Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How I quit

I started smoking at the age of 15.  I normally smoked 1 to 1 1/2 packs a day, 2 packs if alcohol was being consumed.

By my mid-30's I ran out of breath easily after climbing stairs or walking quickly or doing any lifting or heavy work.  By my late 30's my breathing was very shallow and had become a chore.  Every 5 minutes or so I'd have to consciously take a deep breath.

I was convinced emphysema or lung cancer were in my not-too-distant future.  So I knew I had to quit.  I was 40.  Just before my 41st birthday I was moving to a new apartment so I chose the day before I moved to have my last cigarette.

In preparing to quit I knew I had to be motivated and without that, I would fail.  I was too young to die and I didn't want a debilitating illness where I could not take care of myself.  So my attitude was 'failure is not a option'.  

Something else that helped motivate me to quit was that smoking was becoming much less tolerated by society and smokers were often sent outdoors to keep their filthy habit away from innocent non-smokers.  I hated that I could not enjoy being in a place when I needed my 'fix' - in someone's home, in a museum, at work, in a class, on a plane, etc.

I had only tried to quit once before and that was in my early 30's when someone nagged me to quit.  Of course, I didn't want to quit and that lasted only about 4 or 5 miserable months.  This time it was my choice, and only mine.  No one was bugging me to quit.  I lived alone so didn't have the challenge those have who live with a smoker.

I knew I was going to be a totally miserable person for about 6 months and that I would think about cigarettes all the time.  Cigarettes had been a part of life since I was 15.  They were there when I celebrated, when I was stressed or unhappy, after a big meal, with coffee, with a beer, while bored waiting for a bus or anything else.  I loved to smoke.

Before I quit I got the 24 hour nicotine patches, a big packet of lollipops, and gum.    I had also read that plastic drinking straws were very helpful to have around as they give your mouth and your hand sometime to do and you could also chew on to help with the stress.  I found these very helpful.  I also stopped drinking coffee and switched to tea, I switched from whisky and beer to wine.

I did not gain much weight when I quit.  I had lost a lot of weight earlier in the year and surprisingly I didn't turn to food for comfort.  I also didn't like to get too full because not having a cigarette afterward (which always signifies the end of the meal) made me feel deprived.

I had my last cigarette on 31 Jan 1993.