Today is a big day. It's a day I've been counting down to, as silly as it may sound, but it's still a day I'm proud to say I have made it to.
I haven't smoked a cigarette in 3 months.
(photo credit: futurity.org)
I started smoking when I was 14 years old. It's funny, looking back on my younger childhood, I abhorred the fact that my parents smoked -- I secretly dreamed of soaking my mom's pack of cigarettes in water, only for her to say "You care that much? Oh, I'll quit!" Except that's not what my mother was like. I would've gotten a pretty strong screaming-at, honestly, so I never even went there... just watched her smoke and smoke and smoke and told myself I would never be like her.
Fast forward to 14, my mother and I get into a big fight, I threaten to run away (like you do at 14), she calls my bluff. (It should be noted here that my mother is also not a very good person, but that's a story for another day.) I throw my stuff in a big black garbage bag, collect all of my change for bus fare, and start hauling myself and my belongings through a hot Arizona summer heat to the first bus stop of two to take me to a friend's house.
There's a man smoking at the second bus stop I get to. I get an urge for depressed teenager self-destruction. I very much look underage at 14 (hell, I look underage now at 24), but decide to go for the gusto on it anyway.
"Hey, can I bum a cigarette off you?"
The guy says nothing, barely looks at me, and hands me one and his lighter. Somewhat shocked but knowing I would feel like a joke if I didn't follow through, I lit it. Drew smoke in, but did not inhale. It was a menthol.
And it was disgusting.
I was familiar with the scent of cigarettes from my parents, but not with the taste. It dried my mouth out, coated it in gross, and tasted like death (pun intended). Still, I told the man thank you, and went around the corner to be able to make the "EW" face as I continued to burn it to the filter.
Allen Carr, author of Allen Carr's Easyway To Quit Smoking (a book that was indispensable to my quitting) talks in his book about how, when most smokers begin smoking, they have to really *try* to get hooked. They know it's bad for them, they know it's illegal (for us underage smokers), they know it'll kill you, they know it straight-up tastes bad -- they have to force themselves through until the addiction hits. Cigarettes are not like heroin - they are not addictive from usage #1. It takes some time. This was true for me, as I'm sure it was true for many others.
One of my biggest, saddest confessions: For me, smoking was not ever about looking cool. For me, it was a conscious, albeit slow, suicide. When I started smoking as a depressed teenager with an extremely dysfunctional home life, I was miserable and wanted to die, but did not have the guts to do it quickly.
Fast-forward ten years.
I manage to get out of an abusive relationship, find the man I am one day to marry, quit drinking, drop all vices except smoking (and eating poorly. And video games. Are video games a vice?). I no longer feel the weight of depression that has followed me since I was old enough to look around and comprehend my surroundings. I love my city, I love my boyfriend, I have finally formulated my own, natural, uninfluenced identity, embraced myself -- I am happy.
Except, yikes, I have to put down the XBox controller or sneak out between episodes of NYPD Blue to smoke. Except I have to hover behind everyone else and then find some place to stash my cigarette butts on a hike in a national park because I'm not going to litter and I don't want anyone's experienced compromised by my habit. Except I'm definitely, definitely killing myself day in, day out. I'm shortening this absolutely awesome life I'm living, the one that's finally worth savoring!
When I was smoking, every time I considered quitting, I got a terrible pang in my chest -- a burning ball of panic. However, I still did my research, read up on quitting, the process, how other people have quit, what my body will be going through. Any time I make a major decision, I absolutely require to be as informed as possible! Reddit proved to be an invaluable resource (as it has for many other things, cute animal pictures included). They pointed me towards the aforementioned book by Allen Carr, the subreddit r/StopSmoking (a very supportive community of people quitting smoking), and answered any questions I may have had.
I spent pretty much every free minute I had reading the book by Allen Carr, welcoming any brainwashing that may occur that would help me quit. I wasn't brainwashed -- I certainly understood his method, how he was redundant on purpose about certain points to really hammer them home -- but there were some points that were undeniable.
Once I finished the book, I smoked one last cigarette, knowing it was my last, and then walked into Jordan's room to declare my triumph.
The next few days are a blur. I went cold-turkey, all or nothing, in it to win itMy sense of reality was skewed, I had trouble concentrating, focusing on anything, finishing sentences. I drank a LOT of water (healthy substitution?) and a lot of carbonated beverages (it relieved the pressure in my chest). I was surprisingly calm, but I retreated into myself a lot for the first week or so, putting myself in check. I remember on more than one occasion, getting verbally harassed by my boss at the time (oh yeah, that was a thing too), closing my eyes and reminding myself that (by not smoking) "I was not depriving myself of anything." That it would pass.
I focused on the positive:
- My health: How awesome will it be to ride a bike again and not get immediately winded!
- My fiance: How awesome will it be to have some extra years with him!
- My future family: How awesome will it be to have a baby (if it happens) and not have it be sickly!
- My bank account: How awesome will it be to have an extra $100+ a month!
- My time: How awesome will it be to not have to waste time smoking or feel like an outcast excusing myself from social situations to smoke!
- Added bonuses: Sense of smell & taste, clearer skin, less yellow teeth, less stinky -- awesome!
Three months later (!!!) I have started eating better, I go to the gym (WHAT), my sense of smell has returned (holy crap, have you guys ever really smelled rain? And then, like, the earth AFTER the rain? It's INCREDIBLE!), my lung capacity has improved (deep breaths are so immensely satisfying), and I know with certainty that I will not be a smoking bride -- nor, one day maybe, a smoking parent.
And that, my dear readers, is why today is a big day. A big, happy, triumphant day. It's a milestone. Soon, it will be 6 months, then a year, then two, then five, then ten, then it will only be an afterthought.
I am so proud of myself.
Thanks for reading!