Friday, August 14, 2015

Why and How I Quit Smoking

Photo: Dodgerton

Why and How I Quit Smoking

I don't remember the day I started smoking, but I do remember why. My husband smoked. When we kissed, he tasted like a full ashtray smells. I started smoking so that that wouldn't bother me so much, but I knew better.

All through high school, P.E. and health teachers preached the deleterious effects of tobacco smoke on the body. Television, newspapers, magazines, doctors, and the Surgeon General all reported that cigarette smoking caused cancer, emphysema, and many other health problems. I didn't need to hear or read their stories. Both my parents have smoked since their teens. I saw firsthand what smoking does to the smoker.

Nicotine stained fingers, face, and teeth are just the beginning. Besides the offensive smell, there is the layer of nicotine that stains everything in the smoker's home—furniture, walls, carpets, everything. Both my parents were extremely sick with illnesses directly attributable to smoking, emphysema and lung cancer for my dad, and emphysema and asthma for my mom. Cigarettes were budgeted in with groceries. If money was tight, we ate beans and potatoes, but they never did without cigarettes. I promised myself in my teens that I would never smoke. I broke that promise sometime in the summer of 1981.

Cigarette smoking causes
multiple health issues!

Learning to smoke was difficult for me. I had so many reasons not to, that I really had to push to get it done. After years and years of second hand smoke exposure, my health began to deteriorate immediately. By the end of the first year, I had chronic bronchitis. Cigarettes became a crutch. If life was stressful, I smoked. If I was ill, I smoked. If everything was great, I smoked. My habit was so bad, I couldn't drive down the street or cook a meal without smoking. The first thing I did in the morning was light a cigarette. The last thing I did at night was put one out.

Soon, clothes with tiny circles burned into the fabric became the norm. I couldn't breathe easily if I walked further than out to my car. I couldn't play ball with my children; I didn't have the breath. Many times I decided to quit. And I would, for two or three hours. By the end of the second year, I had had three bouts of pneumonia. For the next 10 years, even after I quit smoking, I had pneumonia at least once a year.

After smoking for five years, I thought I was doomed to be a lifetime smoker just like my parents. Then something frightening happened. I fell asleep in my chair with a lit cigarette in my hand. Unlike many others who died after they went to sleep with a burning cigarette, I was fortunate. I wasn't hurt. Not physically, anyway.

I was terrified. If I had not wakened from the smell of burning fabric, I might have died, or at least been badly burned. The new skirt I was wearing for the first time had eight holes burned through it. The folds of fabric had protected my skin until I awoke. When I realized that I had risked my life, and ruined a brand new skirt, anger replaced the terror I felt--anger at myself.

After gathering all the cigarettes, I had, I went to the kitchen and carefully destroyed each one, then dropped it into the trash can. By evening I was suffering, but I refused to buy more.

Later, I learned my brother-in-law had just quit smoking. He told me to buy salted, roasted sunflower seeds in the shell.
"Suck the salt off and spit out the seeds," he said. "Salt cuts the craving for nicotine."

I don’t know why, but it worked. (I wouldn't recommend this method without talking to your medical care professional. Salt can cause all kinds of issues for people with health problems.) Maybe just because I was replacing a bad habit with one that wasn’t as bad. For six weeks, I carried sunflower seeds around with me. Anytime I started to crave a cigarette, I popped four or five sunflower seeds in my mouth. The times I felt foolish for constantly having sunflower seeds in my mouth, I would just remember the new skirt I had thrown away. Don't misunderstand. Quitting cigarettes was the hardest thing I ever did, but I was more determined than I had ever been.

I don't remember the day I started smoking, but I'll never forget the day I stopped. On June 2, 1986, I dumped the worst habit I have ever had. Was it worth it? You bet. Though it took a while to recover, I no longer have pneumonia every year. Bronchitis still bothers me on occasion, and I have episodes of chronic asthma, but most of the time I can breathe without trouble. Best of all, my husband quit, too, within a month of the date that I quit. We have had a smoke free home for almost 30 years, and we have both benefitted from it.

Did you ever smoke? How and why did you stop smoking? Do you still smoke?

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