Name: Laura S.
LIVESTRONG.COM Username: Lauranada (member since 2009)
Number of Years Smoked: 13
Smoke-Free Since: April 22, 2011
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your life like before joining LIVESTRONG.COM and quitting smoking?
I started smoking when I was 15 years old because I thought it would be a great way to deal with my anxiety. By the age of 18 I was a chain-smoker, smoking up to a pack-and-a-half a day. I smoked when I was anxious, sad, happy, wanted to reward myself for finishing a school assignment, after work, before breakfast, after taking a shower -- you name it. I enjoyed smoking. It was my excuse to take breaks and socialize, and it was a great time to process my thoughts.
However, I did not like how I smelled. I felt terrible any time I had to fly, which was often. I even missed connecting flights twice because I went outside the airport to smoke! In my late twenties I realized I had developed a persistent cough and was snoring a lot. I always reeked of cigarettes, and some of my coworkers actually brought this up to me. I was overweight. I couldn’t really run or bike like others did. I convinced myself that sports just weren't my thing.
During those 13 years spent as an active chain-smoker I tried to quit well over 15 times, but I just couldn't deal with the anxiety I felt at the thought of never smoking again. I could always justify smoking to myself and others: "Everyone dies of something," or "Who cares about the money? I'd spend it on something else anyway!" Eventually, the thought of one day getting so sick I could not walk started to scare me. At some point I decided that I wasn’t really in control of myself if I couldn’t stop smoking whenever I wanted, and I knew I wanted to be smoke-free. I vowed to myself that I would try to quit again by my 30th birthday.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your inspiration to make a change?
A couple of friends who were also heavy smokers quit smoking a couple of years before I did, and that was a huge inspiration. They gave me hope that it was possible to quit and still go out with friends on weekends, enjoy coffee and have a normal life.
On April 22, 2011, I woke up and had a cigarette and coffee. I decided that would be my last one. It was less than a month until my 30th birthday, and I wanted to give quitting another try. I put on a nicotine patch, participated constantly on the LIVESTRONG Quit Smoking message board, used a nicotine-free electronic cigarette when I went out and played Angry Birds on my phone for distraction. I only used the patch for a couple of weeks because I kept forgetting to take it with me while traveling around Europe, so I eventually realized that I didn't really need it. What I did need was the support, encouragement and example that the members of the LIVESTRONG community provided.
LIVESTRONG.COM: How did LIVESTRONG.COM help you quit smoking?
The members of the LIVESTRONG community were very friendly and supportive, and I started meeting some great people, many of whom I still keep in touch with online. I think I finally felt like a nonsmoker when I started bicycling. I was biking long distances and riding up hills, and every time I realized I was breathing only fresh air throughout the day I felt thankful and relieved to finally be a nonsmoker.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your support system like?
I think many people doubted that I could actually quit smoking because it was such a part of my persona. My husband was very supportive, although he is still occasionally a social smoker. Personally, I had to accept that I could not do that. I am better off not ever smoking. I found the most support online, since I felt I could talk freely and also support others. Being there for others who were also trying to quit was a big part of my success.
LIVESTRONG.COM: How did you strategize for your quit?
I had tried quitting cold turkey before and had been successfully smoke-free for nine months when I was 22. I took Chantix, but I developed side effects. I read The Easy Way to Quit Smoking by Allen Carr and used his flashcards, joined online support groups and researched quitting methods online. This went on for a few years until I discovered LIVESTRONG's MyQuit Coach app in late 2010.
I continued to struggle for the first six months after starting to use MyQuit Coach. I would decide on quit dates and then get really anxious. I struggled with smoking less than five cigarettes a day and felt very guilty about not being strong enough to quit. It seemed like nothing was working for me. I had continued to participate on LIVESTRONG's Quit Smoking community message board and one day expressed my frustration at "not being good enough to quit." A community member with a great sense of humor reached out to me and helped me to realize that I was being too hard on myself. That was a turning point, and I started being less judgmental toward myself and what I saw as my failures.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's the biggest challenge you faced?
I like to drink socially, and I love coffee. These two things were my biggest triggers for smoking. I started using a nicotine-free e-cig at first when I went out. But, surprisingly, tracking my progress on the MyQuit Coach app as a nonsmoker was really what I needed the most. Playing games on my phone helped me ignore the intense cravings I experienced at first.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What advice for success do you want to share with others who are just starting out or still struggling in their fight to quit smoking?
Don't be afraid of failing. Go easy on yourself and just keep trying. Love yourself and understand that for some of us it is very hard to quit, but it's not impossible. Try everything you can and don't give up. We're all different, and the method that works for you might not be the same method that works for someone else.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your life like now?
I still sign in to LIVESTRONG's community message board to share encouragement from time to time. I want others to realize that quitting is possible. I now do things I would have never done had I kept smoking. I went from never having run in my life to running half marathons. I also enjoy riding my bike 20 or more miles on days off just for fun. Best of all, I stopped snoring and coughing like I used to, and I feel much better now in my thirties than I ever did in my twenties.