Number of Years Smoking: 20
Smoke-Free Since: December 25, 2011
Nevermind that I was embarrassed to be the only one at work who smoked and would go to meetings stinking of cigarettes, or that one day my doctor said, "Look man, if you don't quit smoking you're going to die."
After 20 years of smoking a pack a day, (or more), the final straw for me was my two amazing kids. They were getting older and noticing things — like dad sneaking outside often, or the lingering smell. I didn't want my addiction to influence them as they grew up and began making their own choices. I wanted to spend all my time with them and be able to run and bike and play outside.
Two years and 16 weeks ago I made the decision to quit for good. It was challenging at first and my life has certainly changed since that time, but I've managed to stay strong and stay quit with the help of the hugely supportive LIVESTRONG.COM community.
My Turning Point
I originally quit smoking in mid-October, 2011. I was 65 days into a successful quit and found myself in the middle of a very stressful holiday season. The holidays can be overwhelming for many reasons. I couldn't handle this one, and I slipped. On Christmas Eve I bought cigarettes and snuck away from the family gathering for a couple of them. I was devastated. I felt like I had come so far only to throw it all away for a quick fix. I knew at that point that I never wanted to feel that way again, and that I would never smoke again. Christmas Day 2011 was day 1 for me, once more.
My Support System
I'm sure everyone around me knew I smoked, but it was something that none of my friends or family talked about. I tried my best to not bring that attention to myself. I was always embarrassed as I was usually the only smoker in the group. Because of this, I didn't make a huge announcement about quitting and my immediate group of friends and family weren't much of a support system. This is where the LIVESTRONG.COM Quit Smoking community came into play, specifically through the MyQuit app.
All of these people from all over the world were going through the exact same thing I was! They knew exactly what I was feeling and experiencing. We could pick each other up when we fell and kept each other going when we wanted to give up. I've never experienced anything like it.
My Biggest Challenge
The biggest challenge for me was dealing with the emotional aspects of quitting smoking. People always think "If you quit smoking you'll be a grouch," but that's not the half of it. Cigarettes were my best friend for 20 years. Sure, you get grouchy when you take away that addiction, but you also experience every other feeling from A to Z within a matter of minutes.
My whole life I've had this "I'm a man, and I don't show my feelings" mentality, (guys know what I mean). I'm not ashamed to tell you that on a couple of occasions I found myself sitting in a dark living room, crying with my keys in hand because I wanted to go buy cigarettes. That's a very tough inner battle to overcome.
My Secret to Success
I had tried "the patch," gum, inhalers, several different prescriptions and even quit-smoking audio tapes in the past. The secret to my quit boiled down to not just one magic element, but a handful of tools that helped with the task. A support system is a huge factor.
LIVESTRONG's MyQuit COACH app provided exactly that. I also learned of a book via the MyQuit COACH community: The Easy Way to Stop Smoking by Allen Carr. This was also a golden key for me, as those words on paper completely changed my point of view about quitting. If you go into it with an "oh dear, this is going to suck and I can't do it" attitude, you will struggle, (or fail). Change your outlook. It isn't that I HAVE to quit; it's that I WANT to quit. That is the most important thing. You have to WANT to quit, and stop being a slave to your addiction.
My Advice to Others
Never quit quitting. Quitting isn't easy; it's a constant uphill battle. But, if you really want to stop smoking you really can do it. Find ways to fight the cravings. They can be bad when you first get started. Grab an apple or big glass of cold water, (use a straw). Go for a brisk walk, or jump on the treadmill for a run. Learn to replace those cravings and cigarettes with healthy habits.
And finally, stick with it. The physical addiction to the nicotine will be out of your system in a matter of a few days. After that, it's all a head game. Your mind will try to tell you that it's ok to have one more. Just a puff...
NOPE – not one puff ever.