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Christine's Quit Story

"Things might be different today, had I not begun smoking as a teen..."

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Updated July 14, 2008

Christine's Quit Story

Illustration of Emphysema from A.D.A.M.

From your About.com Guide to Smoking Cessation, Terry Martin: Christine Rowley was the Guide here at About.com Smoking Cessation for many years. She helped more people quit and stay that way than we could ever begin to count. Sadly, we lost Christine in July of 2004 when she succumbed to a stroke. I think she'd be pleased to know how much her words continue to help those people working to quit smoking. Thanks, and may you rest in peace, Christine.

Smoking for nearly 35 years got me where I am today: living in a body with COPD lung disease(emphysema, asthma and chronic bronchitis), with oxygen hosed in 24/7, and a fervent wish that I had never started in the first place. Things might be very different today, had I not begun smoking as a teen. I feel that I became a nearly hopeless nicotine addict in a very short time.

Smoking became the thing to do mainly for one reason at the time and that was to rebel. I did it because I knew my parents wouldn't like me doing it. I coughed and choked and got dizzy the first few times I tried smoking, and I wondered if there wasn't an easier, more enjoyable way to rebel for my tender 15 year old body. But, I was told that this was cool, the "in" thing to do...that all the popular kids were doing it, too. Well, yeah! I wanted to be popular and it wasn't as dangerous or as wild as SOME of the stuff other kids were doing in the name of popularity, so I began to sneak smokes occasionally. I only smoked with my friends and it seemed that most of them were smoking too.

Though I had used smoking as a way to rebel, when I turned 16, I wanted to be able to smoke at home with my folks' approval and not feel so guilty about sneaking around behind their backs. When I brought the subject up, my parents were not happy about it and although I got a stern lecture from my dad about the consequences of smoking, they relented and allowed me to smoke at home. Knowing how my mom thought, the idea was that I would most likely smoke less if allowed to smoke at home without guilt pangs driving me to smoke more. That may have been the idea, but it didn't work out that way. I wish I had listened to my dad.

Life was good when I was young and footloose...fancy free. I worked in civil service with computers, but they were WAY different than they are now...(took up a whole wall and wouldn't do what the one on my desk does now!) and enjoyed spending the weekends scuba diving, fishing, drinking and partying. I lived in the gorgeous Florida Keys and stayed there when my Navy dad transferred back to the west coast. I went to "hootenanny" bars at night and did lots of smoking then. It didn't seem to be affecting my health yet. But, nicotine and Ole Demon Nic is darn sneaky, as I found out much later.

The first time there was an inkling that cigarettes could really harm me was when I was about 25 and being treated for alcohol abuse where I'd been sent to spend the next 30 days in rehabilitation. That is a whole OTHER story, and that's not the subject of this story. But, I will admit that I've been sober that way since 1975, due to the Grace of God. Back to smokes, well, that admitting physician had said that if I didn't quit smoking, I'd have emphysema with 5 years. I laughed at him then and when I got out, I managed to latch on to an AA program and started getting my life in order once again. I wish I had listened to the doctor about smoking!

I was told by somebody in AA that I couldn't possibly manage to quit two addictive things at one time and be successful. I was all for hearing that. I'd go to meetings every day and I loved it. Everybody in the room would be smoking and if there WERE any non-smokers coming into the room, they were unwitting smokers when they walked out with all that second hand smoke! We all left that room in a virtual CLOUD of smoke...and so it went for year in and year out...reekingly! I was sober and helping others and my life was getting better, but in one area, my life was starting to get worse. I was smoking more and enjoying it less. I was also beginning to cough now and then and attributing it to a smoker's cough.

Marriage and baby carriages came along when I felt emotionally mature enough for a relationship with a solid non-drinking, non-smoking man who could accept me as I was. I never tried to hide the fact that I was a recovering alcoholic from him and he didn't seem to mind my smoking. We were still years away from knowing about secondhand smoke and what it can do to folks. Two years after we were married, I had a beautiful baby girl. When did I quit smoking? The minute I walked into the hospital to give birth! I suppose I didn't believe that my smoking during my pregnancy with Jennifer would affect her in any way, but I found out I was mistaken when she weighed in at 5 1/2 pounds. That's less than they would have like her to carry at birth, and I'm SURE now it was due to my continuing to smoke.

I decided to stay quit, thinking if I could go a few days without smoking, maybe I could just quit altogether for the rest of my life. I began to wonder if perhaps my past smoking continued to affect her.

She became a colicky baby and could cry and scream for 8 or 9 hours at times. It would break my heart to think she was that uncomfortable. The doctors wanted me to give her Tylenol with codeine, but I didn't want to put dope in her body.

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