I'd like to introduce you to Nenejune. After a long career as a closet smoker, Nenejune finally stubbed out her last cigarette and went in search of some online quit support. She found the support forum here at About.com Smoking Cessation, and quickly settled in. Ten months later, she's able to confidently state that she will never go back to smoking -- and I believe her! The freedom and joy in her account is palpable.
Thanks for sharing your story, Nenejune. You are an inspiration to us all!
Freedom After 40 Years: My Quit Story
I doubt that my story will be much different than other quit smoking stories. As much as we are unique as individuals, I have found that as nicotine addicts, we are very much alike. If anyone new to quitting reads this, maybe they will see something of themselves and realize that they too can quit smoking.
I started smoking at the tender age of 15. That would have been about 1968, and people smoked everywhere at that time. There were cigarette ads on TV, in magazines, and on billboards. Characters smoked on TV and in the movies. People smoked in restaurants, stores, offices, and in their homes. Anyone, any age, could buy cigarettes from a machine for about 50 cents a pack.
My dad smoked, but my mom never did. No one ever told me not to smoke, but somehow I knew I wasn’t supposed to, especially because I was under 18. It was common for the boys my age to smoke, but not very many girls were smoking.
My mom and dad divorced when I was about 12. During one of dad’s visits (when I was 15), I took two cigarettes from his pack and a girlfriend took two from her mom’s pack. I can’t remember the thought process behind this -- I guess we just decided it would be fun. That evening we walked around the far end of our neighborhood smoking. How I wish it would have made me sick, but instead I liked it. Next thing you know, my girlfriends and I started smoking around the boys we hung out with and we all thought we were pretty cool. I hid smoking from my mom and I blamed smelling like smoke on the boys.
I went to work full-time right after high school and moved out on my own at 18. I could smoke at my home, at work, and everywhere I went with my friends, but I still did not smoke around my mother. Mom disapproved of smoking. She accepted it in other people, but I knew she would never accept it for me. I loved and respected my mom so much and I didn’t want to hurt her or upset her. I blamed all smells of smoke on my friends.
When I married my husband at age 23, he smoked too, and when mom was around, it was easy to blame the smell of smoke on my husband. I put pressure on myself to never hurt my mother. My older sister got caught for everything, including smoking, and I think I was trying hard to be the good daughter. I was an adult now and I felt really foolish for hiding smoking from my mother, but the longer it went on, the more I did not want her to know I smoked. Visits with dad were few and far between, and I never smoked around him either.
Gradually the laws began to tighten on smokers in California. I think it was sometime in the 80’s when we began to have designated smoking areas in restaurants and at the office where I worked. It was 1990 when we moved to a brand new house in a city an hour’s drive away from our old home and our families. My husband and I made some rules: No shoes on the new carpet, and no smoking in the new house. I remember my sister laughed about the no smoking in the house rule and she wondered out loud how long that would last. Well, it did last, and the house where we currently live has always been smoke-free inside. Of course, what that meant was we spent a lot of time outside on the patio and in the garage. My husband had a little TV on his workbench in the garage and sometimes I would watch an entire movie out there so I could smoke while watching.
Over the years, smoking was becoming less and less acceptable everywhere. After the move in 1990, I was looking for a new job and it was at the point where many employers in California would not hire you if they knew you smoked. So, for the next 14 years, I felt the need to hide smoking from my employer and co-workers. There were a few people in the office who smoked, but they were by far the minority and they were looked down on and talked about. Again, I was trying to be the good girl and I could not stand the shame of admitting I was a smoker. It was impossible to enjoy my job when all I could think of was getting out of there to smoke. At lunchtime I took off in my car so I could smoke and I never went to lunch with my co-workers. I dreaded events like the office picnic and Christmas party. It was miserable trying to hide being a smoker, but still I chose to smoke.
In 1993, at the age of 42, my husband developed his first heart problems and underwent angioplasty to open his clogged arteries. He was an athlete in high school and started smoking much later in life than I did, but the damage was done. He came home from the hospital as a nonsmoker. I continued to smoke (outside) and I did not even consider quitting. It was unthinkable, it was impossible, it was out of the question. I was worried about his health, but at 40, I was not yet worried about my own. How my husband put up with me I will never know, but he did.