One of the first things I did when I moved to Lebanon was to start smoking with a vengeance. I’d been an off-and-on smoker for over ten years, but when I got to Beirut, I went on, on, on.

Cigarettes are dirt cheap here and most places conveniently ignore the smoking ban. For a time, I loved it. I smoked like it was 1970. I smoked in bed, I smoked in bars. I smoked in the kitchen of my apartment. I smoked in sickness and in health. I smoked til I thought I’d burnt a hole in my esophagus.

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About a year ago I quit for what I hope is the last time. So, if you want to quit smoking, but you live in Lebanon, here’s my advice.

1. First, realize it’s possible to quit smoking even if you live in Beirut. People told me it couldn't be done, but it can. I’m not saying it’s easy, or it’s fun, but it’s possible.

2. Be prepared to get angry. When you've been using nicotine to deal with feelings for a long time, a lot of stuff comes up. Fortunately, we’re living in a culture that is fairly open-minded when it comes to angry meltdowns in the middle of the street. And, as we've told you before, the Arabic language provides a rich and vibrant vocabulary to tell people to f*ck off. Use it. Express yourself. Just try not to hurt yourself (or anyone else).

3. Brainwash yourself. Your new mantra is: smoking is gross, and I don’t need this in my life anymore. Repeat. I brainwashed myself into thinking smoking was a good idea – I would light up a cigarette even when I was ready to puke, or when I thought I was going to choke in my sleep on my own stomach acid. I needed to brainwash myself out of it. For that I’d recommend reading “Allen Carr’s Easyway to Stop Smoking” – it’s available on Kindle, and, if you’re into hypnosis, there's also tracks by celebrity hypnotist Paul McKenna.

4. Find new ways to unwind. When I quit smoking there was just kind of a baseline tension I needed to find new ways to deal with. I started getting massages pretty regularly, figuring it was cheaper than the chemotherapy treatments I’d eventually need if I kept up smoking and got lung cancer. It was!

5. Enjoy all the good things about quitting smoking. Your skin, for one, will look better than it has in ages, and your hair won’t smell bad anymore. The air smells richer. Food suddenly tastes amazing. (Which is great – because you will be eating a lot of it!)

6. Accept the fact that you are going to gain weight. Smoking curbs appetite and burns calories, because it takes energy to get rid of all those toxins. When you stop smoking, you will almost inevitably gain weight, unless you decide to start exercising, which is a great idea! Exercise is also a good way to release some of the extra rage you will most likely be experiencing.

7. Don’t think you can just have one. I have quit and restarted smoking so many times, I know I can’t kid myself and think I can just have one at a party, or only smoke shisha, and be fine. One leads to two, which leads to me chewing nicotine gum ‘til I'm seeing spots.

8. Think of smoking like an abusive ex. When you leave him or her, your life might not be perfect, but at least you’re not with that asshole anymore. I heard a line in a song that went “I may not be 100% happy but at least I’m not with you.” That’s how I feel about smoking and, incidentally, my ex, who I broke up with soon after I quit smoking. (What can I say, you get new clarity on life when you quit).

9. Remember, it gets better. I rarely crave a cigarette anymore, or even think about smoking. I never imagined the day would come when I was having a nic-fit.

10. Good luck!


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