The diary of an Ex-Smoker

I tried to quit smoking so many times I lost count. Almost every day for several years I promised myself that I wouldn't light up that first cigarette of the day. My parents smoked and I started smoking to "fit in" with my friends at school.

I wanted to quit smoking so badly but I knew in my heart that I just enjoyed smoking too much! I was aware of all the dangers of smoking knowing full well that continuing to smoke would eventually have a major impact upon my health. There can't be a smoker out there who isn't aware of the dangers and risks of smoking. With all of the news in the last several years about the dangers of smoking and the impact of second hand smoke, it amazes me that teen smoking and women smoking rates are on the increase.

Wanting desperately to quit smoking, one day I woke up and made a promise to myself (and my 3 year old son!) that I wouldn't smoke for the whole day no matter what happened. Miraculously I managed to go the day without lighting up and I was soon into my second day of not smoking. Before I knew it I had made it a whole week. I was really proud of my personal accomplishment and I let everyone know about it! I was completely over the physical addiction within 5 days. I would be lying if I told you that it was easy. I was irritable, had difficulty concentrating and sleeping but I made it through the first stage of quitting.

The most difficult part to overcome was the social, psychological addiction. This, by the way, is the part that most people have trouble with and is one of the main reasons for relapses and what many smokers give as the reason for not wanting to quit smoking in the first place. It isn't easy but if you set your mind to it and not give into the urges you will find that you can learn how to cope more and more as each day passes. Quitting smoking is a learning process. I know several ex-smokers that quit several years ago and still have the occasional urges (me being one of them!). I also know many smokers who will never quit because they can't get overcome this social/psychological addiction. I am living proof that you CAN quit smoking if you put your mind to it.

I devised a coping mechanism that I still use whenever I get the urge for a cigarette:

I visualize the black hot stinky tar laden smoke scalding my oesophagus as it makes its way down to my now clean pink healthy lungs that are now healing from the many years of abuse that I put them through!

Quitting smoking isn't easy but if you focus all of your energy on it and make up your mind that you are NEVER going to smoke again, you too can stop smoking for good.

On a more positive note I can say for certain that "quitting smoking is the single most important healthy lifestyle change that a person can make to improve their overall health and well-being"!

Winning The Battle...

When I quit smoking (the last and final time), I knew I would be tested many times to see if I could make it in the world of non-smokers. The ultimate test was coming up at my mother's annual Christmas family get-together. Spending the long cold Canadian winter months in Florida, she always has a family dinner just before they depart south. Out of the fifty people that attend, about 25 of them smoke. I knew that this was going to be my "big" test as a non-smoker. I had been thinking about this gathering for at least a week and I had some apprehensions about whether I would make it through it and come out still smoke-free. All of the normal cues for wanting and having a cigarette were there for me. You know - the drinking, family members, good food, discussions about everything and anything.

Well, guess what.....I MADE IT OKAY!!. I didn't even think of having or for that matter wanting a cigarette. I was so proud of myself. I congregated in the den where everyone was smoking and perhaps I got so much second-hand smoke that I was satisfied from that alone. My cousin, a nun, was even smoking. The only time that she indulges is when there is a family get together. I thought to myself, wouldn't it be great if I could be that kind of a smoker. Well, I know that I can't - in fact only about 5 % of smokers can be that well controlled to only smoke certain times.

I let it be known to everyone when I entered my brother's house that I was not smoking and had not been for 35 days. I must confess that they were very supportive - even the smokers in the group could not believe that I had quit for this long of a period. You see, even smokers can be supportive! Anyway, I could finally say that it felt good being a non-smoker.

To those of you who have quit cold turkey and who are only in your first few days, please listen carefully when I say this! It DOES get easier after each passing day. I never thought that I would be in the position to be saying this. You see, I never in my wildest of dreams ever felt that I would last this long. Well I am darn happy to be a non-smoker. I have dreamed of this day for many years.

The best advice that I can give to someone who is trying to quit smoking is to take it one day at a time, remember that it gets better with each passing day, and that the health benefits are worth every bit of effort that goes into the quitting process.

Characteristics of Successful Quitters...

Effects depend largely upon the expectations, motivations and mood of the user, the amount used and the circumstances.

Quoting from Dr. Tom Ferguson, he states:

Not all the effects of the drug are pleasant. High doses can cause mild hallucinations and sensory distortions which could be disconcerting if unexpected. Those who use the drug when anxious or depressed may find these conditions exaggerated and the user can become more self obsessed with his or her problem. Mild panic and paranoia could then result. Nausea and vomiting can occur when an inexperienced user tries too much at once; this is far more likely if Cannabis has been used with alcohol.

