My life as a smoker
I was probably 14 or 15 years old when I became a full time smoker. I blame myself, but peer pressure played a big part. The ones I wanted to spend time with or looked up to (sister, cousins, friends), all smoked. It was cool to smoke, and if I didn't smoke, I wouldn't be one of them.
I smoked for roughly 32-33 years and had a love/hate relationship with cigarettes. I probably thought about quitting with almost every cigarette that I lit, even the ones I loved -- with coffee, with a beer, after eating, etc. As much as I was “enjoying” that cigarette though, there was part of me wishing that I was free from the things.
Why and how I quit smoking
During my career in the military, every time I deployed, I wanted to come home better. Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn't.
Maybe I would exercise more, lose weight, gain muscle, quit smoking... Something. But here I was, ten months into a deployment in northern Afghanistan, and I had done nothing to improve myself. Worse yet, I had gained 10 lbs.
But then, the colonel quit smoking and he was making it look easy. Way too easy. Cigarettes had controlled me for over 30 years and this was just enough motivation to get me to give smoking cessation another try. I decided to quit when I finished the last four packs of my carton, and a few days later on May 24, 2009, I put out my last cigarette and went to bed.
I will not lie. I don't think I ever really thought I would actually succeed. I had failed every attempt to quit before and this quit would probably be no different. It was not a matter of “if” I was going to fail; it was a matter of “when”. But, I kept pushing through the urges. The colonel was still doing it, and I was not going to be the first to give in.
I tried nicotine patches for a little more than four days, but I didn’t feel they were helping, and ripped the fifth one off. In my mind, it was me that was pushing through the urges, not the patches. Heck, my mind was my own worst enemy. My mind kept telling me that I would miss smoking forever. But that was the “nicodemon” talking.
Somehow, through determination, I kept going long enough that I started to believe I could do it. I kept thinking to myself, that a day would come that I would not think of smoking every waking minute. I did not look to next week; I worked on today and hoped it would get a little better tomorrow.
I found About.com's Smoking Cessation forum on the 7th day of my quit. I’ll never know if I would have succeeded without it, but I know it definitely helped. By posting my quit intentions in public, I told everyone reading it that I was going to give this quit an honest attempt. By jumping in and giving advice, I was helping myself as much as I was helping others.
I quit with determination, and a (somewhat) positive attitude. My number one reason to quit was to take back the control from cigarettes and nicotine.
I did it.
It has been over 15 months now, and I DO NOT MISS CIGARETTES. I am thanking myself every day for quitting. I love being free!
- Think positive: Know that the uncomfortable feelings you have in the early days of your quit are temporary. You will not always have that “empty” feeling. YOU WILL NOT MISS SMOKING FOREVER. Keep yourself in a positive frame of mind.
- It gets better: The further I got into my quit, the more I believed in it, and the easier it became. It has been a gradual healing from nicotine addiction.
- Keep your quit reasons with you in the early days: I also listed out family/friends who quit before me and things to do if I get an urge.
- Get support: As I said above, a forum full of quit buddies helped me. It kept me honest, and it even kept my quit fun at times.
Terry Martin, About.com Smoking Cessation, says:Most of us quit smoking thinking we'll fail. Nicotine addiction has a way of stealing our will to try before we've even given it a shot. However, with some determination, education, and a solid support network, this addiction can be overcome and freedom grasped. Kevin's story is a great example of that.
Thank you for sharing your journey, Kevin...your story rings true and tells us that we do have what it takes to succeed with cessation...all of us.
Enjoy year two! The foundation you've set during your first smoke-free year will sustain your new life as you move forward from here.