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Sally Quit Smoking

The First Three Smoke-Free Years


Updated July 21, 2013

Sally Quit Smoking
Photo © Sally
This article spans the first three years of About.com Smoking Cessation forum member Sally's smoke-free journey (she calls yearly milestone re-birthdays). Read from start to finish, it is a powerful testament to the healing that we can all hope to achieve when we quit smoking.

Sally's 1st Re-birthday

One year ago I made a change. I decided to stop smoking. It sounds quite simple really. Just don't smoke. Could it really be that simple? If so, why was I terrified? What if I failed? My mind was spinning because I had never allowed myself to believe I could do this. Suddenly, it seemed so amazingly clear. I was done. I hated it.

I believe my first "aha" moment came within those first minutes of quitting. Smoking for me was no longer an option. How could I possibly make this stick? Allen Carr's book, The Easy Way To Stop Smoking was an eye opener and a tremendous help. This man changed my mind about smoking. He made sense.In fact, he made a lot of sense.

I then found this forum and read every single article I could find. I learned so much and the more I read, the more determined I became. I learned of N.O.P.E., which immediately became my mantra and will always be my mantra. Who knew four small words could hold such significance? Not me at the time, but it sure has come in handy on more than a few occasions.

So much new information to process, so many quit stories inspired me, but it was this article After The Last Cigarette, which stuck with me the most. From this article, I learned how quickly my body would begin to heal. I had knowingly caused damage for all of this time, yet I learn the body is amazingly resilient. Perhaps forgiving? I owed it to myself to make this happen. Learning that nicotine leaves the system within 72 hours was thrilling to me. I could do this!

After the first few weeks, the physical act of "not smoking" was the easy part. Filling the void left behind was a far greater challenge. What to do with all of this time? With me? With my thoughts? I had smoked through everything. You name it...Happy? Sad? Frustrated? A job well done? That cigarette had been my exclamation point. My way of dealing without really dealing. I was convinced smoking ended everything perfectly. How wrong I was. Since I quit I have been forced to deal, and while it isn't always easy, it is great to feel for the first time in a long time.

In my attempt to fill the void I did a lot of soul searching. What would make me happy? I had always envied "those people." You know the ones. The people who love to work out. The ones who have that healthy glow and boundless energy. The ones who make healthy food choices but on occasion splurge on something really sinful, enjoy every moment, and then go right back to their healthy lifestyle. I had never been this person. Perhaps I should credit the "brain fog" I experienced early on, but I was now convinced I could be. Who was this person making all of these wise choices?! It was me. The me that was finally emerging from behind the smoke.

So exercise I did. I researched nutrition. I filled my cupboards and fridge with the good stuff. Little by little, day by day, I was doing it. At times I felt hopeless. At times I felt as if I were on top of the world. I would be laughing hysterically one moment and burst into tears the next. Crazy stuff. I came to realize this quitting thing was going to take some time. Time to relearn many, many behaviors.

This journey gave me the strength to make some changes I had been wanting to make for a very long time. I had let myself become "okay" with the person I was. Not smoking made me realize I don't have to settle. Not smoking built my self esteem. Not smoking did a whole lot more for me than I ever thought it would do.

So, here I stand, one smoke-free year later. Stronger. Wiser. Happier. Healthier. But most of all, prouder of myself than I've ever been before.

Sally's 2nd Re-birthday

I took notice of the most beautiful bird recently. I used to think birds just flapped their wings and were automatically propelled into flight, but now I know there is much more to it.

This bird owned it. Swooping and soaring, then landing on the telephone pole outside my office window. Show off. I swear that bird looked right at me, paused for a moment and then sang the most beautiful tune. That bird was happy.

How could I tell, you may ask?

I totally identify with that bird because this bird (me) owns it too...I'm finally free. I soar. And I sing, not all that well mind you, but I do it anyway.

Quitting smoking was the single most important thing I ever did for ME. I've done lots of nice things for other people in my life. Somehow the ME I took such good care of long, long ago got lost in the smoke. I am happy to say that she has finally returned. Stronger and healthier than ever before. And after two years of breathing clean air, she is someone I continue to be pretty darn proud of.

Please join me. I have often said, "you gotta want it and if you do... you will get it." I stand by those words. This forum is magic and will help you make it happen. You will not only improve your health, but your self-esteem will soar! Just like that bird. It may take some time, but all things worthwhile do. YOU and only YOU have the power to make it happen.

You CAN and WILL do this.

Ahhh...pinch me...it's been two years?!

Sally's 3rd Re-birthday

Since a picture's worth a thousand words, I'll try to keep this brief...

3 years quit.
Over $10,000 saved.
My fitness level is at a personal best.*
My weight also.*
Self-esteem soaring. Yes, the first year was hard.
The first few months especially.
Worth the struggle?
Oh Yes...you bet!

Do this. Just get it done.
You are way too smart to smoke and you know it.
I give you total permission to yell and scream at me in 3 years if you don't feel the same way I do.
This place is the best.
Read and post...and N.O.P.E.
It works.

* BEWARE: quitting smoking can lead to a positive domino effect. I was very overweight and out of shape when I quit. Beating this nicotine thing gave me the confidence to tackle my other demons. Working out and eating right finally felt good. My best advice? Do what you can to stay quit. The rest will fall into place.

Note: Sally rounded out her story with a message at the 5 year mark: Flying High at 5 Years Smoke-Free

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