Those who succeed in quitting are much more likely than unsuccessful quitters to come to some important realisations about themselves. Successful quitters are typically highly dissatisfied with themselves for their smoking, perceive themselves as being overly dependent on cigarettes, and see themselves as more negatively effected by their habit.

They are more flexible and more strongly determined to quit. They make more efforts to minimise the obstacles to quitting. They are more willing to tolerate discomfort, but in fact have an easier time going through withdrawal than the unsuccessful quitters.

I have now been almost 5 weeks smoke-free and I must confess that I believe that these characteristics are very important in the success of someone quitting or not. Many unsuccessful attempts have in fact allowed me to get where I am now. I have learned from them. The strong will and desire to be smoke-free is the most important quality that distinguishes the successful versus the non-successful quitter. I firmly believe that this is the main reason why I am still not smoking. For you newbies out there that are still on your first few days of being smoke-free, just take it one day at a time and firmly believe that you can quit and you really want to quit this deadly habit. Believe in your convictions and you shall conquer and win out. Also remember that it does get easier every minute that you go without a cigarette.

Have visions of improved health and well being. Realise that you will gain personal and rewarding insights about yourself in this process of quitting. You will be a better person for it in the end. Above all, think of yourself as being a non-smoker.

Memories of Being A Smoker...

We had one heck of a freezing ice storm last night. I woke early this morning, and just as well, because it took almost 40 minutes to clean the 1/2" ice that was deposited on all the windows of my truck. It was bitterly cold and the wind chill factor made the temperature feel like 15 f. It was so windy that it was impossible not to breathe in the cold right down to the bottom of the lungs.

While I was scraping away I had a very vivid deja vu and it was so clearly that I had to stop and think of my place/time for an instant. I have never had this happen so clear before. It brought back a very disturbing memory of the "old" Blair (not literally) when I used to smoke a pack and a half a day.

We all experience these feelings of being there before. What I remembered was thoughts of me scraping my windows with a cigarette in my mouth, cussing and cursing the cold conditions that I was exposed to, feeling out of breath and wishing that I were still in bed sleeping. I would always have a cigarette lit, like a chain smoker, until all the ice was removed from the windows. I hated these conditions, the cold, wind, snow.........

Well, not this time. I was actually enjoying it! The cold was not bothering me and I was not out of breath. The drive to work was also treacherous to say the least. Previous driving conditions would have caused panic attacks, pains down the arm etc. all caused by the stressful condition. Well, not this time either.

I was as calm as could be, not feeling under any stress at all. What a difference 6 weeks without smoking makes, not only physically, but psychologically as well. I am a changed person for the better. I am sure that all of you out there will agree that you have experienced similar feelings about yourselves since you quit. These positive self-awareness feeling are good and very beneficial in the quitting process.

Ex-smokers are different. They are surer of themselves, their actions and their consequences. As a result they are much better off than before. This may sound corny to a lot of you, but stop and think about how you have changed since you quit. Write down the positive and the negative items and I think that you will see that you are a better person than you were when you were smoking.

For one thing, you are now treating your body with the respect that it deserves. You have become aware of the damage that you have already done to your body and at the same time decided to take a proactive step to begin the healing process. Quitting smoking is the best thing that a person can do to improve their overall health. It is never to late to quit!

Time heals...

Let me tell you how I feel now that I have quit smoking and how I think that I've changed since I quit. I am sure that there are a lot of you out there who can identify with most of these items:

I do feel better, not a lot but enough that I'm glad that I quit. A lot of my "mysterious" ailments are gone, ones that I used to experience on a daily basis. I know for a fact that my stomach pains are gone due to the decrease of stomach acid since I quit. People with any form of stomach irritation should not smoke. They will find that these irritations heal the first few days off cigarettes. Most doctors claim that stomach ulcers won't heal for people that smoke.

I feel more in control of my actions and a lot of people have told me that they think that I'm surer of myself and more in control. Before, if I had a problem at work, I would go outside and have a smoke and hope that it would go away on its own. Now I seem to be able to confront the problem and solve it without having to hide behind something. I actually find that I enjoy challenging problems at work as I take delight in the fact that I feel confident enough in my ability to win out. I also find when I deal with my employees that I am more positive and sure of myself. They seem to notice this and a few of them have told me that they like this change. Maybe I am giving them more direction, something they were not getting before.

