And So It Begins...Those first few days are a bit of a blur now. Even with the patch and my new prescription, nicotine withdrawal was difficult. I had headaches and felt disoriented, lost, and confused. I was miserable and scared, but I was committed and determined.
On day eight of my quit I was crying, I missed smoking terribly, and I did not know how to handle the emotions that went along with quitting smoking. I told myself if I didn’t feel better by the next day, I would say the heck with this and I would buy some cigarettes. It was mid-afternoon when I thought to look online for a support group, and I found About.com Smoking Cessation. I read for hours. I was mesmerized by the articles, stories, and posts, as well as the outpouring of compassion, hope, and support. I was feeling like the worst addict in history, and here I found people just like me and they were quitting smoking successfully! I began to believe I could really do this too. By the time I made my first post later that day, I actually sounded fairly calm and confident.
So many Forum Angels were there with words of encouragement. The August Ash Kickers took me right in and I knew I was among friends. I had quit smoking without doing any research and without a plan. At About.com, my education about nicotine addiction began and so did my healing.
I learned that recovering from my addiction would be a process that would take time and patience. I learned about changing my relationship with smoking and about retraining my brain to think like a nonsmoker. As hard as it was in the beginning, I believed those ahead of me when they said it all gets better with time. I believed NOPE (not one puff ever) was the only way, because one would only lead to another and put me right back where I used to be. I believed that smoking was no longer an option under any circumstance.
I read and posted on the forum every day, I drank water, I did a lot of deep breathing, I sucked on lollipops, and I walked. I knew that if I gave up, I might never have the nerve to quit again. Gradually, as promised, I felt better as time went by and I got used to a new routine that did not include smoking.
Thanksgiving landed on my three-month anniversary. Christmas was two days before my four-month anniversary. Being a nonsmoker was still new and somewhat difficult for me, but I managed to have a houseful of company on both holidays and I did not suffer the anxiety that I used to have when I constantly wanted to get away and smoke.
I had some post-holiday stress and by New Year’s I was feeling really down. I found myself wishing I could smoke like it was week one again. Somehow I managed to separate my feelings about what was really bothering me, and I realized it had nothing to do with smoking or not smoking. This was a breakthrough for me and I was able to stop blaming everything I felt on quitting smoking.
By four and a half months, thoughts of smoking were just thoughts, not craves, and I was no longer struggling. I began to feel acceptance and peace as a nonsmoker. There have still been ups and downs along the way, but nothing that could make me go back to smoking.
Shortly before my sixth month, my husband survived a heart attack and double bypass surgery. The stress of his illness never made me want to smoke. Knowing that heart disease is the number one cause of smoking-related death, I was more thankful than ever that I had quit. I am now ten months smoke-free and looking forward to my one-year anniversary and beyond!
The benefits of not smoking continue to grow as more time passes. The cough I used to have was completely gone within only one week of quitting smoking. I used to walk about one mile with my dog and now we are going about four or five miles a day.
Caffeine and cigarettes seem to go together. I used to drink so much tea and Diet Coke, and now I drink water by choice. I used to stay up late, drinking caffeine and smoking, and now I sleep. The freedom I now have to go places with my mom and nonsmoking friends is wonderful!
Learning to deal with my emotions without running outside for a cigarette may have been the hardest part of the quit process. It took time, but not smoking is the new normal. I will be forever grateful for the education and support I received on our forum. I do worry about the long-term effects on my health from so many years of smoking, but for now I am okay and thankful to be smoke-free. My younger sister still smokes, and I pray she will decide to join us soon.
I could write a book, but I don’t need to because everything you need to know about quitting smoking is right here. My best advice to newcomers is go to our Quit Smoking Library and read everything you can. Post to others and listen to what they have to offer. There is so much support here, so open your mind and your heart and take it all in.
Quitting smoking will take the biggest commitment you have ever had to make, but it will be a most rewarding experience and so worth the effort. You have heard this many times before, and you will hear it again from me:
If I can quit smoking, so can you!