I began smoking for one simple reason: everyone around me did it.
Both my parents were heavy smokers. I started smoking at 15, sneaking cigarettes from them when they weren't looking. I wasn't alone, and as the youngest of five, all of my brothers and sisters picked it up. At one point, everyone in the house smoked. When I was 17, my parents started sending me to the store with a note saying that I had permission to buy cigarettes for myself and for the rest of the family.
Other adults I knew growing up and many of my classmates also smoked. My friends and I often smoked on our way home from school, walking along the riverbed so we didn't get caught. But even if we did, it wasn't a big deal. Smoking was just what everyone did.
Over the years, smoking became less of something I did on occasion and more of an addiction. I got married at the age of 22 to a man who was also a smoker, and so smoking continued to be a part of my life. By my early 30s, I was smoking about a pack a day and smoking was intertwined into my daily routine. Wake up, have a cigarette. Eat breakfast, have a cigarette. After lunch, after dinner, cigarette.
How much I smoked was often related to my levels of stress. When I was between jobs, I smoked more than when I was working. Once, after I had been laid off, I was up to two packs a day.
Over time, many people around me quit smoking. Both of my parents and most of my siblings are smokefree. I, too, tried to quit smoking a couple of times. A few years ago, I noticed that my health was declining and it was harder for me to keep up with my two grandchildren, who desperately wanted me to quit. I could go three weeks without a cigarette, and then my husband would walk by smelling like a cigarette and I'd light up again. Or something stressful happened and I’d need the cigarette to calm my nerves.
The timing wasn't right before, but it is now. Smoking has always been there, a constant in my life, but that's about to change. At the age of 56, I am finally ready to quit smoking for good.
Dorothy K., of Lansing, Illinois, shares her story of quitting smoking in the series, "My Quit Story." Follow along, and share your own story on Facebook and Twitter with #MyQuitStory.