In May of 2004, I smoked my last cigarette.
I had started smoking nearly eight years before that. As a teenager, it was a form of rebellion. As a college student, it was a way to beat stress. As an adult entering the workforce, it was a way to take a break, and socialize with co-workers.
Smoking, I knew, was not without health risks. My family has a strong background of stroke and heart disease. Having seen close family members succumb to the effects of long-term smoking, my own health was a concern, but every time I tried to quit, I gave in. I made excuses. It wasn’t the right time, I didn’t feel like it, I was “too young” for anything to happen to me. But one night, I sat down and thought about it. I was 23. I had no energy. I woke up short of breath. I had a boyfriend that I loved (who is now my husband), and we were planning a future together. It was time to stop making excuses.
So, that evening in May 2004, I lit up my last cigarette.
The road to “being quit” wasn’t easy. I was tired, I was irritable, my hands shook, I would chew pencils in half and ruined the cap of just about every pen I owned trying to satiate the need to have something resembling a cigarette in my mouth. I probably single-handedly kept the Wrigley’s Gum business going for the first six months. But in the end, it was all worth it.
For anyone who wants to quit, here’s a quick “How to quit smoking” guide based on my experience.
You have to go “cold-turkey”.
I tried for the longest time to just “cut back” on cigarettes and taper off the addiction. I tried the gum replacement (which is expensive!) but in the end, the only way to do it was to take my remaining half-pack of cigarettes and snap them all in half, toss them in the trash, and get rid of all my matches and lighters. I replaced the cigarettes with chewing gum (and the pencils and pens that I mentioned earlier!) and drank a lot of water to try to flush the remaining nicotine out of my system. I won’t lie – the first two weeks were nearly impossible. I was a mess. I was mean to everyone. My former smoking buddies tried to talk me into smoking with them, offering cigarettes. But I said no. And after the first two weeks were up, though it was still tough, it was much smoother sailing.
Be prepared for temptation, and have a plan.
Like I mentioned, my former smoking buddies would try to talk me into smoking with them. During the times when the withdrawal was the worst, it was tempting, and sometimes the temptation was overwhelming. This is where gum, sugarless candy, and chewing on just about everything I could get my hands on came in handy. I also tried to schedule my breaks at work opposite my smoking buddies breaks – that way, if they were headed out for a smoke, I had an excuse – “Oh I was just out on a break, I have to get back to work now.”
Educate yourself on what to expect when you quit.
You can do some research about the best and effective ways on how to quit smoking. You can visut some reliable and reputable websites and you can also go and search ‘vape shop near me’ so you can have an alternative and start your quitting goal.
If you’re reading this article, chances are you’ve already done some research on how to quit smoking, so you’re headed in the right direction. The internet was a great resource for me during this time. There are some great websites -” smokefree.gov and quitnet.com are great places to start, as is the American Lung Association, lungusa.com. These websites will help give you good reasons to quit, as well as giving you an idea of what to expect as you are going through nicotine withdrawal, so you know that what you’re feeling is normal and will pass.
Make a list of reasons why you’re quitting, and post them in a prominent place.
You can do this in a number of ways. The main way that I did it was to make a list of reasons, cut them up, and post each one in different places. I had one taped to my desk that said, “One of the additives in cigarettes is arsenic.” (Whether or not this is true is debatable – but at the time, it was enough to make me worry!) I had another in my wallet that said “Think of the future.”. This way, I had reminders everywhere I looked to keep me going on my journey to “being quit”. Keep in mind that, no matter how hard the withdrawal is, you are doing this for yourself, for your health.
This is probably the one thing that helped more than anything else. There are several “how to quit smoking” websites out there and many have message boards. These can be a great resource, as you can talk to other soon-to-be-ex smokers who are experiencing exactly what you are. It also helps to enlist your family as a support, whether they are smokers or not. My then boyfriend/now husband was truly my backbone as I was quitting. I could always tell him when I felt I was going to cave in, and he’d remind me why I quit. (One caveat here: if you’re quitting because someone is forcing you to, that won’t work – you need someone who is truly supportive and understanding and not threatening. It is a lot more difficult to quit if you’re doing it for someone else and not for yourself.)
Finally, don’t make any other big life changes until you’re comfortably “quit”.
A lot of people try to “do it all at once” – this was a factor in my previous inability to quit. I’d try to quit right when moving to a new state and transferring to a new college. It was too much change happening all at one time. There are really two addictions you have to fight when you quit smoking – the physiological withdrawal AND the withdrawal from the habit itself (for example, it took a long time for me to shake the habit of wanting to light up a cigarette when I got in the car, even though I didn’t feel the physical need to do so.) When you’re fighting off two addictions at one time, it’s best to be patient with yourself, so don’t put too much on your plate all at once.
If you follow these steps, you’ll be well on your way to finally kicking the smoking habit for good! Above all else, be patient with yourself. The effects of quitting smoking don’t go away over night, especially if you have been smoking for a long time. The worst of it is over within a few weeks, but I was still feeling some minor effects of it six months later.
Now that it’s been four years since that last cigarette, I can say without a doubt that every bit of struggle it took to quit smoking was worth it. I wake up able to breathe easier. I have more energy. I spend less on chewing gum and perfume to cover up the smell. And best of all, I can look forward to the future without worrying as much about having health problems related to smoking.