Quitting Smoking: My Story
How We Start
There are many reasons people start smoking. The top three reasons I hear are: "I started because my parent's smoked and cigarettes were easily accessible.", "I thought it would make me look grown up." and "The people I hung around smoked and I thought they were cool, (or wanted to fit in) so I wanted to do it too."I fell into the latter two of those three.
My cousin who was a few years older than me smoked. I would follow her around and watch her and her cute boyfriend smoke. I thought it would help me fit in and look older to them. Neither was true but I picked it up anyway. I would borrow cigarettes from them; they made me choke and cough. Plus they tasted nasty but I was determined to show them I was not a baby. It was not long before I was hooked and smoking more and more each day. I was twelve.
In my teens, I decided it was time to quit. Not because I really thought I should but because it was the thing people were doing at the time. I knew it was unhealthy but I was not really worried, I could quit anytime I thought. Wrong! My first attempt was a disaster. I think I went for a few hours before I broke down. I had not expected the strong cravings nor the antsy feeling I experienced with them. I made a point of telling everyone it was just too difficult to quit and I was not up to it yet. An excuse. But it really was harder than I first thought. It did not help that smoking was so popular at the time. Everyone seemed to be smoking. Plus smoking was allowed in all public spaces including restaurants and movie theaters. The only place you could not smoke was in the grocery store. Thankfully, that is one thing people do not have to deal with today.
My second attempt to quit was after a personally traumatic event. My mother smoked and often used a pop can as an ashtray. As I walked by I picked up the can thinking it was mine and took a big sip. You can imagine how awful that was. I considered at that moment how that awful taste was a part of what was going inside me and I tried again to quit. This time I lasted a two days before I broke down. Again, surprised that the cravings lasted even days into quitting. There were many failed attempts over the years and I was not sure I would ever be able to stop.
The attempts were important, however, because each time I learned something new about myself, the effects of withdrawal, and where my weaknesses lay. I also smoked a little less after each attempt. Knowledge is power and as you learn you can better protect yourself the next time you try to quit.
Motivation and Failure
By the time I was in my mid-twenties I was a pack and a half a day smoker. This is also the time frame when I began attending church, to my knowledge no one there smoked. But still, I did not quit. I had a loathing of self for my weakness and began to smoke in hiding and never in my home. This at least helped because it slowed down the behavior and over time I went down to about half a pack a day or less.
When I got pregnant I decided I was not going to expose my small baby to such a vile habit and instantly quit for two years. Just like that, I quit. But it ended when I took a drag off someone else's cigarette at a party. You might be thinking so what? It was one drag, no big deal. You would be wrong. Even a drag can entice you back in. A drag leads to a few drags, which leads to a whole cigarette and then can lead you right back into the addiction. Which is exactly what happened to me. I never went back to the number of cigarettes I had before but I was still smoking again.
As I said when we quit and fail we learn. What I had learned was invaluable. My breathing was getting a bit more labored than it should and sometimes my chest felt heavy. My clothes smelled, I had bad breath, my teeth were yellow and no matter how much I cared for them, my gums bled. Plus I was so humiliated and tired of hiding the fact I smoked from everyone. I was again motivated. I did not want to die for a stupid habit. I knew what had not worked for me and what had, so I made a point of setting an exact time to quit. Setting a time made me responsible for the action, which is what I needed. I am a planner and it was important to lay down hard rules for myself in order to succeed.
After making the decision to quit I knew the first thing I must do. Pray. I knew God would give me the strength to stop if I really wanted it. I needed that power behind me. I just needed to get my brain and body to cooperate. My habit at the time was to go outside to smoke. Another problem was that I would sit out there with a family member who smoked. That had to end. I did not go outside in the yard for weeks. I refused to put myself into a situation that could make me fail. I was determined this would be my last attempt, it would be the end. My family member was not happy that I no longer sat outside and chatted and tried to convince me it would do no harm to just sit and talk, but I was not budging.
I had read that if you ignore a craving for fifteen minutes it would go away, so everytime I got one I started watching TV or distracted myself in another way. Sure enough, it worked. It always passed. I had to be distracted because it was important not to focus on the craving. Within a few days, the physical cravings were gone. The mental cravings, however, were not. They soon became less and less and eventually, they were gone completely. It was not too long before being near someone smoking made me feel sick. The smell was horrible! How did I ever allow it into my life?
Be Careful of Triggers
As a smoker, you already know when you most desire a cigarette. For me, it was eating, especially sweets. Other people are triggered by alcoholic beverages, being around smoking, and certain foods...maybe all food. For others, it is the habit itself that is an issue. They have become accustomed to raising their hand to their mouth or seeing the smoke. Occasionally it is a certain place that can trigger a yearning.
I had to stop going into the yard for a while to break my habit and also avoid anything that would trigger another craving. The key is to avoid those things and places from the beginning. You may find there are places you no longer go to at all. Stop the triggers, stop some of the urgings.
Helps to Quit
No one way works for every person. I was able to stop cold turkey along with avoidance of places and keeping myself distracted. Some can quit cold turkey without doing anything else and still have the ability to go on with their regular lives. For other's, it can be a real challenge. Below are some ideas and tips to help get you past the urge to smoke.
Prayer - For those who believe there is no better way to quit than with the power of God behind you.
Online help - There are both government and private companies that offer counselors, answer questions, and have web chats for those who want to quit.
Use a nicotine patch, pills, or gum - This works for some but be sure not to smoke while using it as it can make you very sick. Also, plan on using it only for a short time as some people to become addicted to the patch.
Throw them out - Do not revert to cigarettes when stressed. Make a plan and stick to it. It only takes a few days to get through the actual addiction. After that, all you need is the mental strength to avoid it. Stay calm and do not fret over it.
Ear magnets - I do not know anyone who has used these but ear magnets are said to stop the cravings.
Stay positive - You can do it! Keep telling yourself that and remind yourself of all the people you know who have quit already.
No drags - Not even one cigarette should touch your mouth. Throw away any cigarettes you have on hand and empty/throw away any ashtrays.
No excuses - Do not let those around you convince you to start up again. If there is another smoker in your home ask them to isolate themselves while smoking or preferably move outdoors.
Fill your time - Take the time you used to fill with smoking and do something pleasurable. Once you have quit you can enjoy going out to restaurants and people's homes without trying to figure out how, when, and where you can sneak off and smoke. Having the control over your life back is very freeing!
Fill your mouth - No I do not mean eating. Some people do that and just end up adding to their waistline. What I mean is replace the action. Carry around a toothpick or straw and put it in your mouth when you get the urge. Many find this physical act helps curb their cravings.
Wellbutrin - Although I hate to tell anyone to take drugs of any kind, there is some proof that some anti-depressants can help people quit smoking. Ask your doctor if that is right for you.
Vapor pipes - For those who have come to enjoy the action of smoking, some feel a water vapor pipe helps them overcome the need to actually smoke. Be careful using them. There have been incidents of vape pens blowing up and it is possible to become addicted to them as well.
You can do it too!
You can quit! Believe in yourself and stay convinced of it. You have heard you feel better after you quit and it is true. You will notice big differences as time passes. You may also be avoiding such diseases as; bladder cancer, lung cancer, emphysema, COPD, rheumatoid disease, throat cancer, and more!