Do you want to stop smoking badly enough to try? If you do, start now. Don't wait for what happened to my friend Waleed.
Waleed brimmed with funny stories, but our last meeting was a sad one. He was still telling his stories and he was surrounded, as usual, by a gathering of laughing girls. Ominously, however, a wire ran out of his shirt-front to what looked like a 1940s radio.
He caught my glance. "Heart monitor," he said. Then he pointed to a cylinder next to his chair. "I need oxygen too. Cigarettes, you know. They've finally got me."
At the time, I was smoking 80 a day - four packets - and had an unrelenting cough. My home leave was over. Next day I was off again to my job in the Persian Gulf.
After visiting Waleed I found it harder to breathe. Call it 'funk' and I'll agree with you.
I chewed gum, which I hate, on the flight. At the other end, I stumbled into the heavy Gulf heat, exhausted. Thoughts of self-hypnotism--about which I knew nothing--ran through my head.
Then I remembered how, as a child, I would wake myself ahead of some holiday trip that required early rising.I would bang my head on the pillow six times before sleeping and whisper: "Wake at six!" It always worked.
I didn't know how many bangs I needed for a "Quit smoking" order, so I used the six o'clock formula and whispered:"Don't smoke."
My cigarette consumption fell, but I was still smoking three months later when I heard Waleed had died. A darkness, like that of a sudden sandstorm at mid-day, seemed to fall on me.
Then, at a New Year's Eve dinner, I overheard a woman across the table tell her neighbour: "He stopped my fiancé smoking?" I soon had the story from her and the address of the person - a Chinese doctor - who had worked this miracle.
"I can't help you unless you really want to quit smoking," Dr Yeah said when we met.
I assured him I did and he twiddled an acupuncture needle in the lobe of my left ear and stuck a tiny tablet into the top of my right ear with a piece of sticking-plaster. "Keep that there and come tomorrow," he said.
He repeated the treatment over the next five days, alternating needle and tablet between ears. I was still smoking on the fifth day, when he said: "This is our last session."
At home again, disgruntled and sorry for myself, I sat in the garden smoking. Then, suddenly, I realised I was mindlessly smoking one cigarette over and over, taking a couple of puffs, stubbing it out, putting it in my pocket, taking it out and lighting up again.
"Disgusting!" I said aloud and ground it out.
That was 12 years ago. I haven't smoked since. I don't know why the treatment, which seemed laughable at the time, worked. But I don't understand why antibiotics kill germs, or why the sky is blue. I believe self-suggestion helped. I could at least tell Dr Yeah I truly wanted to stop smoking. I had, after all, been trying to stop and I had got some results.
Today, I am not tempted when others around me smoke. I move away. But I don't want to analyse my born-again non-smoking too piercingly in case I'm tempted to start smoking again.
Want to quit smoking? Start with pillow-talk whispers and carry on with acupuncture.
© Copyright Yasseen Yasseen
Yasseen Yasseen is the author of a coming-of-age book called Emigrating Home, which was sparked by his being called into both the British and Egyptian armies when the two countries were in conflict. A dual national, how could he serve in either since he loved both? This is the story of his journey from his birthplace, what was then the British colony of Jamaica, to school in Britain, to his father's country, Egypt. Told in fiction form, the tale ends with Yasseen in Cairo trying to get a grip on things that seemed to spin out of control because, while he spoke no Arabic, he looked like a national and nobody took him for a tourist.
Yasseen has spent his working life in radio, TV and newspaper journalism, in the Middle East -- in Egypt, Oman and Dubai.