It is nice to be able to talk up close to people and not fear the smell of cigarette smoke offending them. When I used to smoke I was always careful to keep my distance from people, knowing that my breath always smell of cigarette smoke.

I find that I have a lot more patience. I used to blow up quite easily before at work and at home. My wife used to say that I was "like a stick of dynamite ready to blow up." I was like that at work as well. I feel at lot calmer now. I find that I am not rushing everything I do. I take the time. The University where I work should be happy because they are getting more work out of me. I am much more productive and the work that I do is getting better.

I find that I have the time to do things that I have wanted to do for a long time. Even simple things are a joy to do now. Sitting down and reading a computer magazine from front to back is enjoyable. Before, when I was smoking, I would rush through it, put it away, and never look at it again. I guess I've missed out on a lot of the simpler things in life for the past 20 years!

I used to hate the winter and the cold. Now I find it tolerable. I find that breathing the cold air doesn't bother my lungs the way it used to.

When I wake up in the morning I want to get moving. I used to feel sluggish before and found that I had to literally kick myself in the rear end to get going. Now I feel like I had a good night sleep and am eager to get on with the day.

I am now at the point where I can honestly say, without a word of doubt, that I do feel better. Like I said earlier, not a lot better, but enough that I don't want to start up again. For all of you less than a month smoke-free'ers, give it time and you shall see that the benefits of not smoking are overwhelming. You will start to feel better every day you stay off cigarettes, and true to fashion, the old saying "Time heals," will prevail.

Cause & Effect...

We are all in control of our destiny. We are all mature adults that have decided to take control of our lives in an attempt to make a positive health improvement. You can talk about quitting smoking all you want but until you pick a quit date and get on with the task you will never quit.

We have all seen the effects that smoking has had on our health. I'll bet there is not one smoker out there that hasn't experienced some form of health related problem from smoking.

There can be no denying that we feel better without smoking. Anyone who says that smoking doesn't cause health problems is an absolute fool. There is an abundance of data out there correlating smoking to hundreds of health problems. Of the over 4000 chemical compounds produced when tobacco burns, here are a few of the potentially lethal ones: acetone, arsenic, benzene, carbon monoxide, DDT, formaldehyde, hydrazine, hydrogen cyanide, nicotine, nitric oxide, pyrene, vinyl chloride. If these aren't enough to deter you from ever smoking again, I don't know what is!

Small Talk...

I find that I am constantly examining the reasons why I quit smoking and asking questions like "Why did I ever start to smoke in the first place", and "Why did I ever continue to smoke knowing full well the consequences of such actions." Some say that people who smoke have a "death wish." There could be some truth to this. How could someone poison their body knowing full well the consequences of such actions.

I find that I notice people that are smoking in public places. For some reason I stare at them and think how ridiculous they look. I almost feel like walking over to them and telling them the benefits of quitting and how much better off they'll be if they give them up. This may sound foolish, but it is my way of re-affirming to myself that I am now a non-smoker and wish to continue to be so. I find that it helps me if I continually dwell on the bad things about smoking. The more I do this, the stronger I seem to get.

Don't read me wrong. I am not a "born again" ex-smoker. If people so choose to do harm to their bodies, it is their right. Hell, I did it for 20 years before I finally saw the light. My whole waking life used to revolve around cigarettes and the act of smoking. It just so happens that now I have chosen to live without smokes. If I'm going to continue to be smoke-free I'm going to have to learn to live with the smokers of the world. They are always going to be there. There will always be puffs of smoke floating by my nose.

Tobacco - The Facts

Tobacco was introduced to Europe from the New World at the end of the fifteenth century. Smoking spread rapidly and was long regarded as having medicinal value. It was not until the 20th century, however, that smoking became a mass habit and not until after the Second World War that the dangers of smoking were firmly established.

Cancer Facts

Tobacco use, particularly cigarette smoking, is the single most preventable cause of death in the United Kingdom. Cigarette smoking alone is directly responsible for at least one-third of all cancer deaths annually in the United Kingdom, and contributes to the development of low birth weight babies and cardiovascular disease.

Time Heals

I do feel better, not a lot but enough that I'm glad that I quit. A lot of my "mysterious" ailments are gone, ones that I used to experience on a daily basis. I know for a fact that my stomach pains are gone due to the decrease of stomach acid since I quit. People with any form of stomach irritation should not smoke.