the Australian economy over $65B  in revenue over the next 10-years, cutting education funding by upwards of $22B, increasing the cost of university study for students, reducing the income amount needed to begin paying back the Fee Help a student needs, continuing the freeze on Medicare rebates, drug testing of people on welfare, increasing the age for those who need to work for the dole to 65. All of these didn’t seem to raise a blink on the One Nation radar, but increase roll-your-own so it’s the same price as it would be in ready-to-smoke cigarettes and we’ve got a political party ready to go to the mat in order to “protect Australians”.

In her announcement, Senator Hanson said that the government needed to lift the ban on e-cig’s in Australia. E-cig devices are legal to buy and sell in Australia already but the issue arises in the fact that the nicotine used in them is illegal to both buy or sell. The nicotine component, as it stands, still remains on the Therapeutic Goods Administration Schedule 7 dangerous poisons list.

Quitting smoking hurts. It is vile. You will feel sick, ache, have a succession of colds, cases of flu, infections. You will hate the world. You can’t get out of this situation without it hurting. You’re one cigarette away from making the pain stop. Once it becomes a mind game, and it does, quitting smoking becomes a lot more fun.

While there are strong arguments for removing nicotine with concentrations of less than 3.6mg from the list, to allow people to successfully use e-cigs, there are already a large number of tools, techniques and strategies available for people to use to quit smoking. No method, regardless of whether it is a nicotine replacement therapy or simply going cold turkey, will allow you to quit smoking without working on it and making an effort.

It is my belief that people who want to quit smoking do so and those who are trying to do it for other people or other reasons will make every excuse under the sun not to. I quit smoking because I wanted to. Not because I was unemployed and my income was limited. Not because my parents have nagged me to quit smoking since they found I started smoking 26 years ago. Not for my health. Not for my finances. I quit because I was ready.

Over the past 26 years, I’ve attempted to quit smoking at least once a year. I’ve done nicotine patches, nicotine spray, nicotine lozenges, nicotine gum. I’ve done hypnosis and aromatherapy. I’ve done cutting back and limiting the time I am allowed to smoke. I’ve done meditation, and I’ve done tablets that block the nicotine receptors, and every other chemical receptor, in your brain. Quick heads-up time: if you have depression do not use Champix. They will send you around the bend and into one hell of a downward cycle. Talk to your doctor.

The time that I achieved my previous “best” I was working at a mortgage company and doing the Anthony Robbins Personal Power CDs. I lasted about six weeks.

I’m currently around five months nicotine-and-cigarette-free. This time I did it cold turkey. I read a book by Allen Carr called The easy way to stop smoking and used nicotine patches for the first three or four days. I thought the patches would help during the detox of all the chemicals except nicotine but the welts on my skin, the lack of sleep and the nightmares – when I did sleep – paid that idea off. I threw the patches away and decided to ride out the withdrawal.

And that is the bit I think most smokers reach before they throw in the towel. I don’t think smokers want to fail – although I’m a firm believer in most smokers only want to quit if they’re guaranteed it won’t hurt.

Also on The Big Smoke

Quitting smoking hurts. I’m not going to sugar coat this for you. It is vile. You will feel sick. You will ache all over. You will have a succession of colds, cases of flu, infections. You will hate the world. You will burn with the need to find the first person who taught you how to inhale correctly – Hi, Fiona – and shave their eyebrows off. Quitting smoking fucking sucks. You can’t get out of this situation without it hurting. Nicotine replacement alternatives won’t do it for you either. You will still withdraw. It will still hurt. You will still want to scream and cry and make the world as miserable as you are. You know why? Because you feel like you’re cheating yourself. Like, why is it you have to quit smoking when others don’t? Why should you suffer? And here’s the thing; you’re one cigarette away from making the pain stop. In the end, you should only suffer if you really want to quit. If you’re willing to hurt for the five or six days, you can win. Once it becomes a mind game, and it does, quitting smoking becomes a lot more fun.

Regardless though, you need to be honest with yourself. If you want to quit, you will. If you want an easy way out when you quit smoking, it’s not going to happen. I had a pretty good time of it when I quit but I’ve been constantly sick since December. I haven’t had much in the way of withdrawal symptoms but my body is more than making up for it. And nicotine replacement therapies wouldn’t and won’t change that. While nicotine itself is on par with caffeine and not harmful it’s also not necessary to the human body for survival.

Here’s my thing; if you’re going to quit, quit. You got yourself into this mess the day you lit your cigarette. It’s up to you to get yourself out of it. This may sound harsh but I think people who want to quit smoking deserve the pain. They deserve to have to work their way through from one end to the other. It’s shitty and it’s unpleasant and frankly, it’s a pain in the arse. But

But if you’re going to quit, quit.

Whatever method you use, be it common sense, nicotine replacement or simply swearing at the world, understand this: you chose to smoke; you’ve chosen to quit. It’s not your right to make those around you pay for it.

Keep your shit together.

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