I smoked for over 20 years. It wasn’t a healthy habit, nor was it pretty (or even cool.) I regularly tried to quit, but most attempts were halfhearted or at the first sign of stress, I’d grab cigarette. For seven years before I quit, I even carried around a list of health benefits that happen after you quit smoking. Seven years.
I wasn’t planning on quitting when I did, it happened in less than a week, and maybe that was my success. Previous attempts involved me picking a date–usually weeks out–then preparing by trying to smoke less or smoke more to (laughingly) get my fill. Those attempts didn’t work. I wanted to be healthy, even had healthy friends who liked to hike. But when I hiked with them, they’d always have to wait for me or slow themselves down in order to stay with me. Not fun, for them or me.
One weekend, I drove three friends from Connecticut to Virginia and dropped them off on the Appalachian Trail. A week later, I was going to drive back and pick them up at a designated point. When I drove them down, I was a smoker. Although kind, by not smoking in my own car with them, I did grab a cigarette at every rest stop—which meant I stank up the car with the smell of smoke. After I returned home from dropping them off, I took my mother for a stress test. Having only smoked a week in her entire life, she was heaving on that tread mill after they barely started the test. As I watched her struggle, I realized that she was 83 and then realized that if I didn’t stop smoking soon, I would be like that by 53.
I bought nicotine patches on Saturday and quit the next day. On Saturday night, I smoked my last cigarette—but didn’t throw the pack out. The next morning, I put a patch on and then put the pack of cigarettes in the pocket behind the driver’s seat and pushed it all the way down so I couldn’t reach it while driving. My thinking was that if I really wanted a cigarette, I could get one, but I was going to have to pull over and dig down into the seat pocket to get it. Not the easiest of things to plan for considering some of the highway I would be traveling upon.
Twelve years later…..I still haven’t picked up another cigarette. I’m not saying those first 10 weeks were easy. I actually sucked on a cinnamon stick for almost a year, but they were definitely worth it. At the end of 10 weeks, the day the last patch came off, I was doing my first hike up into the White Mountains in New Hampshire.
What ultimately made me successful was something personal (seeing my mother heaving on the treadmill,) and I really think most people will have to find that one personal thing too. But it is possible to quit. I did it after smoking more than a pack a day for over 20 years. That nicotine patch was a big part of my success, as was my trusty cinnamon sticks. If you’re wondering why cinnamon, the size of one is about the same as a cigarette and since they are hollow, you can suck on them. I guess it satisfied my oral fixation need!
If you are looking for help in quitting smoking, go right to the American Lung Association. And no matter what, don’t stop trying until you succeed. Trust me, you’ll feel (and smell) so much better.