I started a recycling program at my old job. I go around my house turning off lights behind my roommate. I teach people how to become healthy through diet, exercise, and stress reduction. I reapply sunscreen and wear stupid hats to the pool to protect my sensitive skin from sunburn and skin cancer. And then I wash down all of my philanthropy and healthy living with a good old Camel Light.
I have distinct memories of how smoking became a part of my life. I remember when I was 17 years old and I lit cigarettes for my friend Maggie when she was driving us somewhere (after all, that was the age when we still kept both hands on the wheel!) I remember saying that I would buy a pack of cigarettes legally on my 18th birthday and then I would quit. I also remember my first night of college. My new roommate Abby wasn’t finished getting ready for our tour of campus (and she didn’t know that I smoked) so I told her that I was going to go wait outside. I started smoking my cigarette, but Abby came outside before I finished. I told her that I didn’t really smoke and that was the LAST cigarette I was ever going to have. I’m approaching my 29th birthday and I just quit smoking last month.
A month might not seem like a long time to most people, but to a smoker it seems like an eternity. If you’re a smoker, you can safely guess that this is not my first time off the sauce (but it is certainly my longest without even a single “slip”). What’s different this time? Answer: The way I think. I decided to take one cigarette craving at a time. After all, 3 days after your last puff the nicotine clears out of your system – meaning the craving battle was all in my head.
I laugh when I think about my “triggers.” How could a cigarette help me drive my car or write a paper? How could a cigarette console me when I was sad or bored? Why did I need a cigarette to signal the end of every errand, event, and meal? When I started breaking the silly associations I had made between smoking and my daily activities, I was actually able to throw my pack away and not go back to Harris Teeter 5 days later to buy another one. If you need some extra help talking yourself through your cravings or thinking of other ideas that might make you a successful quitter, I’d suggest enlisting the help of NC Quitline either by phone at 1-800-QUIT-NOW seven days a week from 8 am to 3 pm or on the web at www.quitlinenc.com.
You can still resolve to quit even if it wasn’t your New Year’s Resolution this year. You can wake up any day and decide to make a change for the better and not let any excuses get in your way. It’s your choice.
And in case you didn’t know what happens after you quit smoking… (courtesy of http://www.stqp.org/quitsmokingtimeline.asp)
- Blood pressure drops to normal
- Pulse rate drops to normal
- Body temperature of hands and feet increases to normal
- Carbon monoxide level in blood drops to normal
- Oxygen level in blood increases to normal
- Chance of heart attack decreases
- Nerve endings start regrowing
- Ability to smell and taste is enhanced
2 WEEKS TO 3 MONTHS
- Circulation improves
- Walking becomes easier
- Lung function increases up to 30 percent
1 TO 9 MONTHS
- Coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue, and shortness of breath decrease
- Cilia regrow in lungs, increasing their ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce infection
- Body’s overall energy increases
- Excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker
- Lung cancer death rate for an average former smoker (one pack a day) decreases by almost half
- Stroke risk is reduced to that of a non-smoker five to 15 years after quitting
- Risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, and esophagus is half that of a smoker’s
- Lung cancer death rate is similar to that of a non-smoker
- Precancerous cells are replaced
- Risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, cervix, and pancreas decreases
- Risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker
*Names changed to protect privacy.
I really want to thank you for sharing your story. I was a secret smoker for a few years and I always feel strange admitting it…. because I’m health promoter. In a way, it’s been helpful to have this personal perspective on nicotine addiction, struggles with quitting, and eventually being successful. Congrats on getting past the first month!
Great article! Though I am not a smoker, my brother is, and I am going to forward this to him. I love your honesty!
I think it is great that you have the courage to talk openly about your victory (and struggle) with quitting smoking. I think that we feel like health promoters are supposed to be perfect, but in fact I think your process is inspiring to others. Keep it up!
Keep up the good work! You can do this!!