This poignant account of one secret smoker's story illustrates the stress that comes with the territory and the support an online community can offer on the road to recovery.
My congratulations go out to About.com Smoking Cessation forum member Nope55 along with my thanks for sharing her story here.
I started smoking when I was 12 years old - buying packs of cigarettes with my paper route money. I grew up in a time where smoking was generally acceptable. Both my parents smoked, but my father did say that if he ever caught me he would make me smoke a whole carton so I would be so sick I would never want to smoke again. Sadly I never got caught and my smoking continued. As everyone around me smoked, no one could smell it on me.
I was soon in high school smoking a pack a day - spending my lunch time in the bathroom with the other “cool kids”. Every one of my friends smoked and in college I could even smoke in lectures. Life went on and I met my future husband. He was anti-smoking so I told him I was a social smoker, (if there is such a thing) having one at parties etc. Little did he know that I was well over a pack a day smoker by then.
I would stop smoking two hours before he arrived home, showered several times a day and changed my clothes faster than I could wash them. I hid the packs in socks tucked away in back of drawers-bottom of the clothes hamper, or in pockets of coats way back in the closet. I never had an ashtray - I used to wrap up the butts in wet paper towels, put them in a baggie and throw them in bins at stores.
Soon I was in my thirties and almost everyone I knew had stopped smoking. They either became pregnant or stopped as their parents were ill. I continued as I did not think I was strong enough to quit and I was still young. I did manage to stop with my two pregnancies but started again soon after. I told everyone I did not smoke as I was ashamed that I was so weak. I did look at my little ones faces and think “I need to quit for them - they need their mother around.”
I started my first quit attempt in 2003. I used Zyban and it totally took the urge away to smoke. It was almost too easy. I did no homework and soon stress hit and bam - I stopped at the store and smoked a whole pack that day. I said to myself - "I will quit soon."
I hated being a closet smoker. I dreaded family holidays as I could not smoke. I hated weekends as everyone was around. I made endless trips to the store so I could stop along the way and smoke. And worst of all, I sometimes gave the kids money to go to the movies so I could stay home and smoke. I also avoided hugs from them if they came home early as I knew I would be found out. I sometimes think people must have smelled it but no one ever commented.
Fast track to 2009. Yes, it took me that long to try the second time. You would have thought that since I had two parents die within nine months of one another due to smoking-related illnesses, I would have quit sooner, but the stress just made me smoke more. This time I used NRT. It was not as easy as Zyban, but I did manage for a few weeks. Then stress hit and the car was on auto drive to the store to buy a pack.
I was now getting obsessed about stopping. I knew genetics were not on my side and that I was getting to an age where I needed to do something really soon. But there was always a reason why today or this month would not work as something was going on in my life.
Then late last March I was volunteering and had to take someone to the hospital for radiation therapy. She looked about 65 and was very frail and could hardly speak. She told me her age and that she had lung cancer and was terminal. I totally freaked out. She was younger than me and had smoked fewer years and fewer cigarettes than I did. I went home, smoked a final cigarette and threw away the pack. I googled quit online groups and found this forum. Since then I have never looked back.
I used NRT during the first month and it was hard, but not as hard as I thought. I did my homework and read Allen Carr every day. He is still in my nightstand. The combination of all this has given me this day, one year smoke-free, and released me from the prison of nicotine addiction and the horrible double life I led.
Thanks to everyone who has helped me along the way, and to all those people who care for a faceless person living on the other side of the world. These past two months have been very challenging for me as I am living on another island from my family doing up a house - No TV, furniture, fridge, computer, etc. It has been stressful living in my former city of Christchurch which still shows the devastation of the earthquakes, my house included. But I stay smoke-free.
Kia Kaha (Maori for stay strong)