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Don’t Quit Smoking and Drinking – Make them QUIT YOU…

So, this is not a blog about demonic ‘will power’ or training your mind or eating pills or becoming some athletic freak – all to quit smoking and drinking.

This is a blog about 2 real life experiences.

Conclusion – Part 1

Yeah – this conclusion comes before the post, because it’s important to set the context.

In life, if you notice, you will rarely quit something that’s nice and pleasing.

Example –  we have all been through one heart break in life. In most cases, the boy or the girl leaves the partner – it’s rarely a ‘mutual’ parting…

Take even more mundane things – you will rarely quit a job that’s cozy and comfy – unless you get fired – a la – the job leaves you.

So, my real life experience is about making smoking and drinking leave you – rather than you leaving smoking and drinking (which frankly is impossible).

Quitting Smoking:

Till the age of 30, I had never had a single drink or smoke. 

Then ‘dot com’ happened to me around 1999 with my first company ‘’…

Crazy times, crazier company!

For about 10 years (2001-2011), I enjoyed the occasional cigar and more so, the occasional cigarette. The smoke became a ‘morning’ thing (one ciggy only); then when my wife began riding with me to the office, it became a ‘night time’ indulgence.

I really liked my solo cigarette – and would go out of my way to enjoy it.

While travelling abroad, the weather, the company of my colleagues, etc would take the number upto 2-3 a day. 

Now, the cigarette count never went above this 2-3 a day.

Wondering why? 

Well, this is the secret:

Around the time of the dot com bust of 2001, I did my first ‘Art of Living’ course.

Post the first (beginners) level, I did the advanced course exactly after a year.

On the first day of the advanced course, one of the volunteers there asked me, “So, do you smoke and drink?”

I nodded.  

That person laughed and said, “Hahaha – let’s see what lasts longer – your commitment to meditation or your desire to smoke and drink…”

I never understood that joke for a long time…

In the past 10 years, I have been practicing my Art of Living meditation techniques like a FIEND. Come morning, day or night, somehow and some place, I make time to do my daily meditation for 30-50 minutes.

The result of this meditation is that around July 2011, Smoking QUIT ME.

What happened?

I had a horrible cough in January 2011 that took 3 months to disappear – something that had never happened to me before. Naturally I did not smoke during that time. 

Post April, the desire to smoke vanished in me. 

I tried to smoke one cigarette in July 2011 (out of curiosity) and after 1-2 drags began to feel nauseous. I threw the cigarette away and washed my hands vigorously.

What I realized that moment was that the deep breathing and meditation had created a replusion in my body towards smoking. 

I haven’t smoked a ciggy since July 2011…

Quitting Drinking:

I had my first alcoholic drink – an Orange ‘Breezer’ in London with a very good friend – Jay Zaveri in a beautiful pub on Edgware Road – London.

Yeah, imagine a ‘breezer’ in an English Pub being drunk by a fully grown up man 🙂  

Since then I’ve had a soft corner for alcohol – it made me ‘happy’ (like it does to everyone else). In fact wine gave a completely new dimension to my palate and senses. Everything about wine intrigued me so much, that I ended up doing 2+ wine tasting courses!

In the past 5 years, I became increasingly fond of Single Malts and Whiskeys (Ballantine 17 being my all time favorite).

Around the time smoking left me, drinking still stayed and I enjoyed its company.

What happened?

In November 2011, my wife and I visited Babaji’s cave in the Himalayas.

The trip was organized by Ananda Sangha and was lead by Daya Taylor (pictured below) and her husband Keshav Taylor.

The trip was magical and had a huge spiritual impact on us – see the facebook album here of the trip.

For about a month after I came back, I did not feel like drinking at all.

I resumed drinking somewhere in December 2011 and for the first time I started feeling a bit uneasy if I had 2 large drinks. (I could never drink more than three large pegs anyway!!)

My symptoms were extreme drowsiness at night (say 11-11:30pm) and then I would wake up around 3-4am and not be able to go back to sleep. 

This would leave me groggy and ruin my entire day.

I just shrugged it off as ‘you gotta respect age and alcohol’ and continued merrily indulging in my weekend 7pm ritual and the occasional mid week celebrations.

Each time I was to fly out of India I would always book my 2 bottles of Ballantine 17 at the Mumbai airport before catching my flight (Mumbai Duty Free has a provision).

I was happily stocked up!

