Jul 01 2008

Free From Smoking! Yes You Can. . . (Part One)

This post (or, rather, series of posts) is probably one of the most personal I’m ever going to make — because it’s about my own addiction to — and recovery from — smoking cigarettes. I went from a 2 1/2-pack-a-day smoker, to being completely free from cigarettes, and with NO more craving. But the journey wasn’t pretty.

I started smoking when I was around 13 or 14 years old (hard to remember now, all these many years — and millions of cigarettes — later.) How I started was by stealing my Dad’s cigarettes (yeah, I know — that was wrong from the start) from packs he left around the house. Originally, I was just curious. I wanted to see what it was like. And I didn’t like them at all! But the journey from that first cigarette, to the path that finally set me free from the eventual addiction, was quite a wild and harrowing ride.

After learning that I didn’t like the taste of cigarettes, something interesting happened. I see in retrospect that the intense desire to belong fed nicely into my wanting to smoke, even though I hated the taste. But the addictive behavior had already begun; I began to seek cigarettes that tasted better. And wouldn’t you know, the tobacco industry was ready and waiting for me — with new brands tailored to the women’s market, with advertising and new packaging that helped me over the not-very-high hurdle of the bad taste of cigarettes.

I didn’t smoke in high school, except for an occasional puff of someone else’s cigarette. I imagine you could count the number of actual cigarettes I smoked from the age of 12-17 on less than ten fingers.

But when I went away to college? It was a different story. The need to belong and fit in, coupled with the stressors of trying to make good grades and have a social life in a new environment, were too much. Smoking cigarettes quickly became a habit, even though I often switched brands, looking for one that tasted better than the others. I am guessing now that it took less than 30 days for me to acquire a full-blown smoking habit — one that put me through hell to release.

I smoked from the age of 17 until the age of 50, after trying to quit for more than 25 years, off and on at first and then with an urgent and fervent desire to stop smoking. But I couldn’t do it alone. I tried and failed so many times that I felt enormous shame and guilt. I knew that the habit (as I called it) was powerful, but I didn’t know how much so until I really tried hard to quit — and found I could not do it. That was a scary time.

In a moment, I’ll tell you what worked for me — and how I managed to beat the habit — but first I want to share with you what it was like for me, trying to quit and not being able to do so. I want to get this off my conscience, in the hopes that maybe it will help someone else quit their smoking habit sooner — and easier — than I did.

In all those 25 unsuccessful years of trying, I felt that I reach the bottom of the pit. I was appalled at what I would do for a smoke, and who I had become as a result of my smoking habit. But I still couldn’t quit.

Because this is getting to be a long story, let me stop here and continue in additional posts. Let’s call this one “How I got hooked.”

The story continues. . .

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One Response to “Free From Smoking! Yes You Can. . . (Part One)”

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