I've been Smoke-Free for 5 Years + How You Can Quit, Too

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I’m so big on health and wellness and developing healthy practices that it may come as a shock to many that I used to be a smoker. Not an occasional smoker who lit up fro time to time for the ladies club night soiree, I’m talking about a real smoke-a-pack-a day type smoker. I smoked for about 7 years before I finally kicked the habit to the curb and I’ve been smoke free now for almost 6 years now.

So how’d I do it? How’d I stone cold turkey kick a habit I’d been developing for damn near a decade? The answer is that I found out WHY I was smoking in the first place. Here’s my story:

Growing up my Mom was a smoker. She’s still a smoker and I believe she will always be a smoker. I remember taking those D.A.R.E classes in elementary school and running home telling my mom how she was killing herself and smoking caused cancer, whichI’m sure sounded like rah rah rah to her, only to pick up the habit when I joined the military. When I first started smoking, it was disgusting. I literally had to force myself to smoke to get into the wing of it, kwim? I wanted to be “in” with the smoking crew at my first deployment to Camp Bucca, Iraq back in 2006. Aside from perimeter convoys and guarding towers, there were a few other things to do: eat, sleep, shit, and smoke. Back then I wasn’t a stranger to the gym but back then it wasn’t as appealing as the smoke pit. Everyone who was anyone seemed to be smoking SOMETHING, cigs, beadies (these were smaller sized smokes of tobacco rolled in a dried tobacco leaf - they were extra disgusting), Black and Milds, hand-rolled smokes. Folks were smoking it up talking about their day and all the things they’d be doing once we made it back to the States.

The night I became a certified smoker I’ll never forget, because the base went into code red alert due to two rockets hitting our base that fortunately, turned out to be duds. Once we received the alert, my partner and I who were on tower duty, smoked damn near the entire carton of his non-menthol Marlboro smokes he’d brought along for the 12 hour shift. That night, I became a cigarette.

With anything new you have to try out a bunch of things before you find your “groove”, so, naturally, I had to try a slew of different cigs until I found the right one for me. After Capri Suns, Newports, Marlboro, the ones with the Native American Indian on them, and a few others, I settled on Kools in the blue box. I’d run into the store and ask for two boxes of the “Kool blues” to re-up at a time. I smoked about a pack a day (sometimes more) for about 7 years.

Who was I…!? #thuglife

Who was I…!? #thuglife

Lemme tell you, becoming a smoker is hard work. You’ve got to do a lot of mental reprogramming to convince yourself that smoking doesn’t taste nasty and that you “want” to do it. Regardless of what any smoker tells you, I can tell you this - no smoker wants to smoke, they only think they do. Nobody wants to walk around with funk ass breath smelling like shit all day, and nobody wants their house to smell like shit, either. Yet, if you wanna be a smoker, you must convince yourself that somehow, your breath doesn’t smell like “other smokers breath” and that you keep your place clean and it doesn’t smell like smoke because you “keep the windows open” when you smoke, and whatnot. To become a smoker, a true to-the-bone ass smoker, you’ve got to be diligent on building this nasty habit into your life. You gotta smoke when you wake up and with you have your morning coffee/breakfast. You must smoke on your way to work being careful to flick your ashes OUT the window and not in your car, about every other hour, and after your lunch. You smoke on the way home, with your glass of wine, and after your dinner. You smoke when you take a shit, and when you’re done taking a shit to enhance the relief you feel from taking a shit. You smoke when your chatting with your bestie on the phone, before you have to make a decision, after you’ve made the decision, when you’re stressed, when you’re in chill mode, when you need to think, and when you don’t have shit else to do. After a month of this and you start to get irritated if you can’t take your smoke break or you run out of cigs after your lunch break and turn into Cruella, you’re officially in the Smokers Club.

During my 7 year smoking stint, I attempted to stop numerous times. I’d stop for a few days, then have one, then stop for another day or so, feel a little stressed, then start full blown smoking again. My throat started to hurt all the time and even still, I kept on smoking. My husband was a smoker when I met him, so we’d sit on stoops and balconies together to chat and smoke it up together. There were times when I’d stop, but he wasn’t ready, and I’d start back up again and vice versa. It was so so very hard, however, when we stepped into our second year living in Chicago we decided on a stop date and promised we’d quit smoking cold turkey together.

Pause Regardless of what any current smoker says, they do NOT want to be a smoker. They’ve only convinced themselves they do because the alternative is a daunting thing to do. In order to quit anything, you first have to realize that you’re doing something not conducive to your life and that alone can be hard to admit. They also have to save face and feel in control so they say things like, “I actually like smoking.” and “It helps me to feel less stressed.” We all know it’s a crock of crap however, they’re truly attempting to convince themselves that smelling like a bag of shit and paying a ton of $$$ to do so is relaxing and necessary in their stress management, and most importantly, their choice. Unpause

In the days that lead up to our quit date I remember sitting on a balcony smoking, dreading having to stop. I didn’t know if I could do it although I wanted to. I started to reminisce on all the funny moments and convos that happened in the various smoke pits during my military career as well as the serious and healing conversations I’d had. I remembered sitting in the smoke pit lighting smoke after smoke in the wee hours of the morning while in the United Arab Emirates praying that one day I would find peace and be able to find forgiveness within for my own shortcomings and for my parents terrible decisions. My parents... I thought about my Mom and how I always tried to get her to quit smoking and chuckled at the irony that here I was, smoking. And then it hit me. I hadn’t realized it before, but in those moments dreading my quit date, I realized I smoked the same way I remembered watching my Mom smoking. How she held the cigarette, how she pursed her lips to blow out the smoke, the smacking sound she made when she talked with the smoke still in her lungs. I saw her and I felt her every time I smoked. I was smoking to feel connected to her in some way. We do not have a relationship and so sitting there, realizing all of this, it helped me to see that the reason why I hadn’t wanted to quit smoking was because I was not ready to quit feeling some kind of connection with my Mom. This info hit me like a ton of bricks.

When my stop date came, instead of smoking, I ate Red Hot candies every time I felt the urge. I hadn’t while I was smoking, but when I stopped I realized that every time I had a craving to smoke, I saw/imagined my Mom. It was WILD. W I L D!!! Knowing why I was smoking made it easier for me quit. From a logical standpoint, smoking didn’t have the ability to manifest a positive relationship, and I was no longer willing to compromise my health for bad memories, hopes of future, positive memories, and funky ass breath.

If you are a smoker looking to stop, I challenge you to uncover the real reason you’re smoking. Try asking yourself:

  • Why am I smoking?

  • What do I really enjoy about smoking? Can I experience this enjoyment in other ways? List 3.

  • Who are you missing, desiring, or mourning? Has smoking helped you to resolve this or has it been a temporary band-aid?

A major reason people keep smoking is because it’s easier than having to deal with the root of the problem, which can be hard and painful to uncover and work through. Knowing the truth behind my habit set me free, and after about a month, my body had overcome any withdrawals. I didn’t gain additional weight, in fact I lost a few lbs because I realized I was eating more so that I could smoke, and I started to be able to breathe better, taste my food, and started to work through the real issues I’d covered in cigarette ashes.

Whoever needed to read this know that you can quit, you do have the power, and if you need Red Hots to make it happen, make it happen. I believe in you.

Stay lively,

Shera


Shera Lee