The easy way to stop smoking

stub of cigarette

I used to smoke like a chimney. Literally. I used to say I smoked 20 a day but being completely honest, I was probably more of a 50-a-day smoker. Yeah. That bad! I am happy to say that in January it had been five years since I smoked my last cigarette. Reactions I get when I tell people I have gone five years without a smoke are normally along the lines of:

Wow! That’s amazing! You should  be really proud of yourself!

Which of course is very nice to hear and excellent for boosting my ego, but truth be told I almost feel like a cheat taking credit for it. Why? Because it has been dead easy! Yeah, that’s right! Quitting smoking was easy peasy. And had it not been that easy I would not be writing this post today. I am constitutionally incapable of not enjoying myself and I have no resilience whatsoever against sweet little habits that give me instant satisfaction. None. Nada. My willpower against cigarettes was (and probably still is) virtually non-existent. If I had wanted a cigarette even once in the last 5,5 years I probably would have smoked it. But I haven’t wanted one.

Anyone who has ever been addicted to nicotine knows that the mere thought of quitting is overwhelming. Like looking into an endless, unhappy abyss which is the rest of your life. What doesn’t really help is that smokers constantly hear how incredibly hard it is to give it up. You may have heard the expression Once a smoker – Always a smoker. You know, the ones who even after 20 years still want a cigarette, and who go through the rest of their days feeling deprived of something that used to bring them great pleasure. How sad! Really. What in God’s name is the point of quitting if you cannot enjoy it? Make no mistake: I am here to tell you that when I quit smoking I thoroughly enjoyed every step of the process.

So what is this miracle cure? Hypnosis? Antidepressants? Jesus? Nope. I went to a 5 hour workshop (with smoking breaks) one late afternoon in Oslo on January 11, 2007. That was all.

You may have heard of the book The Easy Way to Stop Smoking by Allen Carr. I had read that book five times prior to January 2007. All five times I had stopped smoking but started again after everything from 2 days to 2 months. I liked the method but somehow it just would not stick. Luckily, there were also workshops available where you could learn to quit using the same method, but from a live person instead of a book. You cannot ask a book anything if you want something clarified, don’t understand something or let it know that you disagree. With an instructor you can, and I believe that made all the difference. The workshop was led by a former smoker by the name René who the whole experience very enjoyable.

The method is no hocus pokus. You learn why you think you smoke, and why you actually smoke. You may think you smoke because you like the taste, it relaxes you and so on. But honestly, anyone who has ever smoked a cigarette knows that they don’t exactly taste like strawberries and cream. And cigarettes as a relaxant? Try to notice your pulse before and after lighting up a cigarette in the morning. Can something that increases your heart rate really be relaxing? I will not go further into the method here, because I want to leave that to people more qualified than I.

As I said I had no willpower to resist smoking. My willpower can be strong when it comes to many things but in the face of smoking it was useless. It was like trying to climb out of a 10 meter deep hole using a 5 meter long ladder. Nothing wrong with the ladder. It is just not long enough.

I quite simply hate being miserable, and wanting a smoke and not allowing myself one is pure misery. I could never do that, so therefore I thought I was forever stuck in the nicotine trap. Albeit not being armed with sufficient willpower I did have a very strong desire to quit, but I had no idea how to do actually do it. My primary motive to stop was that I felt I was selling myself short by smoking. It was (and still is) important to me to be all that I can be, and constantly inhaling poisonous gases, coughing and not exactly smelling like roses would not exactly pull me in the right direction.

I am not writing this to showcase my success. I am writing this because I want to tell smokers who think they must choose between continuing smoking and being miserable that there is a third option: Quit smoking and be a happy non-smoker. I normally hate the phrase If I could do it, anyone can, but it is actually very true here. Try not to buy into so-called universal truths that surround you telling you how hard it is, because it doesn’t need to be. It certainly wasn’t for me, and it does not need to be like that for you. 

So if you (or someone you know) want to quit smoking I can warmly recommend these workshops. I went to one in Oslo but they are available all over the world. In case you are wondering if I am getting paid for this the answer is no. I am doing  this solely because I want others to experience the wonderful feeling it is to quit smoking.

It is time to leave the sinking ship!

Non-Smokingly Yours,

Kristian

Police lineups are a hoot!

line up

I have had quite a number of different jobs in my life, with one of the more interesting ones being in police lineups in Hong Kong. A year ago I was fresh out of university in Hong Kong, out of a job, and had signed up with a local talent agency to see if it could bring in som extra cash.

A police lineup is a way to make sure that the police has got the right guy when the suspect has not confessed to the crime. Typically 10 people are lined up behind a one way mirror in front of one or more witnesses. Only one out of the ten people in the lineup is a suspect with the other nine being completely random people who have nothing whatsoever to do with the crime. If the witness can pick out the one who did it from that line of people it is considered as a positive ID, i.e. it gives the court a pretty good indication that they have the right guy. Let me also just mention that the legal system of Hong Kong is completely separate from the rest of China. Hong Kong law has remained largely unchanged since the territory was a British colony and is therefore very similar to the legal system of the United Kingdom. But enough about that.

With me always being a good boy, I was of course one of the nine random guys who were there to confuse the witness. Fun! Ideally, the nine others should be physically similar to the suspect both in age, hair colour, build, height etc. However, with the number of caucasian men with nothing better to do on a weekday afternoon in Hong Kong being pretty limited, the Hong Kong Police Force can not really afford be picky. As long as gender and ethnicity match, it is all more or less good. This is however not as bad as it sounds, since many Chinese people think all white people look the same. Just like someone who has only seen white people all his life will have a hard time telling Chinese people apart.

