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.
For many years, I never gave a thought to quitting. I made excuses: “I haven’t smoked that long, I am young and healthy, it won’t hurt me yet, I can stop whenever I feel like it.” Quitting just wasn’t on the top of my list of things to do.
But, as I got older and learned more and more about exactly what was happening to my body with each draw, I became afraid of what I was continuing to do to myself. I finally made the decision that I had to stop – and then I was afraid for a different reason.
How could I get through a day without a cigarette? How could I manage stress? How could I get anything done without a smoke break?
The first attempt lasted four weeks. I thought if I could get through one day I’d never want to smoke again, but I found that wasn’t the case for me. Quitting was going to be a process of unraveling years and years of habitual behavior, tied to many things, and each trigger needed to be loosened.
The next attempt was six weeks. The next attempt was five months. I really thought I had made it that time, but an emotional situation caused me to reach for a pack.
I found that although I kept relapsing, smoking was never as satisfying again after that first attempt. Something had already shifted in my thinking. After a few more attempts, I put it on hold for a while. I was becoming so discouraged. It was a battle in my brain between wanting to stop and not wanting to stop.
Then, in July of 2013, after cutting back to just five cigarettes a day, I had an appointment with my doctor. She asked me if I had quit yet. I was embarrassed to say I had not, but that I was only smoking a small amount. She said if I was smoking that few, I didn’t need to smoke at all. I had one cigarette left. I smoked it, and that was it.
I knew it would be challenging in the early days, and it was. But I finally accepted that it wasn’t going to be easy for quite a while. By accepting that it wouldn’t be the best time of my life, it eased my frustration and anxiety around quitting. I realized I had to push through the initial stages to reach the point I have reached – the thought of lighting one and ingesting the chemicals is something I never want to do to myself again.
Each morning I decide that for this day, no matter what happens or doesn’t happen, no matter what someone says or does, it has no effect on my lighting a cigarette anymore. It took time to separate what was happening in my life from the need to smoke through it, but it can be done. I promise you.
I thought I’d never quit. I did. And so can you.
Quit Date: July 31, 2013