How I Finally Quit Smoking
I was a smoker for over 25 years. I smoked about a pack a day and maybe inhaled another pack when I went out drinking. I started smoking when I was 15 years old. I first tried to quit when I was 18.
About 13 years ago, a series of events occurred that finally forced me to face my growing problem with another addiction: alcohol. I also came to realize that I would never quit smoking if I didn’t first stop drinking. And for a long time, I just wasn’t ready to stop drinking, party girl that I was.
Alcoholic woman is what I had become. That was a difficult pill to swallow at first, but with the loving support of friends and family, I slowly came to terms with this reality. When the obsession to drink was finally lifted through the grace of God, I thought I would soon be ready to look at this other problem of mine.
Well, it turned out that quitting drinking was a walk in the park compared to quitting smoking. I made hundreds, maybe thousands of attempts to quit smoking in those last few years. Sometimes these attempts lasted hours and sometimes they lasted as long as four or five months. My calendar was littered with quit dates. My body never knew from day to day if it was going to continue its tenuous recovery process or surrender to a fresh assault.
Becoming a mother 11 years ago was a huge turning point in my life. I thought that surely now I would have the monumental inspiration needed to finally quit smoking for good. It didn’t happen that way, although the guilt and self-recrimination really started to hit hard.
My desire to give my daughter the healthiest start possible in life was strong enough to keep me smoke-free during most of my pregnancy. I was also able to remain mostly smoke-free during the time I breast-fed her. But not entirely.
Every time I broke down and had a cigarette, it only made my cravings more intense. The struggle to control my smoking was very difficult, and I just couldn’t seem to stop for good.
I tried nicotine gum, the patch, nicotine inhalers, reading stop-smoking books, writing in a journal, detox teas, toothpicks and carrot sticks, exercise, reading self-help books, vegetarianism, counseling, starting a stop-smoking program at work, eating organic foods, meditation, yoga, lollipops, and Zyban.
I tried prayer, aromatherapy, reading books on understanding addictions, marrying a non-smoker, working a 12-step program, quitting with a buddy, asking my baby daughter for strength, reading books on how women can finally quit smoking, surfing the Web for information, hypnotherapy, chocolate therapy, herbal tonics, the patch again, watching videos on how to quit, buying shorter cigarettes, positive visualization, making bargains with God, switching brands, buying a new car that I vowed never to smoke in (that idea lasted a few weeks anyway), juicing fresh fruits to drink every morning, and writing down all of the reasons I wanted to quit and carrying that list with me.
I tried vitamins, positive thinking, listening to the tapes that came with some of the books in my growing library, buying a pack of cigarettes and throwing most of it out (I went through lots of money using this approach), seeing that movie about the sleaziness of the cigarette industry, and reading a few more books on how dangerous smoking was and how to finally quit for good.
I even watched my grandmother become reliant on an oxygen tank then waste away and die from emphysema, lung cancer, and colon cancer after a lifetime of smoking.
I slowly discovered that it would take more than fear, willpower, or healthy eating to overcome this incredible addiction to nicotine. I was starting to believe I would never be able to quit for good. Yet I knew it was hurting me. I often felt short of breath. I even had trouble singing to my little girl without the frog in my throat making an appearance.
The trigger that finally made me quit was waking up – really waking up – to the reality of what smoking was doing to me. Cancer and emphysema were real, not just things that happened to other people. Every few minutes in this country, a smoker is told they have lung cancer. A little boy loses his father; a teen girl has no mother to talk with about dating; a mother mourns the loss of her grown child.
These stories play out every day for people all the time, and the pain is real. I had been dancing around the issue of quitting for years as though I was somehow immune to what smoking could do to me. I finally knew in my heart that I had to quit smoking and I had to do it now.
My need to quit had somehow moved beyond being an intellectual exercise and had found its way into my very soul. Once I surrendered to this feeling, I felt surrounded by energy and freedom. I’m afraid it’s difficult to describe without sounding a little hokey, but it seemed as if, for me, the planets had finally aligned. The forces of health were now in charge and I somehow found the strength to walk away from smoking, cold-turkey.
I still have vivid memories of what I felt like in the mornings as I craved that first cigarette; how my throat always hurt; how I felt so trapped. I now feel extremely lucky to be free of those demons – it's been over eight years since I last smoked and I am completely free of any desire to ever smoke again.
If you are still trapped by your own demons, I would suggest meditating or praying and see if that little spark of soul-awareness will light for you. And if you do feel that force of health wake up inside of you, hold onto that feeling as though your life depends on it – because your life does depend on it.
To help you get on the path to a smoke-free life, see Preparing to Quit Smoking.
Excerpts from Give It Up! Stop Smoking for Life provided with permission from author and publisher.