In May 2012, my wife and I joined a group of Ananda Sangha to visit 8 monasteries in Leh and Ladakh.

The trip was magical. See the facebook album of that trip here.

On the last day of that trip, after we had descended the steps of the last Monastery and were walking towards our bus, I began chatting with Daya (the leader of the trip). I have no idea why, but I spoke about my occasional tryst with alcohol.

Daya said, “Alok, you know that to meditate and to achieve spiritual glory, you will need to get rid of that ‘stuff’. Let’s work on it.”

This was the exact place where our conversation took place:

We returned home around the 7th of May 2012.

A couple of days later, one morning when I opened my wardrobe to select a shirt, I saw 8-10 bottles of single malts all sitting pretty in the corner.

Something revolted inside of me.

I felt that the bottles had no place in my wardrobe where I also keep my prayer beads & meditation mat.

That same day I packed my bottles, took them to office and placed them inside the cabinet of an empty desk next to me.

Since that day, I have not consumed alcohol.

Something inside me that wanted to drink has vanished.

I dunno what happened at that Leh trip, but all of a sudden, I just don’t ‘remember’ alcohol anymore (you know what I mean – on a weekend, when you go out, you think of ‘getting a drink’.)

A couple of times when I was in the USA this July, I felt a twang of temptation when a really fine bottle of red wine was ordered by my VC – Sumant Mandal. Strangely, that feeling passed very quickly.

Final conclusion:

– In my case, meditation and trips to sacred places blessed with saints and gods probably made my smoking and drinking desire go away. I think Daya blessed me with the intent to ‘work’ on my drinking habit and that had an instant effect.

– In your case, it could be something else! Maybe a hobby, a new sport, anything!

Oh, sure – you MUST try Yoga and Pranayam and any kind of meditation – that’s guaranteed to make you allergic to smoking and alcohol.

The message I am trying to bring across is that by luck, by chance, by design – make these habits leave you, rather than the other way around.



First Published on: Oct 8, 2011



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  1. WOW…you gave me an absolutely new dimension to think about.


    WOW WOW WOW……and I thought how come I could quit smoking for 3 months last summer. Completely forgot I had hit the gym with a venegence just 2 months before that.


    Simply WOW

  2. thanks Asha for helping me redo this!!

  3. I don’t smoke nor drink (apart from the occassional sip). But I appreciate the message since my dad was a smoker and I remember how much it took for him to quit.

    Thank you for writing such inspiring stuff as I am sure that this message can be applied to other habits which one wants to change.

  4. Alok Sir…This Post made me go HIGHhhhh!!

    I am sure..Reading this , many of your friends would be asking if your STOCK is still there and if that can be shared 🙂

  5. Thanks for sharing your experience. 

  6. Sorry Alok, this is one of your post I really disagree on. For real smokers and drinkers it’s only a demonic ‘will power’ that will work and nothing else. Real smokers and drinkers don’t wait till 30!! They start in their teens. You were never a smoker or drinker you just tried them out.

    I had my first drag when I was 13 and used to smoke once in 3-4months. By 16 i started having 1 in a day. At 18 I got into hostel and lost count. When I got job I started smoking 10/day. 3yrs back I was having 30 cigarettes a day!! By then i had tried to quit 3 times but couldn’t. First time it was for 1month, second time it was for 1 week and third time for just 3 days. I simply gave up to give up. I started working on my startup in 2010. It was only then I realized I need to save more money and energy so I decided to do something about it. I made it a point not to buy more than a pack a day. Now I don’t even buy a pack. When I feel like smoking I walk to the shop and buy 1 or 2. Currently I smoke 4-5 a day.

    I had my first drink at 15. 2 gulps of whiskey right out of the bottle. In hostel we used to drink 2-3 times a week. Anyone drinking less than 180ml(= 3 large peg) wasn’t considered as a drinker. Saturday night drink until we drop. After job me and my roommates from college started drinking everyday 180ml each. Saturday night party became a 2 day affair. Like smoking I tried to quit drinking 3 times but was unsuccessful. Again only after i started working on my startup I decided to quit to save money. I made it a point to drink only on saturday night. Currently I drink once a month.

    I still don’t have the will power to quit completely. Or maybe I don’t have the will power cause I don’t have better reasons. As long as my smoking or drinking isn’t affecting my work or health I am ok with it.

