Dropping the Darts: Ben's Story
How Pilerats' marketing manager Ben went from 'punching darts like a weapon' to being a non-smoker, several months strong.
Read Part 1: Alex's Story, HERE
Ben Hardy, 26, is the marketing manager at creative collective Pilerats. On a daily basis, he oversees marketing and advertising for several different areas of the multi-winged collective simultaneously. As someone who knows every last advertising campaign trick in the book, Ben had to find his inspo to quit elsewhere. When he finally did, it was still ‘pretty bloody hard’, as he explains below.
Addiction doesn’t announce itself
People always say you should never start smoking. That statement doesn’t scare me. As an inherently curious 18 year-old flung into the world of nightclubs and live music, smoking was everywhere and that statement sat in the same category as ‘don’t do drugs’ or ‘don’t drink too much’. What I believe they should say is: If you do start socially smoking (where it usually begins) be prepared to be unaware of the point where you actually become addicted.
Being immune to advertising messages
While I was studying creative advertising we would often get an anti-smoking brief to try come up with a new creative way to stop people smoking. A lot harder than it sounds. To me the anti-smoking campaigns I was exposed to didn’t seem to target me well enough to have an impact. The messages seemed to be so broad as to blanket the entire age spectrum with information about how bad it is for your health in general. That just didn’t create a shift in my mind to make me think, 'oh shit, I shouldn’t do this because I might die'. I was invincible, obviously. Maybe if the ads outlined how nobody likes kissing an ashtray resulting in less success with the ladies, I would have been much more inclined to never start smoking.
Being a smoker runs deep
I started at around 18, just on weekends or when out for a drink and now on my 26th birthday I am a ‘non-smoker’… which sounds so fucking lame but I am still 100% addicted to cigarettes and probably will be for the rest of my life. The difference is I just don’t do it anymore. That’s what they don’t tell you. I’ve spoken to people of all ages about it and they all said they would have one of those delicious durries right now if they could, and these people haven’t smoked in 30+ years. It seems it’s only when you stop smoking you realise how addicted you actually were.
Social smoker one day, totally addicted the next.
Stuff not to do
So how hard was it to stop? Pretty bloody hard. If you’re thinking about quitting cold turkey make sure the following things DON’T happen in the next three months:
- Drink even the smallest drop of alcohol. There is this magical secret chemical reaction in your brain that makes you crave cigarettes and the more beers you consume I swear that craving intensity graph becomes exponential.
- Hang out with all of your friends that punch darts like a weapon. The social aspect of smoking together is actually really great time for banter and you will always have that positive connection in your mind with your pals and a perfectly rolled Champion Ruby.
- Have even the smallest thing go wrong in your life. When shit goes wrong, smoking a cigarette seemed like the perfect coping mechanism, even though it will probably make you feel worse when you are trying so hard not to smoke.
- Have all three of the above things happen simultaneously. Double exponential craving graph (illustration below). Game over:
Shout out to science for this one.
Knowing your routine
For me it was the routine of smoking that triggered the cravings. Get in the car and I’ll smoke, just ate lunch: smoke. Just smoked: have another. Being aware of those places was the first step for me. Getting in the car I’d usually smoke so I now I was aware of it, I was able to tackle the craving with logic. I would think to myself 'you’re only craving it because you’re in the habit of smoking in the car. You’re better than that', and I felt empowered by not giving in.
You can still talk to your friends
The majority of the people in the office smoked and it was great. We would all head up to the balcony together to take 15 minutes off every hour-and-a-half to have a smoke, talk shit and escape the screen. I was the last of the bunch to stop smoking, driven to start with mostly because it was getting boring heading up to the balcony on my own. It was then I realised it was the social side of smoking with my colleagues that I craved. The cravings I get while drinking are the only ones I haven’t managed to get my head around, and probably never will. They suck. So far it’s been a case of trying to keep myself occupied while people in the group head out outside to smoke. I’ve found conversation helps to distract the best.
Embrace your competitive side
One thing that helped me stop smoking was I’m an extremely competitive person. I was fairly good at most things I tried when I was younger whether that was sport, music or studies. As a result I have to be better than someone at whatever it is we are doing. Not the best character trait but when tackling an addiction to cigarettes, making it a competition with another really close mate in the office made it so much easier. After a few months when the competition started losing its thrill, smoking didn’t affect me as much. Soon after that I lost count of the days that I’ve not smoked.
Saying that, I don’t really feel any different. The only difference I feel is that I don’t smell like cigarettes and that I’m more productive at work. That’s not to say I’m not glad I did it but to me, smoking felt like such a subtle but powerful addiction and an extremely mental one. Maybe I fall into that category of people that find it easy to break habits and it didn’t affect me in a chemical way but it was still an addiction and wasn’t easy.
Go for a bike ride as a smoker and you'll pretty quickly realise it ain't good.
The awesome part of quitting
So I guess my message is still try everything because you probably will anyway, just be aware that you have a high chance of getting addicted to something that’s not that great for your health. But, I urge you to add beating an addiction to that list of things to try because it’s actually very fulfilling and profoundly rewarding. It forces you to learn about yourself. You learn to control your behaviors, set mental boundaries, learn what makes you tick and most importantly, you learn how to just say ‘no’.
And lads, don’t smoke because most girls don’t like it.