Recently, a close family member was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer which has spread to the brain and lymph nodes. It’s been shocking and sudden. One day everything is normal and then the next you find out nothing will ever be the same.
I used to smoke cigarettes. Yep. I started when I was 15. By my 18th birthday I was smoking nearly a pack a day. Once I reached my 20’s I started feeling like I didn’t want to smoke anymore, but by that time I was so addicted it was difficult to just stop. It wasn’t until shortly after my 24th birthday, after many failed attempts, that I was able to successfully quit. I came down with the H1N1 virus. Remember that craziness? I saw that as my chance. I didn’t want to smoke because I felt so terrible. It takes 72 hours for you to get over the physical addiction. By the time I was over the swine flu, it had been more than 72 hours since my last cigarette. I knew that at that point it was all mental.
I created a reward system to help me stay focused. For the first month, I rewarded myself every week for not smoking. A nice dinner out, a pair of shoes, expensive chocolate, things like that. After the first month, I rewarded myself every month. I found I looked forward to my little rewards that I planned ahead. I also replaced smoking with exercise which was a reward in itself. To run a mile and not hack up a lung felt amazing. I love to sing and I found my voice started to get clearer and my breath control improved. After the first year, I felt pretty confident and no longer needed the rewards.
It’s been 7 years since I quit smoking and I have cheated maybe a handful of times (usually alcohol has been involved), but I have happily remained a non-smoker. I am grateful that I quit. Smokers are slaves to smoking. You plan your day around your cigarette breaks. There’s a stigma you live with every day. You are judged as a smoker. Yes. You are. It sucks but it’s reality. I was constantly paranoid that I smelled – which I’m sure I did. I was also constantly aware of the damage I was doing to my body starting at such a young age. Once I quit, I was free of all that anxiety. I found I had all this free time and money. I planned my day around activities and not when my next cigarette break would be. Food tasted better. Wine tasted better. Everything smelled better. My skin looked better. That awful yellowing around my ring and pointer fingers from holding a cigarette started disappearing. Yeah, that shit happens and it’s unattractive.
If you are trying to quit smoking but can’t seem to be successful, know that every day it gets easier and easier. Every day you’ll experience something positive and new as a direct result of quitting smoking. There is support out there. Reach out. It helps. Figure out what will work for you. If the rewards option doesn’t seem appealing then do something else. You’ll be glad you did. I have never met an ex-smoker who regretted quitting smoking.
Have you quit smoking? I’d love to hear your quitting story. Let’s share so those who are struggling to let go of nicotine can find some inspiration in our stories.
I leave you with a picture of the first harvest from my vegetable garden. If I were a smoker, these beauties wouldn’t taste as flavorful as they are.