The following interview chronicles how one reader, Jen, went from someone who was hopelessly addicted to cigarettes to a person whose spirit soared when she finally found a reason to quit. As a 31-year-old mother of 2 who smoked for 7 years, she has now been a non-smoker for almost 8 years. Jen says that to this day, she still occasionally thinks about smoking. But she is happy to report that she has never crossed that line since the day that she quit. If you are seeking advice on how to quit smoking, maybe her story can help.
At what age did you start smoking? What was going on in your life at the time:
I was a typical teenager who caved when it came to peer pressure. I was new to the school district and didn't have any friends. I tried out for all of the sports, but only made one or two teams. I was desperate to fit in with a group, and those that I was drawn to were smokers. I didn't fit with the athletes, but I could easily fit in with the smokers. In hindsight, I now realize that I would have fit in no matter if I lit that first cigarette or not. Embarrassingly enough, I remember I bought a pack and practiced alone in my car before I smoked in front of my friends.
How your has your smoking progressed or worsened over time:
After I started smoking, I quickly found myself smoking whenever someone else was smoking. Its funny how that happens. So I went from one month being a non-smoker to the next month smoking 1/2 to 1 pack a day. As I entered college and started going to parties, I would smoke 2 packs a day every weekend. I would need to smoke after I ate a meal, when I drank, and especially on warm days. And I always smoked when I drove. Smoking was planned in my day like a bad habit.
What negative things happened from smoking and how did it rule your life:
Smoking ruled my life. No matter what, I needed to smoke in certain situations, and those certain situations quickly became more and more. My day started with a cigarette -- after breakfast, during my commute, throughout the day. And it was always on my mind. I would smoke a ridiculous amount when I went to the bars with my friends that my my chest would actually hurt in the morning. But sadly, that didn't stop me from starting my day with a cigarette. When you're a smoker, you may realize that your life is controlled by smoking, but it isn't until after you quit that you realize the extent of your addiction.
Why did you decide to finally quit:
I smoked 1 to 2 packs a day for 7 years. My heavy smoking turned my now fiancé from a casual smoker into a heavy smoker. Smokers encourage others to smoke, and it's hard to say no. When we were planning our wedding, we decided that we needed to pick a day to quit together. If we were committing our lives to each other, why on earth would we shorten it by smoking. We went on our honeymoon to Europe, and enjoyed every last cigarette until about 2 days before it was time to come home. Because we knew we were quitting, we smoked non-stop.
About 2 days before we came home, we felt hoarse and sick, but we wouldn't stop until our last day; silly, isn't it? We decided that our last day of our honeymoon would be the last day of smoking. You were able to smoke in the airport at that time, and I'll never forget our last cigarette. Our throats hurt, we felt sick, but we forced ourselves to smoke one last cigarette before we boarded our flight. I hated every second of that cigarette, but I finished the entire thing. I left my pack on the seat and left my smoking self and my smoking husband in Europe.
Not that we now why you wanted to quit, can you share how you did it:
I quit smoking cold turkey. I know that there are many programs today, but I don't remember that being an option then. Even so, I don't think that I would have used them. I made a decision in my mind to be devoted to my husband, and I knew that I had to stand firm in that decision. The hardest part was break time at work when all of my other friends were still smoking. I just made other choices for a few weeks until it would have just been weird for me to smoke. My co-workers were very supportive of my decision, and I actually found that I met new friends because I wasn't always hanging out at the smoking area.
How has quitting benefitted your life:
My life is 100% better as a non-smoker. Since I've quit, I've had 2 children. I have friends who have children and still smoke, and I am so very proud of myself and my husband for not being in that group. Quitting was not easy, and to this day, almost 8 years later, I still crave a cigarette at times. I am definitely addicted to smoking, and I don't know if that ever goes away. Sometimes, when my husband and I have an afternoon alone, if it's a warm day, I get the urge to have a cigarette. If we're in a smoky bar, sometimes I have a brief moment where I think that I could just have one. But then I realize that I can not just have one. I can never just have one again. My last cigarette was one that I disliked so much that I can not have a memory of one that I enjoy because then it may be easy to become a casual smoker again. Plus, it's so much better to wake up in the morning without lung pains from smoking too much the night before. I feel better as a non-smoker.
From your guide:
Although I have never been a smoker or addicted to nicotine, I do know a bit about addictions, as I have struggled with controlling my eating in the past and have always been up and down with my weight. While I may not have a disease from overeating (yet), it could potentially lead to problems, so I try and take steps each day to improve my health and well-being. The point I am trying to make is that I know your pain and can empathize with what you are going through.
The important thing to take with you from this story is that anyone, even you, can quit smoking if you truly want to. And, if you have COPD, then quitting is even more important, as not quitting could accelerate your disease and subsequently cut your precious life short. Think about all the sunsets that you would miss or all the smiles on your children's faces that you would never see again if your life were to end because you couldn't put down a cigarette.
Quitting smoking today can help slow the progression of your COPD. If you are ready to make that commitment or are struggling with quitting smoking, visit About.com's Smoking Cessation Guide Site or the Quit Smoking Section of this site for more information on how to quit.
Fighting addiction is hard for everyone. But you CAN do it and you don't have to do it alone.
Email interview with Jen. Completed June 11, 2008.