    Note: I belong to Assam and in most places in North East it’s perfectly fine even to drink or smoke with your family. In some communities new born babies are given a drop of local wine at birth. Though in my family its only me and my younger generation who smokes and drinks.

  7. sarfaraz…

    so your startup got you to quit?! rather, slow down…

    very interesting!

  8. Yep 🙂 Actually I think there’s other factors too.
    Till I finished my college I was confused what I want to do, I had low confidence and will power. I was a laid back kinda guy. I am an Electrical Engineer but I worked as a UX designer. I learned designing in my final year on my own when I realized I don’t want to work as an engineer. After I got my job I found my passion and knew what I want to do. I realized I could learn and do anything I want. Over the years my confidence and will power built up. Doing a startup, quitting these became a necessity. I knew it won’t happen by any magic and I have to do something. And so I did.

  9. Hi All, 

            Here’s a wonderful book on “How to Quit Smoking the easy way”! Caution: Success rate for this book is more than 90%!! So why wait? Take some time to flip through the ebook and kick the butt out of your life!

    Thank you folks,


  10. Nice story! Yes, more people need to know about Art of Living. And not only know, but commit for a decent length of time. But I find the average person shudders at the mere mention of spirituality. What a loss!

  11. Very interesting post Alok, if the drive doesn’t come from within it will not happen. It applies to ALL facets of our life! 

    I have known people who have soaking in the bliss of Art of Living have quit smoking and drinking and also eating non-veg (if you consider that’s something as repulsive as other two).

    Kudos to you for bidding good-bye to both! 🙂

  12. thankfully i’ve been born strict vegetarian !

  13. Very good post Alok. Much needed!

  14. The blog content is fine. But there ought to be a further backward integration in all this. Why reach a point in the first place where either of the parties has to quit the other? When I saw one episode of Satyameva Jayate on de-addiction, I was like what the fish! I wrote here that

    Addicts who dived deep into their addiction (alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, etc.) and then left it, become bigger celebrities than those who never got into addiction! Funny, ain’t it! #satyamevjayate! 

    Of the 29 years and 11 months of my incarnation in the human form, I have been working in the field of media for 11 years and 11 months, starting just at the cusp of legal adulthood. Alcohol, cigarettes, non-veg, at times drugs and some other temptations (you know what I mean) was available free all around me — at events, press meets, one-to-one meets, etc –. However, none of them was able to attract me. From the time my career began till today, not one drop, not one puff has touched my lips. And this will continue till my human form ceases to exist, even as all things continue to be free (to my pocket) all around me. By the way, there is no religion standing in between as an obstacle.

    Not getting into addiction is easy as I show, and quitting it is also easy as my dad showed. He too started off as a journalist at a young age and was into drinking, smoking, non-veg (outside of home) till I was about five-six years old. Egg omelette was a staple item of my breakfast then. One fine day I happened to read how hen lays eggs and how chicks come out of eggs. (My father also owned a printing press then, where I spent most of my free time. So my relationship with text, paper and words started quite early) So I read that and I remember I was scared to my wits. Am I killing and eating someone, I thought to myself. Egg was banished from my breakfast since that day. Dad says he realised that I have attained an age where I have started understanding and relating to things around me. Couple of days before this he was slightly drunk and he says he had slapped me for something for the first time. The day I banished egg from my breakfast, my dad stopped – HE STOPPED – drinking, smoking and non-veg, till date.

    We don’t practice yoga or pranayama –not that we are against it, it is definitely good –, what I am trying to point out is that’s not the reason for us to be away from the bottle or the ciggy. It’s just will, nahi karneka toh nahi karneka, baat khatam. While the blog post above is good for those who are already sparkled, others try not be attracted by the sparkle. Believe me, it’s easy!

  15. Gem of a post! Strangely, but not surprisingly; my throat was slightly choked as my reading progressed. Can’t name that feeling!

  16. Here is another thought:

    Breath is software; the body is hardware

    Think of your body & how it’s slowly depreciating. After age 25, its a slow decay. Hair, teeth, bones etc, are on the path of wearing out. Nothing remains pristine. So your “hardware” (body) is surely dying.

    What has remained the SAME from day one & will remain unchanged for the next 50 years? It’s your Breath! Your breath doesn’t decay. Think of your Breath as “software” that’s operates your hardware every second.

    Now, if you PROGRAM your breath (software), you can maintain your body (hardware), make it last very long & perform like a charm.

    Learn about the power of breath & how you can change your life.

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