Mandy's story is an example of how commitment to quit grows stronger with time and what once seemed impossible becomes tangible.
Congratulations on a year smoke-free Mandy, and thanks for sharing your story.
I’ve been trying to write a review of my first smoke-free year for a while now and each time I just think, wow, where to start? And what to say? It’s been an amazing year and an amazing journey in my quit, so I guess I should just start and see where it goes.
I cannot begin to say how amazed I am that I have been able to quit cigarettes, or how grateful I am to this forum and the people in it. I truly never thought I could quit. I’d just sort of accepted that I was never going to be able to. I coughed all the time, had chest pains I denied, and would often wonder where it was going to end. But each time I’d try to quit I’d fail. Until I just stopped trying.
Then I got a reason to do it, and knew that I had to find a way. Coincidentally (but then, is there such a thing?!) I also found this forum at the same time.
The first few days were pretty tough, and it was really important to just take each day, or each hour, or even minute as it came. I decided to do anything at all EXCEPT smoke. Eat, cry, dance, sing, walk, and post on the forum – whatever it took, I did lots of all of them. Smoking was simply not an option.
The NOPE pledge daily was a blessing and a life saver, literally. I would find myself at work, feeling all lonely and sad, watching the smokers, and then I would remember that I wasn’t alone, that I was part of a circle of people holding hands and pledging with each other to stay smoke-free for today. Many times I would take the NOPE pledge 2 or 3 times in a day, whatever it took. Don’t worry about tomorrow, or yesterday, just today.
Then 12 days in I lost the reason for my quit, and I didn’t know what to do. I turned to the forum, and I posted. I think that was when I began to really own my quit, and it became just for me. The support and love I got through that awful time saved my quit, and me, and left some lifelong friends in its wake. It showed me it’s possible to get through ANYTHING without smoking, it really is. My quit became unconditional, as it needed to be.
The emotions in the beginning felt quite overwhelming at times and I realized just how much I had hidden myself behind smoking. Lighting up was how I managed feelings of all kinds, and I had to find some new ways of dealing with life. Joining the gym really helped me to process my stress and anger (and helped with the ‘munching’ I’d taken to at that time!).
For me it was the mindset – they do say that to change your life you need to change your mind. Once I had decided that smoking was not an option, it left me to just get through without it. And I did! I remember the cravings were tough to begin with, like a really bad itch on the inside that I couldn’t scratch. I'd post and post, and find comfort from my quit buddies who were going through the same. I think we pulled each other through sometimes. And after the first week or so, cravings to smoke became less frequent and less intense. From there it was about getting used to life without cigarettes.
Cigarettes were so deeply ingrained in everything I did that I had to get through all the firsts without them to start to rewire my head better. I didn’t always know exactly what had triggered a craving, but one-by-one I got through them, and the next time I faced the same trigger, the craving was gone.
Other times when I had bad cravings, I’d try to work out what I really wanted; what was under the craving. I remember one time I had a bad craving and asked myself ‘what is it that I think I would get from smoking now?’ I thought that I wanted to feel that warmth of being wrapped up in the smoke, the familiarity and comfort, like a big hug (all crazy junkie thinking, by the way!) Identifying those emotions helped me address those real needs – I wrapped myself in a blanket and got a real hug from my husband. THAT was what I needed, not to poison myself in denial. Craving gone, another lesson learned.
Over the year it continued to improve. I haven’t had any cravings in quite some time now. And when I do it’s NOTHING like it was in the early days. It’s more of a passing wistful thought of something that I consciously don’t want anyway. Hard to describe really, but thoughts of smoking now are nothing of note. Mostly I just feel glad and grateful.
My health and my bank balance are good, and I have much more self-respect and confidence. I have gained so much more from smoking cessation than I ever thought I would. I continue to value the support of my quit buddies - I'm grateful to have had such a wonderful bunch of people to share this journey with.
Life has opened up for me in so many ways now. I didn’t realize how many things I placed ‘off limits’ by smoking – not anymore!
If anyone reading this is new to cessation or struggling with it, I would say take everything this forum offers and grab onto it. Take each day (or hour, even minute if it’s bad) at a time and get through it in any way except smoking. Post, post and post more, it will help you and also help the people reading your posts, because they’re probably going through the same things and you can share them.
Keep at the front of your mind that smoking is not an option. Junkie thinking will try to get in, but you can beat it. Education is the key so learn about these things – that way you’re prepared. There’s so much information on the forum, read lots. Forewarned is definitely forearmed.
Remember that no matter what your mind tells you, quitting tobacco is SO do-able if you set your mind to it. Life for me is so much better without cigarettes in it, and that’s something I never dreamed of saying.