Smoking had me hooked almost from the first cigarette. That was at age 15. At the time, I didn't even consider what the health risks were, I was cool, and that's all that mattered or so I thought.
But as the years went on I suddenly realized I was not only risking my health and perhaps of the health of the people around me. I was spending huge amounts of money on something that indeed could kill me. Cancer is in my family, having lost both parents to forms of cancer, it was always in the back of my mind to quit, but that's where it stayed. After all, I didn't want to part with a dear friend nor did I want to gain weight like so many people I knew who had quit before me.
I truly enjoyed smoking, I can't deny that. But as time went on and smoking bylaws changed, smokers found their tobacco friend become less and less enjoyable. It had become more of a quick fix taking place in a dark corner, out of the elements of bad weather, behind buildings, or in the garage. Enjoying a social outing was dictated as to where I could scurry off to, to enjoy my “fix.” Inevitably, I was always on the tail end of many conversations, having missed most of it while out for a smoke.
Any smoker will say they know they are addicted but feel they could never quit or boast that they could quit anytime, but just don't feel like it. Was this addiction worth it? The inconvenience, the expense, and, most importantly, the long lasting health effects?
I always had good intentions of quitting. I told myself when I turn 30, I will quit, then 40 and soon 50 breezed by without a second look. Now with the next milestone creeping up on me, I was determined to not be smoking at 60. But how? Could I really do it this time? After all I had tried before?
Thankfully the staff at Heart Niagara suggested trying their Smoking Cessation Program. I work at their offices once a week so it was indeed a convenient way to attack my problem.
Was I really ready?
I am not going to say it was easy, but it wasn't as hard as I had thought it was going to be.
I spoke with the counsellor, before actually taking the plunge, about my concerns and fears. No one had to tell me obvious truths about smoking, I think we all know what they are. But I had a list of my own.
What if I did quit, then what? It was difficult to picture myself a non-smoker. Smoking had been a part of my life for 42 years! Would my favourite chair still be my favourite chair without my “little friend”? I am sure we all have a list of fears, but that is all they are. Those fears were not going to sabotage me again.
I chose to take a few weeks to start cutting back on my own, changing my smoking habits where I could. I would light up earlier in the day and found that I didn't enjoy that cigarette and would soon extinguish it. I would not have the one after dinner, to me the most enjoyable one of the day, but instead have a glass of water or maybe go for a quick walk in the garden. Anything to take my mind off smoking that one cigarette.
I was ready once the time came to start the program. The options of smoking cessation products were given to me, from patches, to gum, to the available prescription medications. Since I had tried some in the past I chose to try the prescription medication followed by gum.
Day one wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. Instead of the 6 or 7 cigarettes I normally smoked I had managed to eliminate 3 of them from my daily routine. I was proud… and scared.
By the third day on the program I woke up and went about my day. I wasn't thinking about smoking but more about the fact I didn't want to smoke. Something I was quite proud of.
Those days eventually turned into weeks. I was now considering myself a non-smoker, at least to strangers, as my friends and family were hopeful I would continue the journey, but figured I would lapse back into the habit. After all, I had before.
As long as I stayed positive, I would eventually prove them wrong. And I did. I am now able and proudly at that say I am a non-smoker. It has been nearly 4 years now and I have to say I don't miss it.
An obvious reason is that I do feel better. My car, my home, and my clothing all smell better. I feel included now, which may sound strange, but as a smoker you don't realize how much you miss in life. One thing was sleep.
I had never been what you would call a great sleeper. As much as I enjoyed sleep, I rarely slept through the night. I was always restless. I never considered it was perhaps a withdrawal symptom of smoking. My body was telling me that it required nicotine and that it couldn't handle 7 hours without it. It wasn't until I was on my journey that I discovered I could sleep sound and through the night, something I don't think I had done since I was a child.
Another noticeable change was I could breathe better. My after dinner walks eventually turned into short runs. Now another challenge was on. Could I do a 5km run? One way to find out was to register as a participant with a local cancer run. After all, I was never going to know unless I actually tried. And tried I did.
Let's face it, smoking had weakened my lungs, so running did become a taxing endeavour. I persevered choosing not to give up. Yes, I made it the first 5km, but I had walked much of it. BUT I actually ran across the finish line. Something I had never done in my entire life. This was the motivation I needed.
Now jogging is a part of my life. I am no great runner, but it is something I do enjoy at the end of the day. It clears my head, makes me physically tired (as I sit at a desk most of the day) and makes me fell exhilarated! A 5km run or jog is no longer the challenge nor the exhausted feat it once was.
Now, I am not saying you need to quit smoking and become a jogger. I am saying quit smoking and enjoy the time you have doing what makes you feel alive. Focus on something other than smoking. Healthy cooking, physical activities, hobbies, or your family and friends. Whatever you choose, you will be better off.
As the old saying goes, and it may be a bit cliché, this is the first day of the rest of your life!
Good luck on your journey!
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in blog entries are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Heart Niagara.