Saturday, April 19, 2008

My very own anniversary

Today is a special day for me. 9 years and 1 day ago I had my last cigarette ever, which means that 9 years ago today was my first smoke free day. "My name is Alane & I'm an ex smoker." "Hi Alane!"

It was HARD to quit smoking. Me, my boss & my boss's boss were going to quit on the same day & support each other through it. I however, am the only one who even tried.

We had done this in the past , "we are going to quit on (insert date)." So on said date, we would be at work, all grumpy & gritchy, growling at all who crossed our paths. Then one of us, wracked with guilt, would give in & head outside to get some smoky relief. Then slink back in, trying to keep the other 2 from finding out lest she tempt us. Of course at some point we would discover
the culprit & run out to join her, killing ourselves an inch at a time, suckin in those noxious fumes that felt oh so good.

But this time was different. I don't know why, I had tried to quit many times in the past & I never stuck with it but this time I was determined.

It helped that Chris hated my smoking. He grew up in a houseful of human chimneys & hated it. Still hates it! Every time we visit his family they air out the house for a couple of days & only smoke outside while we visit but the house just reeks. They can't smell it, they think it's like, mountain fresh or something but we are practically gagging (ok that's an exaggeration but it is pretty bad.) Chris put up with me but would never buy my ciggys for me or make any extra effort to accommodate my habit. Made me mad at the time but God bless him for it!

To quit you need to address both types of addictions. A smoker is physically addicted to the nicotine & habitually addicted to when/where & how they smoke. To battle the physical I used the patch & it was a lifesaver. The patch gives you a low dose of nicotine through your skin to keep the receptors in your brain happy. You gradually step down your dose until you can go it on your own & completely cut out the drug.

~We interrupt this blog to bring you this public service announcement~

Within 20 minutes after you smoke that last cigarette, your body begins a series of changes that continue for years.
20 Minutes After Quitting

Your heart rate drops.
12 hours After Quitting
Carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
2 Weeks to 3 Months After Quitting
Your heart attack risk begins to drop.Your lung function begins to improve.
1 to 9 Months After Quitting
Your coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
1 Year After Quitting
Your added risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker’s.
5 Years After Quitting
Your stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker’s 5-15 years after quitting.
10 Years After Quitting
Your lung cancer death rate is about half that of a smoker’s.Your risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, and pancreas decreases.
15 Years After Quitting
Your risk of coronary heart disease is back to that of a nonsmoker’s.

~Now back to your regularly scheduled blogging~

To help me with my when/where & how addictions I mainly used two strategies, avoiding & substitution.

The main places I smoked were at work & in the car. I avoided the smoking area at work like the plague. Our building was cut in half by a large foyer/hallway & at the back of the hall was the back entrance...aka the smoking area. Whenever I had to see someone in the other half of the office I would use the doors furthest from the back, and look toward the front doors while I was in the hallway. I also tried to ignore when my boss & my boss's boss (or anyone else for that matter) would go out to smoke. NOT an easy task in our small office!! Unfortunately I could not use tactics like that in my car, (#3 from
this post) I just had to suck up & get through it. It smelled like an ashtray, poor thing. I kept a little cup of baking soda in there to help with the smell which s.l.o.w.l.y got better but never completely went away.

That brings me to substitutions. I'm sure your wondering (as I would) what the heck I mean by that. I kept
tootsie roll pops & stir sticks/pen caps/anything-plasticy-I-could-chew-on with me at all times to distract me from cravings. I had to have something to keep my mouth & hands busy. I don't know how many bags of Tootsie roll pops I went through but I'm sure I should have bought stock in the company...I ate a lot of those things! And I think our office manager was a tad confused at how many stir sticks we were going through. (smile) These both helped me immensely when I got hit by a craving.

Cravings for cigarettes are intense. I would get this feeling in my lungs that I needed smoke in them...NOW! I would breathe as deeply as I could to make it go away but it felt like something was missing. Which of course, it was! (funny, writing about it now is bringing the feeling back - weird.) Sometimes I would have to get up from my desk & hop up & down, kind of like when you stub your toe? When that happens to me I make up nonsense words to keep from swearing & I did the same thing when craving a ciggy. Every once in a while you could find me pacing the hallways, muttering to myself, trying to keep from thinking about cigarettes.

