16 Benefits at One Year Smoke-Free - Marah's Story

Marah's Quit Story

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Marah's quit story and list of benefits is a powerful testimonial regarding the transformation we go through when we quit smoking. Read all of this one - you'll come away inspired to make smoking a permanent part of your past too. Thanks, Marah.

From Marah:

Unbelievable. I truly never thought I would see this day. In honor of my one year smoke-free milestone, I went running for an hour and a half this morning, the longest I've ever gone.

I wasn't even out of breath at the end.

On my walk back to my apartment, I just broke down in tears. I almost started hyperventilating. I just can't believe I did this. I haven't gone a year without a cigarette since I was 11 years old. I want to thank everyone here for making this possible. It never would have happened without the smoking cessation forum.

When I started this journey at 6pm, October 7, 2006, I was a glazed-eyed Allen Carr acolyte. I'd just finished his book for the third time, and decided, "That's it. I'm done." I flushed a pack and a half of cigarettes down the toilet, wrote "I'm free!" on a piece of paper, and taped the paper to my bedroom window.

While part of me was worried about failing (AGAIN...there have been so many failures, a number of them after more than 3 months without cigarettes), another part of me had absorbed the Carr philosophy and was thinking, "This is going to be easy. Smoking offers me nothing."

With all due respect to Allen Carr, whom I admire very much, this has NOT been easy. It has been an acutely painful year. As it turns out, far from offering me nothing, smoking was offering me much more than I'd ever supposed: a way to block out my emotions, a way to not deal with things, a way to escape.

Change happens so slowly that we often don't even realize it's happening. I know that all of this pain is me growing, me changing, me learning how to deal with things and with my emotions, me evolving into the person I was always meant to be. 

The benefits I've enjoyed since quitting are innumerable, but here are a few of the highlights so far.

#1: I've lost weight since I quit smoking and can now wear a size 4!

#2: I am no longer on high blood pressure medication.

#3: Instead of just moaning about my job, which is what I've done for a long time, I actually got the courage to do something about it. I applied to graduate school, and started courses this fall. In two years, I'll be licensed for an entirely different kind of work. Also got the courage to apply for a scholarship, which I never thought I would win (as a smoker, I would have told myself, "No point in applying for it"). I won it, and it will pay for my whole graduate school education.

#4: Before I quit smoking, my hands were a source of shame to me because they were so dry and cracked and withered and yellow, even right after I'd applied lotion.

Since quitting, my hands seem to be ultra-moisturized all of the time, even without lotion. My fingernails are pink and white, and I now feel like my hands are an asset rather than a detriment.

#5: I always worried that I would never be able to truly concentrate without cigarettes and/or nicotine gum. Because of this, I've been very nervous about going back to school. I had my first graduate school test last week, an advanced patho-physiology exam. Permit me to brag for a moment: out of 200 people in the class, only 3 people got a score of 100 -- and I was one of them! This has made my confidence soar, and proves that I don't need cigarettes or nicotine in order to concentrate. In fact, now I'm wondering if my concentration isn't a lot better than it used to be when I was smoking.

#6: I pay the big bucks to live in a part of Baltimore that is not completely infested with crime. I live in a neighborhood that has tree-lined streets, flowers, parks. The problem is, as a smoker I never saw this neighborhood. I was so exhausted all of the time that I truly only went two places: to work and to the grocery store. On my days off, I slept for hours.

Since I quit smoking, I now am out & about in my neighborhood every time I go running. I feel like I am part of my neighborhood now. The man who does the cleaning for the Masonic Temple waves me to me every time I pass, the mailman knows who I am (he told me that he used to run), and there is a man with no legs who sits in a wheelchair in front of the old people's home who also waves to me every day. This last man congratulated me yesterday when I told him I had gone a year without smoking. He said, "It's a hard thing to do. I know."

#7: Yesterday, I found a small ulcer or sore in my mouth. I didn't worry too much about it, and it was gone by this morning. If this had happened when I was a smoker, it would have been cause for major freak-out. I was terrified to look in my mouth when I was a smoker. Every bump, every discoloration, I was convinced was mouth cancer. I watched with horror as my gums receded alarmingly over the course of the last few years. My gums weren't pink, they were this ghastly pale whitish-purple. Meanwhile, my teeth were yellow and brown. My whole mouth scared me.

I hadn't been to a dentist in 6 or 7 years until I finally quit smoking. Now, I've been to the dentist twice, and over the last year I have received two compliments on my white teeth! (Yes, I keep track of compliments...they cheer me up when I'm feeling down.)

