Practice Makes Perfect - Ellen's Quit Smoking Story

Ellen and friend. Ellen

Ellen's honest account of the journey she's taken to quit smoking is something most of us can identify with. Nicotine addiction is insidious and tough to break free from...however, it is doable, as Ellen illustrates here so beautifully.

Thanks for sharing your story Ellen, and congratulations!

From Ellen: First, I think I should tell you a little bit about myself.

I am the youngest of a very large family.

When I was a kid, smoking was the rage. Very few people were non-smokers. I remember movie and television stars smoking and looking quite sophisticated, handsome, and glamorous. I also remember one of the cigarette commercials on the television had two dancing packs of cigarettes. It seemed so cute at the time. No one looked down on it. ALL of my relatives smoked except for one aunt. I was completely and totally surrounded by smokers; it just seemed to be the thing to do.

I will admit that riding home from church ( the only time we were all together at one time was on Sundays) in the car when everyone lit up was awful, the stink and smell in that small space would really get to me. All this time, my parents, brothers and sisters were telling me not to smoke as I sat there choking, trying to get a window down for some air. For the record I do remember wishing we had never gotten the car...it was so much nicer walking home from church because it wasn't a confined space they lit up in.

It is no wonder that I started smoking at age 12 and it was indeed very easy to steal cigarettes out of all the packs lying around the house. I didn’t even have to hide the smell...no one would ever detect that I was smoking.

I also remember being able to smoke in the doctor's waiting rooms. And how insulted I was when the "Thank You For Not Smoking" signs went up in place of the ashtrays.

I smoked for many years, telling myself and anyone who would listen that it was not a problem for me, that I could quit any time. I just didn’t choose to quit, and to a large extent that was true.

It wasn't until my late 30's that I began to realize how difficult it was to quit smoking. I became a perpetual quitter. It got to the point that people would joke about it and never take me seriously. So what finally changed my mind? Slowly, one by one, my brothers and sisters were quitting smoking! The traitors! All they talked about was how awful smokers were, (me) and how much they smelled (me).

When it came to quitting, I tried just about everything. Willpower, acupuncture, hypnosis, even a staple in my ear. My hopes had been high, but nothing worked, because I wasn't really ready to quit.

I quit in February of ’08 with Chantix. Lasted three weeks and I was back smoking again. Oh, I had plenty of reasons for giving in to smoking. Good ones too, or so I thought. At any rate, I lurked on this forum and watched with a mixture of envy and pride as my original quit buddies went through their first year.

Practically on the eve of them reaching the one year mark, I decided to quit again, this time for the last time. It had to be. I was so tired of the lack of effort on my part.

I decided to again quit with the help of Chantix. I couldn’t breathe, and my lungs made horrendous noise all the time, especially when I was trying to fall asleep. I also had a constant cough that was embarrassing in all situations. Why didn't I just hang a sign around my neck saying "smoker"? The cough always gave me away.

The most important reason was I couldn't stand the smell on my breath, skin, or clothes anymore. Everyone I know thought I had quit the year before. I was too embarrassed to inform them differently.

And so, a year ago I began my journey. I had a plan, a promise to myself, and most importantly, I had determination. I was going to finally grow up and stop smoking for once and for all. I was going to quit kidding myself and stay with the program.

In the beginning it was a trip from hell. I had been smoking 2 to 3 packs of cigarettes a day. I knew enough not to fool around or take chances of setting myself up to failure, so got rid of all cigarettes and lighters. I was not going to give myself any options or excuses to fail. You have no idea how much I admire someone who can quit smoking with a smoker in the house. I honestly don’t think I could bypass that temptation.

Once I quit smoking, I found myself addicted to the computer. I downloaded and played games at every opportunity because I didn’t want to go downstairs. Smoking was never allowed upstairs, so there were no triggers there, but smoking was allowed in the kitchen so there were triggers in the kitchen. It truly was difficult to be downstairs.

I remember vividly staring into space, thinking I was watching TV but couldn’t tell you what I had just seen or heard. Couldn’t concentrate enough to read a book and I love to read. Couldn’t sew, and I love to sew my quilts. Wouldn't talk on the phone because that was a huge trigger. Didn't want to go anywhere because returning home was the biggest trigger of all. When I did go out I was not smoking, but as soon as I returned home, I would smoke 4-5 cigarettes one after another to make up for it. It got so I wouldn’t leave the house because I couldn’t face returning home.

Finally I started to practice...I got in my car and drove around the block, came home, went back out, drove around the block, came home….again and again and again for days on end. I kid you not. It helped, I still sometimes come home and expect to smoke that cigarette but it is a rare thought now.

If I have anything to say to anyone just starting on their journey, it is to stay with the forum, stay with your quit group, find your sense of humor and put it out there. It is so much easier to get through this, even in the brain fog, if you can laugh about what is happening to you.

I am done not smoking for ONE FULL YEAR! It is now time to use my key and enter the Clubhouse.

Now I am starting my second year and feeling pretty confident about making that milestone, too. Life is really, really, good. I am Blessed.

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