Thanks for sharing your story Kathy, and congratulations on a year smoke-free!
When I was young I hated smoking. I even threatened to break-up with my high school boyfriend when I discovered a pack of cigarettes in his shirt pocket! Five years later, I married that High school boyfriend. How ironic that by then he had quit smoking, but I had started and continued to smoke for the next 40 years.
I lit my first cigarette during my freshman year in college, while nervously studying for finals. My roommate offered me a cigarette promising that it would "Calm me down and help me concentrate." The first of many lies about smoking that I would believe.
I loved smoking from the very first drag. No coughing, no "learning how" for me. I quickly worked my way up to at least a pack a day from then until Dec. 1, 2011 when I finally quit. I thought of quitting at various times during those 40 years...I'd tell myself I'd quit at 35, 40, definitely when I hit 50! Those ages came and went and I still smoked. I smoked through 3 pregnancies, and I smoked through my dad's death from lung cancer.
As the years passed, fewer and fewer people seemed to be smoking and it became less and less acceptable. I resented being ostracized to designated smoking areas and then -- how dare they! -- exiled to the outside in the cold, the rain, the heat. Eventually it seemed I was the only one sneaking out for a smoke, hugging the sides of buildings, trying to avoid the disgusted looks from people walking by. I hated the way my home, my car, my hair and I smelled!
I never wanted my grandchildren to know that I smoked. As they got older, it got harder to hide it from them and I dreaded the day one of them would say "You stink, Grammie!". But the final push to quit came when a very dear friend was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Colleen and I were the only smokers left in our circle of friends. She quit when the doctors found the tumors in her lungs. I'll never forget the day we went out to lunch and she reached across the table, grabbed my hands and said "Don't let the doctors decide when you quit...you decide when you quit". Colleen steered me to on-line quitting sites.
For the first time, I took off the blinders and really read the truth about smoking. As I sat at the computer night after night....still smoking....I learned about the damage smoking does. I learned about the poisons and the chemicals in cigarettes. I learned about nicotine addiction. I learned about death from smoking. I learned it was time to take responsibility for my own health. I learned that an educated quit is a successful quit.
I am no stranger to addiction. I got sober Dec. 1, 1999, so I chose Dec. 1, 2011 as my quit date. I used the patch and for me it was a huge help with the physical withdrawal symptoms. The psychological withdrawal was more difficult and that is where this forum played a huge role in my quit. For weeks I read EVERYTHING.........every thread, every journal, every article, every question. Then I finally felt brave enough "to speak"....and now they can't shut me up! The sharing between the members, the commiseration, the suggestions......it is all invaluable and what helped seal my quit. I cared about the members and I knew they cared about me.
Was cessation difficult? Oh my, YES. But I knew I had to quit if I wanted any chance of living longer and healthier and seeing my grandchildren grow up. I used all the tips suggested and totally embraced the NOPE philosophy. I knew from my AA program that even ONE cigarette was NOT an option. The only way to live peacefully with an addiction is to never use the addictive substance again. I view addiction as a voracious, ugly animal -- but if you cease feeding it -- it will die.
The big question new ex-smokers always ask is when does it get better or when will I stop missing smoking? The answer is that for each person it is different. For me, there were some rewards right away. My skin look healthier, pinker; my teeth started looking whiter, and the coughing completely stopped. There were days I felt great and never thought of smoking and days when I still missed it. The first year was full of "firsts"...the first time I planted my gardens, painted a room, washed my car -- all were things I did while smoking. But once the association was broken, it passed and the next time I washed my car I didn't think of smoking.
I am so glad I stuck it out and stayed completely QUIT. The freedom is incredible! I can go anywhere for any amount of time and not think about where and when I can escape to smoke. I can hold my grandkids on my lap and not worry about smelling like smoke. Quitting smoking is one of the hardest things I have done...and it is also one of the most rewarding.