Keep Trying Until You Succeed

Christine's Quit Story

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From Smoking Cessation Expert, Terry Martin:

Christine Rowley hosted the Smoking Cessation site for many years. She helped more people quit and stay that way than we could ever begin to count.

Sadly, we lost Christine in July of 2004 when she succumbed to a stroke. I think she'd be pleased to know how much her quit story continues to help those people working to quit smoking. 

From Christine:
Smoking for nearly 35 years got me where I am today: living in a body with COPD lung disease (emphysema, asthma and chronic bronchitis), with oxygen hosed in 24/7, and a fervent wish that I had never started in the first place.

Things might be very different today, had I not begun smoking as a teen. I feel that I became a nearly hopeless nicotine addict in a very short time.

Smoking became the thing to do mainly for one reason at the time and that was to rebel. I did it because I knew my parents wouldn't like me doing it. I coughed and choked and got dizzy the first few times I tried smoking, and I wondered if there wasn't an easier, more enjoyable way to rebel for my tender 15 year old body. But, I was told that this was cool, the "in" thing to do...that all the popular kids were doing it, too.

Well, yeah! I wanted to be popular and it wasn't as dangerous or as wild as SOME of the stuff other kids were doing in the name of popularity, so I began to sneak smokes occasionally. I only smoked with my friends and it seemed that most of them were smoking too.

Though I had used smoking as a way to rebel, when I turned 16, I wanted to be able to smoke at home with my folks' approval and not feel so guilty about sneaking around behind their backs.

When I brought the subject up, my parents were not happy about it and although I got a stern lecture from my dad about the consequences of smoking, they relented and allowed me to smoke at home.

Knowing how my mom thought, the idea was that I would most likely smoke less if allowed to smoke at home without guilt pangs driving me to smoke more.

That may have been the idea, but it didn't work out that way. I wish I had listened to my dad.

Life was good when I was young and footloose...fancy free. I worked in civil service with computers, but they were WAY different than they are now...(took up a whole wall and wouldn't do what the one on my desk does now!) and enjoyed spending the weekends scuba diving, fishing, drinking and partying.

I lived in the gorgeous Florida Keys and stayed there when my Navy dad transferred back to the west coast. I went to "hootenanny" bars at night and did lots of smoking then. It didn't seem to be affecting my health yet. But, nicotine and Ole Demon Nic is darn sneaky, as I found out much later.

The first time there was an inkling that cigarettes could really harm me was when I was about 25 and being treated for alcohol abuse where I'd been sent to spend 30 days in rehabilitation. That is a whole OTHER story, and not the subject of this story. But, I will admit that I've been sober that way since 1975, due to the Grace of God.

Back to smokes, well, that admitting physician had said that if I didn't quit smoking, I'd have emphysema within 5 years. I laughed at him then and when I got out, managed to latch on to an AA program and started getting my life in order once again. I wish I had listened to the doctor about smoking.

I was told by somebody in AA that I couldn't possibly manage to quit two addictive things at one time and be successful. I was all for hearing that. I'd go to meetings every day and I loved it. Everybody in the room would be smoking and if there WERE any non-smokers coming into the room, they were unwitting smokers when they walked out with all that secondhand smoke. We all left that room in a virtual CLOUD of smoke...and so it went for year in and year out...reekingly.

I was sober and helping others and my life was getting better, but in one area, my life was starting to get worse. I was smoking more and enjoying it less. I was also beginning to cough now and then and attributing it to a smoker's cough.

Marriage and baby carriages came along when I felt emotionally mature enough for a relationship with a solid non-drinking, non-smoking man who could accept me as I was. I never tried to hide the fact that I was a recovering alcoholic from him and he didn't seem to mind my smoking. We were still years away from knowing about secondhand smoke and what it can do to folks.

Two years after we were married, I had a beautiful baby girl. When did I quit smoking? The minute I walked into the hospital to give birth. I suppose I didn't believe that my smoking during my pregnancy with Jennifer would affect her in any way, but I found out I was mistaken when she weighed in at 5 1/2 pounds. That's less than they would have liked her to carry at birth, and I'm SURE now it was due to my continuing to smoke.

I decided to stay quit, thinking if I could go a few days without smoking, maybe I could just quit altogether for the rest of my life. I began to wonder if perhaps my past smoking was continuing to affect her.

She became a colicky baby and could cry and scream for 8 or 9 hours at times. It would break my heart to think she was that uncomfortable. The doctors wanted me to give her Tylenol with codeine, but I didn't want to put dope in her body.

The colic proved to be my undoing as I was going batty from all the crying and all the frustration of feeling so helpless to help her. It was sometime in the 3rd month of being an ex-smoker that I threw up my hands and marched down to the corner grocer where I picked up the pack that would set me back on the road to smoking.  Little did I know then that I wouldn't stop for good for another 18 years.

Oh, I did try to quit...time after time after time. I guess I've quit hundreds of times! But, I didn't get serious about it until I developed more of a smoker's cough and more of a breathing problem. My mom could hear a pin drop and would comment whenever we visited them how wheezy I sounded and my dad would launch into his evils of smoking lecture once more, after telling me that I "smell like a cigar!" Being an old Navy man who had smoked a pipe for many a year and quit, he felt he knew what he was talking about. Did I believe him...well, I sure was beginning to! Actually, I think I knew by then that I HAD to quit.

