Robyn Scott, a Yellowknife teacher and artist, has been smoke-free for nearly five months.
After a summer hiking trip where Scott found herself feeling “embarrassed” for needing to stop for a cigarette and “self-conscious” for smelling like smoke, she decided “enough is enough.”
She took up smoking as a social habit at age 37 – "old enough to know better," she said. After four years of telling herself she was in control of circumstances, Scott admitted she had become a full-time smoker.
She fought back: setting a quit date and telling everyone in her circles she was giving up smoking. Then she abandoned cigarettes overnight.
Scott admits quitting has, at times, felt “uncomfortable,” but that in speaking openly about her obstacles and successes she feels a strong sense of support and accountability with her network.
Scott attributes her success, in part, to a book called The Easy Way to Stop Smoking by author Allen Carr.
She calls Carr’s book “empowering” and said that it informs readers about the biology of smoking and addiction and the “mental games” at play.
“It keeps reminding me that this isn’t my fault – that this is an addiction and that I can take that power back,” Scott said.
When a craving hits, she said it has been helpful to pull out her Stop Smoking App to see a countdown of the days since her last cigarette.
“Every time I break open my app, I could be in the middle of conversation or in a meeting or anything, I take out my app, and say, ‘Hey guys, can I just talk about this for a second, I quit smoking four months and 21 days ago, and I'm really proud of myself.
Everyone says they’re proud of me and I just sort of let it go after that," she said. “Being able to talk about it openly and admit to the craving seems to take some of the power away from it.”
Before she resolved to quit, Scott said she kept her smoking a secret from her kids and from her students.
“I found myself alone in snowbanks quite a bit, trying to have a cigarette by myself so no one could see me,” she recalled. “That was creating a lot of feelings of shame in me. I didn't like that very much.”
As a teacher, “I taught lessons in not smoking,” Scott said, “and I felt like a terrible hypocrite. The whole, do as I say not as I do, that didn’t sit well with me. I consider myself to be a role model. I should be emulating behaviour that I want young people to follow.”
Scott quit smoking cold turkey: no patches, no gum, no vaping. Instead, she has mantras. Post-it notes around her house proclaim: “I am a non-smoker.” When she reads them, Scott is reminded that “I can’t want a cigarette because I am a non-smoker. I don’t do that anymore.”
She said Carr’s book has also helped her realize “the only reason a cigarette would make me feel better, is because my addiction was making me feel terrible."
“All it would do is alleviate my feelings of withdrawal that the nicotine was creating. It wasn't actually going to make my problems any better, or my stress less intense or make me feel more awake, it was just going to alleviate the feelings of withdrawal,” Scott said. “That was a really powerful idea. I didn't like the idea of being manipulated by a substance.”
As a physically active person, Scott was frustrated at how quickly she was becoming physically fatigued. Five months since her August quit date, she said she has more energy and that food “tastes brighter.”
Scott has even taken up running “to prove to myself that my lungs are healing and that I can now push myself physically.”
“Even though nothing is chasing me,” she jokes.
For anyone striving to give up smoking, Scott admits the thought of quitting once seemed impossible to her too. Between the habits she had formed and the fact that many of the people around her are smokers, she felt “this is something that’s just a part of my life now.”
With the help of friends and family, Carr’s book and a strong sense of willpower, Scott said “if I can do it, anybody can.”