The following narrative details the story of one of my readers, Jessica, learned how to quit smoking using a relatively new medication recently approved by the FDA. Jessica did it, and so can you.
When I was very young, I would pray every night for my mom to finally discover how to quit smoking. I can remember taking a cigarette right out of her hand, when I was ten, and breaking it in half. The truth was that my mom didn't know the dangers of smoking when she became addicted to cigarettes at 17 years old, but I did. I was of the generation that was taught the dangers of smoking at a very young age. Still, I smoked.
I smoked my first cigarette when I was 13 years old. My step-sister and I stole a pack out of a carton that my mom and step-dad left on the counter while they were sleeping. We walked down to the community center and smoked them on the playground. It tasted horrible, but I felt cool smoking it. I felt like an adult.
I didn't start smoking with any regularity until I was 16. If you had asked me back then if peer pressure had anything to do with my smoking habit, I would have laughed at you -- I was much too smart to be influenced by others -- but that's exactly what it was. I was shy and had low self-esteem, and smoking was a social habit. I made friends by striking up conversations with other smokers at school and work. I had more friends than ever before as a smoker. I loved smoking back then. I wasn't addicted, I told myself, I just didn't want to quit.
Until I turned 23, I worked at places that promoted my habit. Whether it was the casino where I sold cigarettes and cigars or the bar I served drinks in, people were smoking all around me. Even in college I made plenty of smoking friends, huddling around the ashtrays in all types of weather. The man who would later become my husband was a smoker as well, and I know that we might not have gotten to know each other if it hadn't been for our shared habit.
I tried to quit for the first time when I was 18, but I didn't really want to quit back then. I didn't even really want to quit when I was pregnant with my daughter. I quit cold turkey during my pregnancy, but, at times, I was almost resentful that I had to. I would watch other people smoke and feel overwhelmed with jealously. So, two weeks after my daughter was born, I was sitting on my porch smoking a cigarette. Just one, I told myself, but there's no such thing as just one.
The next morning I wanted just one more, so I bought a pack. But then I had a pack, so I had to finish it. But then I wanted another pack. Soon enough, I was a full-fledged smoker again. And, worst of all, I smoked more every time I quit. I went from smoking five cigarettes a day to ten to a pack -- by the time I finally quit for good, I was smoking almost two packs of cigarettes a day.
After my daughter was born and I was a smoker again, I tried just about every quit-smoking aide that's been on the market. I tried the patches, the inhaler, the lozenges, the gum, even the cigarettes they made for a while that contained fewer and fewer amounts of nicotine until you were smoking nicotine-free cigarettes at the end. Nothing worked. I'd quit for as few as a couple of days to as many as a couple of months, but I always started back up again. I'd get upset and stressed out about something, and I would convince myself that a cigarette was the only thing that could make me feel better. It wasn't until my daughter was getting close to 3 years old that I decided that I wanted to quit for good. The longer I smoked, the more smoking ruled my life. The city I lived in passed a smoking ban in public places, so I started driving outside of the city when I wanted to go out to eat. I didn't smoke in my house, because I didn't want to expose my daughter to secondhand smoke, so I was outside every 30 minutes or so in the overwhelming heat and bitter cold. I started getting a sinus infection once a month. I developed allergies, and, worst of all, I knew I was desensitizing my daughter to cigarettes.
The truth is that a lot of why I started smoking in the first place was because I'd watched my mother smoke all of my life. Nonsmoking friends of mine with parents who didn't smoke would tell me that smoking wasn't something they ever even considered. Even though I knew when I smoked that first cigarette at 13 that it was bad for me, I also knew that there was something appealing about it: why else would my mother have smoked all of those years?
This year, after 10 years of trying, I was finally able to quit smoking. I quit by using Chantix, a new stop-smoking drug. Chantix works by blocking the nicotine to your brain. You smoke for as long as you need to while you're taking the drug, but you don't get any nicotine. So, when you finally do stop smoking cigarettes, you only have to beat the habit -- you're no longer addicted to nicotine.
Chantix helped me realize how much my "habit" was truly an addiction. Once I was no longer getting nicotine, the cigarettes started to taste awful. When I finally quit smoking altogether, it was because I couldn't stand to smoke anymore.