Quitting smoking was the hardest thing I have ever done
Quitting smoking was the hardest thing I have ever done. I used to hear that phrase and think to myself, "if I could just quit drinking, then I could quit smoking, easy" But when I was caught driving while impaired (DWI), I found myself faced with my alcoholism in a way that I had never had to face my smoking. After a few difficult months of toying with sobriety I went cold turkey and have never looked back. Not so with quitting smoking.
When I went through my years of trying to quit smoking. I am pretty sure I tried everything at least once. I used patches, hypnosis, herbal teas, drugs, prayer, yoga, carrot sticks, acupuncture, gum, classes, more patches, and on and on. Now, I will say that most of those attempts were temporarily successful and in fact I cannot discount any of those methods since they all have merit. But what seemed to be missing was conviction.
Was I a weak person? Did I not have the willpower? What the heck was wrong with me, anyway? I became filled with self-loathing and self-recrimination. Instead of patting myself on the back for each small success, I hated myself each time I gave in to the addiction and smoked again.
Often when I relapsed, I would buy a pack of cigarettes and smoke one or a few and then throw the remainder out with a vow to never do THAT again. But a week or maybe a month later there I would be again doing just that. Each time I was sure I had conviction and I was certain that THIS would be the last time I relapsed. And so it went. I went through countless partially smoked packs and wasted a lot of money with that approach.
What I didn’t realize was happening through all of this was that I was slowly building upon my ability to become smoke-free for good. Since the periods between relapses were not necessarily spaced out longer each time it seemed as though it was an ongoing failure punctuated by random successes.
But one day I woke up and decided to succeed for as long as I possibly could. I decided that relapse was no longer an option for me. I did not want to wait until a lung disease struck me. I wanted to be healthy for my young daughter and I wanted to be finished with this addiction once and for all.
And because I had all those years of practice, it finally happened. I was able to string together day after day of being a non-smoker. Pretty soon I was celebrating six months, which I had never done before. It felt so good! Somehow I kept on going, and here I am almost seven years later with no thought of ever turning back.
The physical cravings were gone in a few days, but the emotional craving was what I had for watch out for. Eventually even those faded. Today I can share that I don’t have even twinges of desire. And the benefits are huge: I have the energy and lungpower to run up steps; I smell nice and so does my car; I don’t cough up stuff anymore; my hair and nails are stronger and my skin is clear. My entire being is grateful for the deep breaths of fresh air I can now give to myself.
I am especially grateful for the example I can set for my daughter who never had to know me as a smoker. She probably has a greater chance of becoming addicted if she ever tries smoking since she shares my genes. But I know that she has an excellent chance of escaping that trap since she lives in a smoke-free home. I also know that the teen years are vulnerable ones and that I will need to work with her to be sure she fully understands the risks involved in trying even "just one."
Anne wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for COPD.