Health And Wellness

How I Gave Up My Pack-A-Day Smoking Habit (And Reclaimed My Life)

Photo: Aleshyn_Andrei / Shutterstock
woman smoking

My dear friends,

I have a horrible, shameful, putrid, and embarrassing secret. It’s a secret that many of my real-life friends and acquaintances don’t even know.

I’m a smoker.

Like an idiot, I’ve choked down Marlboro Lights 100′s nearly every day since 1998.

I’ve hidden behind garages, slumped down in car seats, stood in the rain, snuck out early from work, weddings, movies, baby showers, etc. just to hotbox a filthy and vile stick of cancer. I’ve even waterskied while smoking (very unsuccessfully).

I’ve believed that smoking was my friend, my confidant, my crutch, and my boost for 16 years.

I was looking through an old album to find a photo to include with this post, a photo that depicted my addiction to nicotine at the young age of 17.

I didn’t find one photo.

I found COUNTLESS photos.

Pictures of me, young and able to run without gasping for air, young and vital and ignorant — plain ignorant-—with a cigarette in my hand. And if I didn’t have a cigarette in my hand, there was a pack of cigarettes in my hand or sitting in front of me.

Here’s one photo, of literally hundreds, that showcase what a fool I was.

RELATED: How Your Personality Changes When You Quit Smoking

Photo: Author

The cigarette in my hand, the cigarettes on the table, the American Eagle apparel, and the bottle of root beer with the label peeled off to make me look like I was old enough to drink actual beer. All ignorance. Absolute ignorance.

I cannot imagine how many cigarettes I have smoked since the night that photo was taken in May 1999. Millions, I suppose.

I’ve watched (several) loved ones suddenly and prematurely die from smoking. I’ve watched my own health deteriorate. I’ve watched holes burn into the seats of nearly every vehicle I’ve ever owned.

I successfully quit with both of my pregnancies, under the foolish impression that I would go nine months without a cigarette and that would be enough time to cure me forever. Not long after my beautiful healthy children were born, responsibility came. And I so foolishly confused that responsibility with stress.

And I even more foolishly turned to my familiar old “stress reliever," Mr. Marlboro. And before I knew it, I was scurrying out to the garage to burn one while my precious blessings slept in the bassinet.

I’ve had some health issues pop up recently. That coupled with the fact that I tried to jog a few weeks ago and found myself bending over the curb, hacking up lung butter as retired couples easily ran past me, I knew I had to quit. Again.

And with the very thought of quitting, I became anxious and nervous and, quite frankly, pissed off.

I didn’t WANT to quit smoking, though I knew I NEEDED to quit smoking.

For Heavens’ sakes, the box tells me that the things are going to give me cancer or a heart attack and end my life early, the same way they ended my father’s life, but that has never deterred me. Yes, it made me worried, but what did I do in times of worry? I smoked like a chimney.

So, I decided that I couldn’t go it alone this time. I knew I needed Chantix or Zyban or magical Leprechaun toenails or something to chemically remove the addiction from my brain. I made the decision to go to the doctor the following Monday.

Except I ran out of cigarettes on Sunday. Instead of going into sheer panic and speeding toward the gas station on two wheels, I told myself that I wouldn’t smoke anymore that evening. I just wasn’t going to do it.

RELATED: 6 Ways Your Smoking Habit Damages Your Relationship

The withdrawals soon kicked in, and after Googling tips for dealing with the horrible urges, I came across a review for Allen Carr’s The Easy Way to Stop Smoking.

After reading a thousand stellar reviews and watching YouTube Videos of Ellen DeGeneres and Ashton Kutcher swearing by it, I downloaded the book to my Kindle.

I read the book in a few hours.

When I finished the last page, I had a completely different mindset than when I had started the first page.

I was also confident that I wasn’t going to the doctor on Monday for a miracle pill. I just wasn’t going to smoke anymore, cold turkey style.

The book didn’t drone on about how harmful cigarettes are or try to scare me into stopping.

My mother and the media have been trying to do that for years. Instead, the book addressed the crippling fear that smokers face at the mere thought of cessation.

I associate smoking with good times: weekends, laughter, hanging out by the pool, reading, writing, listening to music, talking on the phone, waterskiing, and even my wedding…..

Photo: Author

(Even as a smoker for all of these years, I kept this photo OUT of the wedding album because I knew it was embarrassing and the trashiest, most redneck photo that I’ve ever been in. There’s nothing beautiful and lovely and princess-like about a scrunched-up face hotboxing horrible, vile, putrid nicotine behind the reception hall. But I can actually bear to look at this photo now, after ten long years. It’s like looking my demon square in the face and saying, "Hey, your breath smells like an ashtray.")

Anyway, I’ve always associated smoking with fun and exciting times in my life, but smoking didn’t make those things fun.

Did the earrings that I wore or the nail polish color that I chose for the occasion actually make those occasions special? No. And the cigarettes didn’t either.

As I read the book, I realized just how extensively I had been brainwashed for over a decade. 

I began to understand what non-smokers already know: that nicotine isn’t a friend, a confidant, or a boost. Nicotine is an enemy.

I was paying my enemy a fortune to kill me.

And I also realized that being smoke-free didn’t mean I was being deprived of anything.

On the contrary, I was only deprived while smoking: deprived of oxygen, health, relaxation, money, and freedom. Since I'm not being deprived of anything good, I now know that I shouldn’t be moping around depressed and mad at the world and everyone in it. I should be rejoicing!

And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing for a whole week.

RELATED: My Husband's Smoking Is Killing Our Love Life

A week. It sounds like a measly milestone, right? Seven little days.

But this is the longest, with the exception of my pregnancies, that I've successfully gone without smoking — not even slipping up once — and most importantly, this is the longest I’ve gone without smoking and BEEN COMPLETELY CONTENT AND HAPPY ABOUT IT.

I’m not mourning the loss of an old friend. I’m celebrating the fact that I’m no longer in bondage.

In seven days, I’ve endured several mega-stressors, attended social functions, and even watched an episode of Mad Men, and I didn’t slip up once.

I didn’t get incredibly anxious or run to the gas station to eat a whole pack.

I dealt with it. I used the techniques in the book and I’ve easily conquered the nicotine troll.

If you don’t smoke, then hallelujah and praise God!

But if you do, I’m writing this post for you (and I’m writing it without puffing on poison, which is a miracle in itself since I’ve always associated writing with smoking). Read the book. You have nothing to lose but charred lungs and stank breath.

You can do it. Trust me. You can. Easily. Yes, I said easily.

I firmly believe, for the first time, that I’m not going to smoke again.

Not tomorrow, not next week, not when I’m 80. If one day I'm shuffling toward the exit sign at my convalescent home, I’ll be shuffling out for fresh air, not rat poison and tar.

And let me rephrase what I said at the beginning of the post.

I said I was a smoker.

I gave up my smoking habit.

I’m a non-smoker and thank God for it.

*Insert the tune of Aladdin’s "A Whole New World" for dramatic effect*

Photo: Author

Ignurnt = The Southern form of "ignorant."

RELATED: This Is What Smoking For 30 Years Does To Your Face

Susannah B. Lewis is an author, blogger, and podcaster. Her videos and articles have been featured in Reader’s Digest, US Weekly, Yahoo!, Huffington Post, Unilad, The Weather Channel, and more. Follow Susannah on her website Whoa Susannah.

This article was originally published at Reprinted with permission from the author.