I did this twice. Both times I was asked to meet at an MTR (metro) station in central Hong Kong with the other nine random whiteys before being taken to the police station where we would wait in a room labeled “Actors”. An excellent gesture since the majority of the specimen were aspiring actors. (Let me just point out that we did not sign any non-disclosure agreement nor were we asked not to talk about what we heard and saw so at worst I am getting a bit of bad karma here).

The first time was a bit sad really. The nine of us walked in and found this 20-something guy who looked as if he were on the verge of a nervous breakdown. And his lawyer. The sweat rings under his arms were visible from space and the guy was literally trembling. We had all been asked to come wearing casual clothes but sadly, the suspect had obviously not gotten this message and looked way too overdressed compared to us. His lawyer decided that he wanted him to trade shirt with one of us. This made us all look down in an instant, keeping the sweaty armpits in mind, praying not to be picked. The facial expression of the lucky guy who did get picked was priceless, but we of course all pretended as if we took no notice of that. I mean we are not mean people. The suspect’s hairdo was, eh, loud so in order to make the whole thing a bit more fair they decided to put shower caps on us to hide the hair. Then, enter witness #1.

Because of the mirror we could not see what went on on the other side but instead it gave us an excellent view of the shower-capped line and more importantly the suspect. He was now standing with his arms folded on his back as if (mentally?) handcuffed looking straight down in an obvious attempt to show as little of his guilt-ridden face as possible. The rest of us looked pretty relaxed, not exactly helping the man in question. I mean, had a random person walked into the room and been asked to pick out the one who looked the most guilty I am pretty sure that 99% would have chosen our guy. Because of the mirror we could not see what went on in the witness room, but to my great surprise we could hear everything. And as if for our benefit the first witness was not a local meaning that everything being said was in English (instead of Cantonese) making it easy for us to follow. This nervous fella had smashed a beer bottle on someone’s head in a bar in Hollywood Road and then made a run for it. Unfortunately for him, the long arm of the law had obviously caught up with him and because he had denied doing it he was now trembling in this room in Sheung Wan Police Station with us. But to no avail. All witnesses picked him out without hesitation.

The second time a couple of weeks later was a bit more, uh how should I put it, Winona Ryder kinda stupid. Again, the same procedure with us waiting in the room labeled “Actors” was repeated, and when the wait was up we walked into the room with the mirror. This time a 40-something guy and his lawyer were already there, and this one looked a lot more composed than the wreck who had met us the previous time. To my great joy, we got to dress up this time too. The person had apparently worn black glasses when committing his crime so we were therefore given a pair of black plastic specs. You know, the very cheap kind that you use for costume parties. The only thing missing was the fake nose. Again we lined up and were ready for witness number one while hoping that also this time one of the witnesses would be non-Chinese giving us the audio track in English. And again we were in luck.

This guy had bought several very expensive suits in a top Italian designer store in Hong Kong, but decided to nick a couple of silk ties at the same time. Slik ties costing only a small fraction of what he had already spent there. You know, just for sports. As the investigator read up the synopsis of the deed the suspect looked more and more embarrassed, almost to the point of blushing. All of us kept sneaking peeks at him in the mirror. And I was probably not the only one thinking: How stupid are you? Did he not know the entire store was covered with surveillance cameras that caught him doing it? To top it off he had even left his business card with his contact details in the bowl on the counter next to the till to be put on their mailing list. If there ever were a show called “Hong Kong’s Dumbest Criminals” I am sure he would have got his 15 minutes of fame. He probably did not make it onto their mailing list though.

Ok, this has been a display of my more shallow side, having a ball with other people’s misfortune. I promise to try to score more karma points in my next post.

 

Innocently Yours,

Kristian

-Are you pregnant?

Human Pregnancy

I am all for communication and getting to know people, but some questions are forever off the table. The headline of this post thrones on top of the list of eternally banned things to ask people, as this brings back one of the most embarrassing memories of my life.

I was around 20 and was going to see a friend studying music performing an intimate little concert for some people she knew. I had not seen her in a while and rumour had it she had become engaged in the meantime. When I saw her I noticed that she looked slightly more, how should i put it, nourished than the last time we met. She was also wearing a dress that was not exactly helping. My brain had then drawn the obvious conclusion that she was expecting and that I was happy for her.

The concert was wonderful and afterwards I went up to thank her, as you do. She was pleased with her performance and was smiling, laughing and glowing like a true artiste knowing she had done good work. So I congratulated her on the concert, her engagement and then point towards her stomach and ask her when she is due. Her wonderfully smiling face changed from pure joy to shock and then utter despair within the blink of an eye. Bless her, she took it as graciously as anyone could and excused herself with it being that time of the month and so on. I think. I was really not in any state to register a lot of what was going on. Once I had realized that disaster had struck, I was fully engaged in looking for a hole to crawl into and stay in. Forever.

Had I found a hole in the ground I would probably still be there, because more than ten years later this still makes me cringe. It is actually only a couple of years ago that I stopped blushing when thinking about it. Oh, the shame!

You live, you learn. And this was a huge learning experience for me. Now, even if the pregnancy is so obvious that she looks as if she is about to explode any minute I will never ever ask when she is due. She will have to tell me clearly and unambiguously that she is expecting little ones before I will signal that I assume anything.

Why am I sharing this? Well, maybe I will spare someone else from the utter embarrassment of asking a woman if she is pregnant when she in fact is not. One of the most efficient ways to make someone feel really, really bad in an instant is an honest remark on their weight. Experience has taught me that it is not always obvious what is a compliment and what is an offense to someone. Does someone want to lose weight? Or are they maybe trying to put on a bit?

You never know, so instead of gambling with people’s feelings there are luckily lots of other things to talk about. If you want to talk about your weight to me that’s fine. But I will not promise I will be honest.

Honestly Yours,

Kristian