The American Lung Association is sharing inspiring stories from individuals who have been able to end their addiction to tobacco and stop smoking through #TheDayIQuit blog series. Quitting smoking isn't easy, but it is possible—and we firmly believe that anyone can quit with the right support. If you, or someone you know, would like to quit smoking, share with them the new, interactive Freedom From Smoking® Plus.
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I was 9 years old in 1967 when my grandmother gave me a puff of her cigarette. I liked it. She was cool and I wanted to be cool, too. My brother and I would occasionally nab one of her cigarettes and smoke together. A year later, I was "nabbing" cigarettes wherever I could find them. One time when I was 10 or 11, my dad caught me with a pack of cigarettes and made me smoke the whole pack. I got sick, real sick. Another time, he caught me and made me eat the cigarettes. That too made me sick. But neither of those experiences made me want to quit. By the time I was in junior high school, I was smoking regularly. I lived off a military base overseas and was able to buy cigarettes very cheaply. If I knew someone over 18, I could get them on base for $3.50 a carton! By high school, I would save my lunch money to buy smokes. I was hooked.
I am 58 years old. I have smoked for almost 50 years. I have three children and would quit when I was pregnant. That was "easy." I did it for my unborn child. I'm a mother—we do that. But I always restarted shortly afterward to "help lose the weight" or "because of the stress" or for some other excuse. I smoked to help myself stay calm during times of stress. I smoked to get my head clear. I smoked when I drank. I smoked when I didn't drink. I smoked when I needed a break. I smoked to get away from the crowd. I never smoked in my house—only outside—it justified my smoking.
I've tried to quit before. I've set that quit date. I've listened to my children plead for me to quit. I've listened to my grandchildren plead for me to quit. It'll kill you, they said. It makes you smell, they said. I had all the excuses, the justifications—but no desire to quit. I liked smoking. It was my friend. It was always there for me. My grandmother died from bladder cancer caused by smoking. Even when the doctors were checking me for bladder cancer, I had no desire to quit.
I tried quitting prior to my daughter's wedding in 2012. We were going to Costa Rica. We were going kayaking, white water rafting, zip-lining, hiking in the rain forest... I wanted to do these things, so I quit about a month before the wedding. At the reception, I smoked a cigar with the son-in-law. I liked it. When I got home, a friend and my sister needed a place to stay so I let them stay with me for a while. My sister smoked and I would nab a cigarette from her. I started buying a pack... then went full bore back to smoking a pack a day. I had horrible withdrawal symptoms: sickness, mood swings and personality changes. I knew it would kill me eventually.
In February 2016, I decided when I finished these last two cartons of cigarettes, I would quit. It wasn't until I got to the last four packs that I realized I was seriously considering it. It was almost kayaking season. I love kayaking. I was working at a fairly new job that was against smoking in all forms. My employer did not make it easy on us smokers. I live in Oregon and we had to walk in the rain to an outside ashtray away from the building to smoke. I was working with people who didn't smoke. I was working with people who liked to walk and my new employer even had exercise equipment for those that needed or wanted to use it. I could never do that before because, well, I couldn't breathe from all the damage smoking had done to my lungs!
I prayed to my higher power/source as I have always done before asking for help quitting so my children wouldn't be so disappointed in me. I wanted to do this for them. Then I thought, "NO, I want to do this for ME! It is about time that I love ME!" I changed my prayer from one seeking help to one where I had the desire to quit. You see, I never had that desire. So I sat in my meditation chair not smoking, visualizing the desire to be a non-smoker. On March 15, 2016, I had one cigarette left in my pack and I smoked it on the way to work. I have not had a cigarette since that time. I have occasionally walked out to the smoker's corner to hang with them and chat but even that has stopped. I catch myself with the habitual stuff. Yes, the desire is still there occasionally but not the addiction. I have that desire to be smokefree and I am no longer a smoker.
Since that time, I have started walking with a group of women at work. We walk every day. At first, I would take the easy route and avoid "The Hill" but my mindset changed to one of getting healthy. I work out now. I am replacing fat with muscle and my body is in less pain. I still have problems breathing on "The Hill" but it is getting better. I have stamina to kayak three miles at a time. I hike and don't have to stop as much as I did before. I am getting stronger. I have lost 28 pounds after quitting smoking. My cooking tastes better. I've always been a good cook but I didn't realize I wasn't tasting everything. The flavors are new and exciting! My life truly has changed.
The difference now is I WANT TO LIVE. It's a big difference.