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.
As the years went on, I suddenly realized that by smoking, I was risking both my health and the health of people around me. I was also spending large amounts of money on something that could very well kill me. Cancer runs in my family, and having lost both parents to forms of cancer, it was always in the back of my mind to quit knowing that smoking was a high risk factor for the disease. But that's where the thought stayed... at the back of my mind. After all, I didn't want to part with my dear friend, the cigarette, or gain weight like 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, I think that a lot of smokers, including myself, began to find the activity less and less enjoyable. Instead of a fun past time, smoking had become more of a quick fix taking place in a dark corner, out in bad weather, behind buildings, or in the garage. Enjoying a social outing was dictated as to where I could scurry off to, to enjoy this so-called “fix.” Inevitably, I was always on the tail end of many conversations, having always missed out on most of whatever was being said in group while out for a smoke.
Was this addiction worth it? The inconvenience, the cost, and, most importantly, the long-lasting health effects?
Any smoker will say they know they are addicted but feel like they could never quit or boast that they could quit anytime, but just don't feel like it. And for some time, I was the same way.
I told myself when I turned 30, I would quit, then I turned 40, and soon 50 breezed by without a second look. But with the next age milestone creeping up on me, I knew it was time to actually try and change. I was determined to not be smoking at 60. But how? Could I really do it this time…after all the times I tried before?
Thankfully, the staff at Heart Niagara suggested trying their Smoking Cessation Program. I was already working at their offices once a week, so it was indeed a convenient way to attack my problem.
But again, was I really ready?
Well, I am not going to say the process was easy, but it definitely wasn't as hard as I had thought it was going to be.
Before the program started, 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 where I found that I did not enjoy the cigarette as much and would soon extinguish it. I would not have one after dinner, which to me was the most enjoyable one of the day. Instead of smoking, I would have a glass of water or go for a quick walk in the garden.
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 of the other products before, 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 of 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 proudly able to say that 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 out on in life. Like 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 thought that 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 quitting 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 I found after I quit smoking was that 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 try, I did.
Let's face it, smoking had weakened my lungs, so running did become a taxing endeavor. 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 feel exhilarated! A 5km run or jog is no longer the challenge nor the exhausting feat I once thought it to be.
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!