Eventually the cravings got easier to deal with & I relied less on the patch, tootsie roll pops & stir sticks. After about a year or so I could actually go out with the smokers, sniff the second-hand smoke for a minute, and be fine with it. Sometimes doing that would help with a craving, oddly enough. It still happens from time to time, but now it's more about liking the smell & nostalgia. Most of the time I'm repulsed by the it but every now and then...yummy!

I think my worst time for wanting a smoke came after Sam was born. I was stuck at home without a car, dealing with the day to day stresses of a new baby. There was a store just 3 blocks away & more than a few times I sat on my back porch, contemplating how easy it would be to stroll on over & buy some. Nobody would have to know, just me, all I wanted was just one little drag. But then I'd think about all that hard work (it had been 3 years) and how it would be completely wiped out by one puff on a cigarette. Yeah, SO not worth it!

Do I still get cravings? Yes. But they are few & far between & now & not very strong anymore. I do have dreams about it sometimes. Usually when I'm going through a lot of stress. (go figure) The dreams are very vivid, you know, the kind when you wake up & think it was real? They freak me out! Every time I have one I think "all that work for nothing!" Then slowly I realize that I would never do that again & then I can calm down & bask in my non-smokiness.

To the non-smokers out there who desperately (and rightly) want a loved one to quit, I have one thing to say...DON'T NAG!!! That is the single most irritating thing to a smoker. Most of them want to quit & have tried to quit many times over. Please do not hound them, it only makes them feel worse. Just a few days before my quit date my parents lovingly sent me a message with tips on how to quit. This was a regular occurrence. They regularly gave me articles clipped from the newspaper, advice columns and other 'helpful' stuff. I got so irritated with them that I didn't tell them I had quit for more than a year! Yes, it is that irritating.

To all you smokers out there, you can do it! Maybe not now, maybe not next week or next year but when you are really ready, you WILL do it. I urge you to get information on how to quit, the good changes that will happen to your body after you quit & any other info you can get your hands on. I Googled quit smoking & came up with 9,480,000 results. I'm not going to give you any links here because I don't have the time to research them. But I know there are many, many resources out there to help you. Get support, through friends, family or a group but make sure you have support. And remember, when you are ready you CAN and you WILL do it.

I'm sorry this post is so long but I very much wanted to share my story with you. I believe it's an important one to tell. I hope that it will help some 'nons' to understand smokers better & maybe, just maybe it will help a smoker get to the point at which they are ready.

God bless y'all!


Mari said...

I've never tried smoking and it's a good thing because I know I would be addicted. Congrats to you for 9 years free!

Kate said...

What an enormous accomplishment!

My uncle once said kicking smoking was harder than getting off heroin. Not sure if he had personal experience with that. And my dad said 20 years after quitting that sometimes he would smell smoke and want a cigarette.

I wanted to smoke when I was younger, but it never took. Not-yet-diagnosed asthma saved me from it and I am so glad. I have only admiration for people who are able to quit, people who have tried to quit, and people who want to quit.

Rebekah said...

I smoked off and on from the time I was 18. I was more of a social smoker but when I started dispatching- there were nights I would go through a pack (that was a lot for me)
I haven't smoked in 5 years (minus the one after a long car ride with lots of kids and the one last summer sitting around a camp fire)

I still crave one every now and then, but when I think about that taste in my mouth, I can withstand it.

Congrats on 9 years!

Kalynne Pudner said...

Congratulations! The timing is funny; my husband and I celebrated our anniversary weekend, in part, by touring the first five homes of our marriage. One of them was empty, and we went up onto the back deck...where I used to step outside to smoke. I'd forgotten all about it! I quit in December of '97 when we moved into the next house. For me, it was on (after pregnancy) and off (during pregnancy) for almost 20 years before that. But I was pregnant so much of that time, I guess the addiction didn't have a chance to grab me as tightly as it could.

This was a great post, Alane. Your suggestions are applicable to much more than cigarettes.

Mylhibug said...

Congratulations on your 9 years plus - That is AWESOME!!!

I've never smoked, well except for the occasional 'fake smoking' when I was out at bars, bored out of my mind, or maybe just out of my mind.

I do, on occasion have a cigar - occasion being whenever someone gives me one.

You always hear how hard it is to quit, and one day my father in law will - we hope and pray.

We used to get the kids to tryand guilt 'Poppa' into quiting, but then they started smoking....

Okay, I was kidding.

Have a great day!

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