I hit my one year mark of being smoke free on November 1. Wow. What a great feeling that is! :)
For as long as I can remember I've had to have a physical crutch for stress. Smoking had been that crutch for so long and at a young enough age that I never really developed a healthy way to cope with stress. I knew this was going to be my biggest hurdle. And, trust me, it was. With smoking I was able to remove myself from whatever situation was giving me stress. For a few minutes I didn't care about the damage I was doing to my body because I had a crutch that allowed me to literally walk away and hide. It is a major contradiction to say it but I was able to relax and breathe and calm down.
The first few months of quitting I would sometimes have a passing thought that I was getting rid of something I enjoyed and something that helped me. Crazy, I know. Obviously the real benefits like health, the health of my children, not smelling like an ashtray, etc kept me from giving into those crazy thoughts and now I have found healthier ways to deal with the stresses of life.
Today, I feel like I have climbed Everest! I am so very lucky to have my sweet and thoughtful Drew who wanted nothing but a life full of good health for me. I am lucky that he asked me to stop and I'm proud of myself for doing it.
I don't know if anyone that reads my blog smokes or smokes and really wants to quit but I want to share what I learned from the last year. Maybe it will work for you or maybe you can share it with a loved one that trying to quit. I wish I would have known some of these things before I quit.
• First things first. You have to really want to quit. I know that might sound kind of obvious but there really is a big difference in wanting to quit and quitting because you think you need to.
• The biggest thing for me was to take it one day at a time. In those first days take it a minute or an hour at a time. I spent three weeks on my bed watching episodes of Desperate Housewives. For some reason it could hold my attention well enough that I didn't think about smoking. I thought about it the second an episode ended but I would tell myself, "Just get through the next episode." I knew that with each passing minute and hour and day that I was that much closer to being free from those cravings and further away from the withdrawal symptoms.
• You have to treat it as an addiction. A real addiction. I get that smoking cigarettes is not on the same level as heroin or cocaine but you have to take it
just as seriously. The consequences of all three are the same, death.
You have to be willing to take the time needed to recover. If possible,
have someone watch your kids for a few days while you get through the
toughest of the withdrawal symptoms. I love my boys more than anything in
this world but I am so thankful that Mike was able to occupy them while I
locked myself in the bedroom.
• I made a list of reasons why I wanted to quit. It included things like living a healthy life, setting a good example for the boys, and being able to run or exercise without feeling like I was going to die. Anytime I got frustrated or had a craving I read that list to refocus my thoughts and remember why I wanted to quit.
• It can help to fail at quitting at least once to be successful in the long run. That might sound a little crazy but after discussing this with several ex-smokers I stand by it. This might not be accurate for everyone but I know it was a big part of me being successful this time. I would be willing to bet that most first attempt ex-smokers think they can smoke just one and be fine. Just one with a cocktail or just one after a big dinner out with friends or just one after a stressful day. We feel like we've beat the demon and won't get sucked back in. Sadly, it can really just take one tiny cigarette to fall back into the trap of smoking. Just one can turn into another and before you know it you are buying just one pack and then just one more. I knew that this time because of falling for the just one trap a few years ago. I knew that no matter what, there wasn't going to be a just one in my future.
• Don't worry about the weight gain. Seriously. It sucks but worry about it later. Last year, I told myself that starting November 1 I was going to concentrate on quitting smoking and put all my effort into that. Just like taking things one day at a time I only wanted to tackle one issue with myself at a time. I decided that if I wasn't happy with my body on November 1 of this year then I would take the next year and concentrate on getting my body back to a healthier weight.
• Tell everyone you know that you are quitting. On facebook, your blog, your co-workers, your kids, your family, your friends, your neighbors, etc. Not only is it great to have the support and encouragement but it really is a great motivator to stay on track. For me a big help was posting on my blog. You all left so many comments filled with your success stories and words of encouragement and support. I was determined not to let you all down and I thank you all for that extra push. It really, really helped and kept me on track.
• Experiment with different quitting methods and don't give up when one doesn't work. Cold turkey is hard. I couldn't do it and ended up smoking again after a short time. I then tried out the patch but my skin had a really bad reaction to it. I finally went to my doctor because I was desperate to quit but was lost on how to do it. He prescribed Chantix and honestly I was skeptical. I hate medication and always opt for more natural remedies but, I figured what have I got to lose? Amazingly, it worked and worked very well. I don't want to say it was easy but it was definitely easier than any other method I tried.
• Have something to turn to in those times of stress or when you get smacked with a random craving four months down the road. It helps to know ahead of time what this thing is that you will turn to. It could be a quick jog, candy, meditation, slowly counting to ten, whatever your "thing" is. It can be whatever you need that will get you past that craving or time of stress. Mine was gum. I still carry it with me as a just in case. Oh, and creating new sketches. That was a great stress-reliever!
• Start the first day confidently saying "I am an ex-smoker!" Saying positive things to yourself and out loud can do amazing things for your confidence and for your success. Don't tell people you are trying to quit! Don't look at it like that. You aren't trying. You are doing! From the second you decided to quit and put out that last cigarette, you are an ex-smoker.
• If someone is hindering your success and making your path to being smoke free difficult, get rid of them. Okay, that might be a little harsh. You might not need to do that but, at least speak up if they are making things more difficult for you. If they can't acknowledge that you are fighting a hard battle and offer you support and encourage you, well, that's just crappy and you don't deserve that. I watched my dad attempt to quit smoking several times and his wife failed to support him each time. She was a smoker too and didn't want to quit with him, which is totally fine. Her life, her body, her choice. However, Dad asked for her to help him a little and to consider smoking outside. She wouldn't do it. The day he got home from the hospital after a very, very close call with having to have his leg amputated (all because of smoking) she was practically blowing smoke in his face. I remember one, ONE time, that she smoked outside for a few days but complained because it was too cold. She was helping to set my Dad up for failure. I don't fully blame her because he was a grown man capable of his own choices but it sure didn't help. He deserved support from his significant other and so does everyone else! My husband was an excellent support and I have him to thank for helping to make my quitting a success story. He never hesitated to tell me how proud he was and did an excellent job of handling my mood swings. (He also gave me a beautiful amethyst ring for my one year smoke free milestone. He's seriously an awesome man and I'm so thankful of the wonderful example he sets for our boys.)
• There are going to be days that suck. Days that you think it would be
so much easier to just give up and smoke. Of course the first thing I'm
going to tell you is that you can not give up. It's not going to be
easy. If it was there wouldn't be so many smokers in this world. There
wouldn't be people with lung cancer or people with an oxygen tank that are still smoking. It is hard! No one is going to deny that! And, if you do give in, don't dwell on it. Don't get down on yourself. The
next day can be a new start.
And, trust me, if I can do this so can you! :)