Dropping The Darts: Jonty’s Story
From ironman to wasteman - for drummer and journalist Jonty, whose been smoking since he was a kid, quitting has been a daily battle.
Read Part 1: Alex's Story HERE
Read Part 2: Ben's Story HERE
Jonty is a regular writer for Pilerats.com and a gun freelance rock music journalist in general. Jonty was only 14 when he took up smoking – now a smoke-free 18 year old, he looks back on how his addiction forced him to abandon what was becoming a promising career as an athlete.
Where it all began:
I started smoking just after I turned 14. Despite being way too young to smoke, in my naivety, I was convinced that I was pretty mature and virtually invincible. Prior to this I didn’t think I would ever touch cigarettes - I was an athlete, a swimmer and a surf lifesaver - I trained eight times a week and competed in State and National Championships. I detested the idea of smoking and was extremely against it, considering it would ruin my fitness. The one time I was offered a drag of a cigarette, I coughed my lungs up and didn’t get the appeal. It wasn’t until a few weeks later, when I was bored hanging out with some friends, that I decided to roll a cigarette to pass the time - this was where I first properly inhaled the smoke and experienced those body-numbing head spins that everyone (initially) loves so much.
Above: Feeling invincible at age 14...
How the addiction takes hold:
Now that I had grasped the pleasurable aspect of it, I became a spearhead of our gang’s smoking endeavours. We approached a stranger and gave him some money, he returned with a pouch of Port Royal, and we thought we had enough tobacco to last the rest of our lives. We would meet up every Friday after school and go to the top floor of a U Park to smoke some cigarettes. It was still shunned socially by our friends and we feared the wrath of our parents, so unhealthy doses of Lynx and chewing gum were our strongest allies. As it were, all three of my friends were too chicken to keep a pouch of tobacco in their bedroom during the week, (the weekdays being a time we vowed not too smoke, as we thought we might get cancer and die if we made it too regular). Since I was the one holding the goods, I began to allocate one time during the week in which I would have a cigarette (or two). Sooner rather than later, as friends started to have their parents go out and leave the house free, our gang would have a safe haven to smoke on the weekends. One or two on a Friday easily extended to a dozen on the weekend. The transition from a once-in-a-while smoker, to a social smoker… to an addict… really creeps up on you.
It was at this point that I began to notice the effect on my sport. I was having more difficultly swimming faster over long distances, and running short of breath sooner. Rather than convince me to quit smoking though, it only ramped up my hedonism. I had come from a mindset where self-gratification came from winning races – races won as a result of five years of intensive training. But I realised that I could have this gratification whenever I wanted, without the training - smoking, drinking, trying to impress good looking girls. It was a shocking revelation, for someone who was groomed into competition at the age of seven, that winning the race only meant something if you let it. By the end of the season I was ready to put swimming and surf lifesaving behind me. I couldn’t bear to see myself falling from 2nd and 3rd place to 5th and 7th anyway, and the attention from girls, along with the access to parent-free smoking utopias were ramping up fast.
Above: Rolling darts in bed instead of going to training.
Band of outsiders:
So was the habit of smoking at school. If I was Daniel Desario my friends and I were certainly the Freaks. There was a spot across the road from my school behind a church that we used to frequent. The thrill of leaving school grounds - along with the satisfaction of smoking the cigarette - was enough that soon enough a once-a-week visit became every single recess and lunchtime. There was more than just the church, we had Sneaky Park, Pokemon Grass, and the very closest to my heart….Durry Zone. These little safe havens bridged the gap between being at home and at school. Now I would go to school having a cig, stop at Durry Zone to have a cig with the gang and then dream about the next break or free period in which we could head to Sneaky Park. I was now buying cigarettes as soon as I ran out of whatever current ones I had. I loathed the idea of organised sports and competition and I couldn’t give a fuck how much I smoked. You can only imagine how my grades were affected.
Above: Deep in the Durry Zone.
Something You Can Never Get Back – The Decision to Quit:
In the two years since I’ve finished high school I certainly smoked willy nilly and with abandon. Every time I have wanted to quit or get back into my fitness there has been one glaring issue - my lungs are in a state of disarray that I can’t even comprehend. The stark contrast between how my body feels now when I run 100 metres as opposed to before I had started smoking is demoralising, especially coming from a background of high physical athleticism. I wonder how permanent these changes are and I wonder how much damage has been done. Would it ever be possible to obtain my previous level of fitness? Ultimately, the eventual decision I made to quit this year, came from that desire for personal wellbeing. Once you’ve been a smoker for long enough you’re well aware of its negative impacts, in fact you’re likely to hate everything about it, yet still be stuck asking a mate for a ciggie at the pub or at a live music concert.
Above: This is the closest I get to being an iron man while smoking.
How to get through:
A factor you’re going to have to deal with when you quit is that you’re going to have an extra hours worth of time each day in which you’re used to smoking. It’s occupying your time well that will make smoking history for you: whether it’s having a bite to eat, walking around the block or striking up a conversation with someone nearby. One of my best coping mechanisms though, is a bit of a strange one, but it seems to work for me. I like to imagine the sight of anyone smoking as demons of temptation, placed in your surroundings to test your strength of will. When you create a mental game it begins to give you a sense of satisfaction every time you pass someone who is smoking, and decide not to do it, sensory cues can be some of the strongest and most tantalising, so learning how to overcome them is wildly beneficial.
Hot yoga is great too, the sweat flushes the toxins from your skin and makes you feel fresh and awesome. You’ll be feeling too spiritual to want to smoke. Really the final tip is to never let yourself have that “one” cigarette. The time your body has spent getting used to being cleanses will result in that ciggy being a punch to the throat, you’ll feel a bit queasy and probably won’t even want to finish it, but the receptors in your brain will be gratified once again, and set off a reaction where you’ll surely have another.
If I could go back and never have smoked that first cigarette I can’t imagine what I might have achieved today. For me the battle to quit smoking is still a daily one, but I feel sharing stories is a great way to help, so thanks for letting me share mine.