This is part of a series of letters from QuitNet members who shared their experience with quitting smoking using QuitNet, and offered their encouragement for others to do the same. If you'd like to share your experience, or motivate a loved one or smoker who wants to quit, please submit your story to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Mother, Father, Sister, Brother, Daughter, Son, Friend, Neighbor:
It’s been over 10 years since I had my last cigarette. I celebrate every day by pledging to stay quit, hopefully inspiring others to either embark on this journey or continue to fight the cravings that accompany the early stages of quitting.
I’d like to think I am at least 10 years wiser than before, but I do know that there are some things that would have been helpful to me had I known about them BEFORE I quit smoking. I was very fortunate to be able to stay close to QuitNet in the beginning, which definitely helped give me the support and guidance I very much needed.
You see, quitting is hard. It may very well be the hardest thing you will ever do in your entire life. Or it may not. Everyone is different. Just because it may be easy for one person does not diminish the effort you must exert to keep your quit. For me, it was one of the hardest things I ever did in my life. I wasn’t expecting that and I’m happy that it didn’t deter me from my goal of becoming smoke-free.
Just like everything else, the first days of your quit will pass. Then your first month. Then your first year. You will become victorious over the addiction that has controlled your life for so long. But, you must fight each battle one by one, and that may mean minute by minute or hour by hour.
Whatever you need to do, do it. I remember I drank water, took long walks, and exercised. I eventually adopted 2 huskies and they took me for long walks daily! I logged onto the Q several times per day to read posts and get advice. It helped to hear that others were going through the same things I was. I took slow, deep breaths and repeated to myself, “I WILL NOT SMOKE. I WILL NOT SMOKE. I WILL NOT SMOKE.” If you tell yourself something long enough, you will begin to believe it. I was committed to the quit, so it wasn’t an option. I also remember “riding the craves out” until they were gone. And they always passed. After some time, the cravings began to dissipate and then disappeared altogether. It was amazing.
Since smoking was such a habit and constant part of my daily life , I had to accept the fact that it would take some time to get used to not smoking and having that lung dart in my hands. I had smoked for 18 years. Thankfully, it did not take 18 years to get used to not smoking! Within months, I was able to go about my daily routines without constantly thinking about how strange it all felt.
The patch was a lifesaver for me, but it may not be for you. You have to find what works for you, and do whatever you need to do to stay quit. However, do not begin a new addiction with something else that is harmful to you. Instead, begin to take care of yourself and LOVE yourself. Realize that your body is to be cared for just the way you would care for others, or your children, or your pets. Remember that if you're not healthy, you cannot help anyone else. Or, remember that it’s no fun to be sick and unable to do the things you always did because you've succumbed to COPD or lung cancer.
Remember that it’s NEVER too late to quit smoking.
When I quit, I was surprised at how emotional I became. It was as if I used smoking cigarettes to numb my own feelings instead of truly feeling them. I had to develop new coping mechanisms to deal with those feelings. It took some time, but I did it. I carried around 3-by-5 notecards with inspirational messages on them. I can recall one that said “the only way to get through hell is to go through it.”
You have to love yourself more than you love cigarettes. Be kind to others and be kind to yourself. We are often our own worst critics, and sometimes our self-talk has a negative impact on what we are trying to accomplish. Lift yourself up and compliment yourself! You are so worth it!
Good luck to you my fellow warrior. You CAN do this. You WILL win the war!