#8: In my clinical for school right now, I am working in the state mental hospital. Many of the patients I interview have spent years using alcohol or drugs to self-medicate. Now they have two serious problems: mental illness and addiction.

Because of what I have gone through in the last year, because I have seen the incredible power of addiction over an otherwise intelligent mind, I have a lot more empathy for my patients than I would have otherwise. I don't give them the usual, trite cliches. I don't assume that it should be easy for them to give up the drink/drugs once the physical detox is over. I know how incredibly hard it is to get over something like this, and I think this knowledge has made me a better and more caring practitioner.

#9: I used to sit at this computer and find it difficult to remain here for long because of breathing problems. I'd have to tilt my head and shoulders forward (in COPD "tripod" position) in order to feel like I was getting enough air. I also got out of breath walking on very slight inclines. At night, if I laid down flat on my back, my heart started beating really fast and I felt like I wasn't getting enough air. I don't have any of those problems anymore.

#10: Before, when friends and family would come to visit, I could never really enjoy being with them if they weren't smokers. I didn't want to smoke around them. Instead, I would spend the whole visit thinking, "I hope they leave soon, so I can smoke." This includes people I love more than anyone else in the world. So sad. Now, I can really be with people and enjoy being with them.

#11: I have always been an artistic and creative person, someone with many interesting hobbies. Unfortunately, in my last 5 or 6 years of smoking I was too lethargic to work on my hobbies much. I talked about them a lot (because I didn't want to admit to myself that I'd become a useless, shallow slug), but worked on them very little. Every so often, I would make a half-hearted effort to resurrect some partially-finished project, but I never made much headway.

About 3 or 4 months into my quit, I suddenly had the urge to work on batik again, something I haven't done in years. That was the first sign in a long time that my creative spirit was not dead, just dormant. Then, this past spring -- maybe 6 or 7 months into my quit -- my creative zeal returned in full force. I became obsessed with restoring antique dolls, spent a lot of time working on my dried flower collection, read like a maniac, batiked, did a painting. I felt alive again. To be so excited about a project that you don't want to go to sleep -- this has been one of the greatest benefits of quitting for me.

#12: One thing that tortured me when I was a smoker was the thought that if I contracted a smoking-related disease, everybody would say that it was my own fault. That really haunted me. I don't have those worries now. If I get COPD, lung cancer, throat cancer, whatever, instead of blaming me people will say, "It's especially tragic because she'd had the courage to quit smoking."

#13: I asked for a promotion at work. There is no way I ever would have done this as a smoker. When I smoked, I constantly felt like I was going to get in trouble for something -- even when I hadn't done anything wrong! I had what my friend Seana calls the smoking "cloak of guilt" draped across my shoulders at all times, and always felt like I was on the brink of getting into trouble for some imagined crime. I don't know if I'll get the promotion or not, but it's pretty amazing to me that I had the nerve to ask for one. I do think I deserve it, though.

#14: I have never been an athletic person. In fact, I've always been sort of clumsy and physically uncoordinated. I remember thinking when I first quit smoking that if I ever got to the point where I could run an hour and not be out of breath, that would make me an athlete. Running for a whole hour seemed so inconceivable a year ago. Now I run for an hour at a time, four times a week. It is not difficult. Maybe that means I'm an athlete?

#15: Several people have said, "I can't believe you used to smoke! I can't imagine you as a smoker!" when I told them that I used to smoke (way back in...um..2006). That made me feel really good, like I hadn't permanently branded myself DAMAGED by smoking for 26 years. That was always one of my worries when I was a smoker, like it was too late to quit because I'd already ruined myself

#16: I am a person who has always loved nature. In my twenties, I used to go out on the Appalachian Trail by myself for more than a month at a time. I love the changing of the seasons. I love animals. I love learning the Latin names of flowers and plants. Smoking is antithetical to the natural world. Everything in the natural world strives to live, to survive. Survival is the name of the game. Smoking, on the other hand, is death-promoting and life-draining. The two do not go together.

Now, when I am outside, breathing in the fresh air, watching a squirrel in a tree, seeing the flowers, I feel like I am at last really part of it all. I don't have to struggle to try to reconcile the incongruity of being a smoker and a "nature person."

I always regarded myself as the type of person who took the time to stop and smell the roses. Smoking changed all that.  But now, as a nonsmoker, I finally can (and do) take the time to truly "stop and smell the roses" again.  It feels good ... and right.
 

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