It became even more of a priority when a gal who worked at the local pet shop, an acquaintance who also smoked a lot, developed cancer of the larynx and throat. She went through surgery after surgery where they removed more and more of her face and throat each time. She had to write her thoughts to me instead of being able to talk to me. She said, "Chris, cigarettes did this to me." I was devastated to learn she had died not long after the hospital visit that opened my eyes finally to what these cigarettes could do. So I took one of those Freedom From Smoking classes and had only sporadic success with that.

The films I'd seen in those classes would not disappear from my mind. Whoever thought of showing smokers what lungs look like on the inside was just brilliant! Who can forget that lovely scene...cut open lungs...not pink...not healthy.  But, even with that and all the facts they threw at me, I kept quitting and starting...unable to break the addiction long enough to truly kick it.

One day, I thought...let's get serious here. Go buy the nicotine patches and see if they help me over the dreaded withdrawal stages, and they did! It was so much better this time and I reveled in the fact that the cravings were nearly non-existent for a change.

I managed to get a few weeks of being smoke-free and was beginning to take it for granted until it marched right up and whacked me alongside the head one day after a big disagreement with my family.  I learned what stress triggers were.  I went out and as much as said, "I'll show you, I'll kill me! So there!" as I ripped off the patch and lit up a cigarette.

A few months later, I quit again and donned the patch once more. Three days later, while I was out in my workshop working on a piece of stained glass, I began to shake and shiver uncontrollably...and I felt strange. It stopped after a few minutes and I thought no more of it until it happened again a little later. I thought perhaps it was my body coming up with a new way of withdrawing from cigarettes.  

I told my husband that I felt like maybe it was the flu coming on, and would go see a doctor the next morning. Feeling weakened, I put myself to bed and dropped right off to sleep. Hours later, I awoke coughing up blood and again shaking and shivering, unable to stop. My husband tossed me in the car and zoomed the two miles to the local hospital emergency room at three in the morning.

It turned out to be a bit more serious than the flu...they hospitalized me for pneumonia and my doctor said that I had been only minutes away from the ICU when I got there. They worked fast and were able to prevent my getting worse, thank God.

I stayed in the hospital for a week and got very little rest. I discovered that they don't let you sleep at night in a hospital! I felt like a new person when I got out, but I had medication in the form of pills and inhalers and they have become my lifelong buddies ever since.

Managing to stay quit for seven months, I went through another family crisis leading to the latest relapse. After I had calmed down, I threw the rest of one pack out the car window, vowing that this was it...that I wasn't going to ruin my life further. 

My memory must have been very short that day because I got another pack the next day, intending to only smoke one to get me through that morning. Well, who can throw away a pack you just paid money for and only smoke one? I couldn't.  I kept going and tried to quit that afternoon and couldn't.

To make things worse, I was sneaking around...not smoking around my husband or daughter. I'd have one outside where I wasn't seen, or out in the workshop, or behind the trellis in the garden, or go for a trip to the store.  I couldn't seem to quit and I hated being sneaky about it, so eventually I told them I'd started up again, enabling me to smoke more.

One late August evening, I was watching a movie on TV with my family and smoking one of my "cheap" Austin Lights (I was back up to about two packs a day, by the way)...when all of a sudden, I couldn't take a normal breath.  Every time I breathed in, before the breath was halfway taken, I would get a bad stabbing pain in my back, around the lung area. 

My husband tosses me in the car, and off we race, back over to the emergency room.  I can't wait till we get there, because I am breathing shallowly and very,very worried that the next breath might not come at all.

When we got there, they recognized it as an emergency of the caliber where they didn't let you sit in the waiting room at all. They started me on massive doses of the same stuff I get in my inhaler...Albuterol. They did the blood gases test again...oh, those are so painful!

I was starting to feel better about an hour after I got there, when they tossed the breathing machine at me again. This time, it made me overdose on the stuff, and it started my stabbing pains again, which turned out to be pleurisy, which is inflammation of the lungs.  I'd never experienced it before, and hope I never do again. Eventually things came back into balance and they sent me home.

The next day, I went to my scheduled lung doctor appointment. He had already been notified of my "antics" of the night before. He chided me for having to go the the ER with pleurisy and then checked me over. He got real serious and said..."Christine, if you don't get serious about quitting RIGHT NOW, I don't think you'll be alive for another 5 years." The diagnosis now was emphysema.

Well, that was on August 29, 1995, and I'm still kicking. But, I kicked the NicoDemon for good that day, and am proud to say "I'm smoke-free today." I've only been able to do it one day at a time. I didn't use the patches this time. I decided to go cold turkey. Sure, I had withdrawals for a few days, but it was easier after those few days, and it was easier when I lived only one day at a time.

When I quit smoking that last time, I decided that I needed insurance to be sure I didn't smoke again. When in AA, I learned that one of the BEST things I could possibly do for myself was to help other people and so I came up with "The No Smoke Cafe" on the Net a couple of months after I quit.

I can honestly say I am very proud to be a part of the lives of the thousands of people who have come through the Cafe in that short time. I also was asked to be the Smoking Cessation Guide at the Mining Company, (now called where I could help in some small way, still thousands of others.

I guess you could say I just wanted to "make a difference" in the lives of other smokers who wanted to quit, and I pray that the Cafe and's Smoking Cessation has made a difference in YOUR life for the better too. You have all made a BIG difference in my life, and have helped to keep me smoke-free for all this time. I couldn't have done it without you.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! God Bless you all! ((((huggzzzzz)))) Christine

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