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Donna's Quit Smoking Story

"The first time I tried to quit smoking, I was 14 years old."

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Updated September 30, 2013

Donna's Quit Smoking Story

The Chains of Nicotine Addiction

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A member of the About.com Smoking Cessation support forum, Donna's story of enslavement to tobacco is one that most smokers can identify with.

Thanks for sharing your account, Donna, and congratulations on finally breaking the addiction to nicotine.

I began smoking when I was 13 years old.

Back when I was a teenager, that was the "COOL" thing to do. I wound up being addicted to cigarettes for 45 years.

I went through the same things as many other smokers. I wanted to quit. And I tried to quit. Many times, I tried to quit, but nothing seemed to work.

The first time I tried to quit smoking, I was 14 years old.

I did actually manage to give up smoking for about a month. Then our family moved and I was surrounded by people in my age group who all smoked and it was still the "cool" thing to do. A few puffs with them and I was back to smoking on a regular basis.

My next attempt at "trying" to quit smoking came when I was 16.

I can't remember exactly why I decided to quit that time because I lived with my father and my step-mother and they both smoked. Maybe it was because my father had developed heart problems (he was having heart attack after heart attack) and his doctor told him that the cause was partially due to his smoking. He was advised to quit smoking, which he tried to do, but was unsuccessful in the attempt. I didn't really tie his heart problems and his smoking together then, but I did try to quit. That lasted for about two weeks.

At the end of that quit attempt, I started sneaking cigarettes and smoking in my room, but not in front of my parents. A week later, I told my parents that I had started smoking again. I got the usual admonishments. They didn't want me to smoke, but since they were both still smoking, neither of them had a strong leg to stand on as to why I shouldn't.

My father died just a few months later due to a heart attack. Smoking-related? Probably so.

But, when that happened, my smoking increased to three packs per day due to the stress of losing my father. Mind you, I was a Junior in high school and smoking three packs per day. I can't even imagine now, how I managed to get enough free time to light, AND SMOKE, that many cigarettes per day and still have time to go to school. Can you imagine? That is 60 cigarettes per day! I managed, somehow. My smoking habit eventually settled into two packs per day. And that is where it stayed for many years.

When I was 19 years old, I gave birth to my first daughter. She was a husky nine pounds. And, can you believe, I was still smoking two packs of cigarettes per day? Yes, I was. I smoked two packs per day continuously until after my second child was born, which was when I was 28 years old, and then after my third child was born, which was when I was 30 years old.

When my two youngest children were still small, they started badgering me about my smoking. Evidently they were receiving some lessons in school that were teaching them about the hazards of smoking. I didn't listen to their complaints. I just kept lighting up and smoking away. Of course, I did that in the house while the kids were present. I had no knowledge of secondhand smoke being injurious to others.

In time, I did try to stop smoking again. Not because "I" wanted to, but because my children did. Nothing worked. Sometimes I would make it two days, sometimes three....then, back to smoking I went.

Over the years, I developed quite a cough - you know the kind. It sounds like you are coughing up a lung. Then I started wheezing when I took a breath, especially when I went to bed at night. After a while, this weird feeling developed in my chest, especially on the left side. There were little pains that I hadn't had before and they were very annoying. Since my father had died from a heart attack at age 43, the nagging little pains scared me enough that I finally went to the doctor. That was in 1997.

I went through the normal testing. An EKG proved everything fine with my heart. Chest X-rays proved that I had emphysema. Can you believe that I was actually relieved to hear that news? I was so naive at the time that I thought that emphysema was good news. It scared me enough though, that I did try to quit smoking again. I had a definite reason to quit. Right? Well...guess what....I didn't manage it. I was living with a man who smoked 3 packs per day. Although he went outside to smoke during the time I was trying to quit, the evil side of my brain kept telling me that he was smoking and that cigarettes were within my reach and that I should have some. During my try-to-quit process, I would bum two or three cigarettes per day from him, telling myself that I was quitting and that I just had to do it gradually. I lied to myself and didn't even know it.

One day, during a particularly bad craving spell, I went in search of long "butts." I found one in an outside ashtray. I grabbed my lighter and lit it. In the process, a gust of wind came along and the right side of my hair caught on fire! You can only imagine my panic. The lit cigarette was tossed into the ashtray while I proceeded to beat on my head with my hands to put the fire out. The stench of burnt hair was sickening. The panic had my heart going at 200 miles per hour, it seemed. I managed to get the fire out before too much damage was done. It changed my hair-do quite a bit, which I had to deal with by cutting my hair on the other side to match. It singed the hair on that side of my face, but no scars or major damage was done from the burn.

At that point I should have thrown the lighter away and said I'M DONE WITH CIGARETTES, ONCE AND FOR ALL. Right? That's what any sane person would have done. But no. That's where the evil side of my brain (commonly known as nico-demon) kicked in and told me..."The reason your hair caught on fire is because you were trying to light a butt. You need a whole cigarette instead." So, rather than taking the sane approach and getting back to my quit, I jumped in my car and sped to the nearest store to buy a pack of cigarettes.

From there I was quickly back to a one pack per day habit. I consoled myself by saying I had at least cut my habit in half, since I'd smoked two packs a day before. Well, guess what. Cutting a smoking habit in half is not good enough. It is not a solution. You either smoke...or you don't. PERIOD! The deadly disease of emphysema does not recognize the fact that smoking has been reduced. With every puff, the damage just gets worse. Never better!

What this all boils down to is that in early February of 2002, I developed what I thought was a cold...or possibly the flu. I had fever, chills and coughing like you wouldn't believe. You know the feeling...just sick all over. On February 5th, 2002 it got so bad that I couldn't breathe anymore without coughing. I couldn't take a step or two without gasping for air. I felt like I was drowning when I tried to lie down to sleep, so I spent a night sitting up and trying to get some sleep.

The next morning I was so weak that I had to hold on to my legs, the wall or whatever I could just to walk and breathe at the same time. The last I'd been to a doctor was in 1997. My regular doctor had retired and I hadn't bothered to replace him. I called another doctor and tried to get in to see him. I was told "Sorry, he's not accepting any more patients." In desperation, I called my friend. Crying and gasping for air, I told her I didn't know what to do. I needed to see a doctor but didn't have one anymore. She told me that she would be here within the hour to take me in for medical help.

Since I didn't have a doctor, she took me to the hospital emergency department. Within minutes I was put on oxygen, which helped a little. Four hours later, after chest X-rays, a breathing treatment, and prescriptions for antibiotics and an inhaler, I was released with instructions NOT TO SMOKE. I had pneumonia, and that was on top of emphysema and chronic bronchitis. (The chronic bronchitis part of it was news to me.)

That did it for me. On February 6, 2002, I became a non-smoker. I had my LAST cigarette on February 5, 2002.

I feel so fortunate to be a LIVING non-smoker, instead of a DEAD smoker.

I hope that anyone who reads this can quit BEFORE the problems begin. But, if not, please take heed and read with the thought that "This could be you."

I wish you all well.

Donna =^..^= (Donna14359)

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