Several years ago I did something that I still swear – to this day – was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through. Harder than a teen pregnancy, a divorce, miscarriages, and living life after the cancellation of Arrested Development. I quit smoking. I had “quit” several times before, only to start back up again within a short time span. Sometimes I lasted a week, sometimes a month. But – for the most part I smoked for 10 years. I often say that the only real thing keeping me from smoking today is not the health concerns, not the smell, not the cost, not the good example for my kids. Nope. I don’t smoke because I don’t want to ever have to go through the process of quitting again.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot because one of my BFFs is quitting smoking as we speak. I keep trying to think of ways to help her, things to offer (“Have a donut!”), advice to share (“Stay in bed!”), encouragement to give (“If you do it I’ll give you a trillion dollars!”). But I keep finding myself back to the same point: Nothing helps. It just sucks. I still recall the darkness and the sadness and the despair I felt in the
days, weeks, months, year following my last cigarette. Nothing anybody said or did really helped at all. I often describe it as breaking up with an abusive boyfriend: You know he’s bad for you, that he hurts you, that you need to dump him, but it doesn’t make you miss him any less. I remember soaking in the tub some nights and just crying over the desire for a cigarette. Or more importantly – crying over the loss of that part of me. I felt like it was such a huge part of who I was, and to just give it up? Was incredibly painful.
If you’ve never been addicted to something unhealthy, you probably think I’m crazy. Hell, MrZ used to smoke and he still swears that all you have to do is decided to quit, really mean it, and you just do it. He didn’t struggle near as much as I did. Of course, he also knows how to eat just one brownie and walk away – so his will power is obviously better than mine.
But if you’ve been there, if you’ve given up something you loved with all of you heart, you know the pain. You know the loss. You also know the disappointment you feel in yourself for even wanting something that is so bad for you. I felt guilty and stupid for wanting a cigarette. But it didn’t stop me from wanting it. Which created a painful cycle of desire, guilt, and loss.
And it still hasn’t quite left me. LilZ and I were walking downtown this weekend and I saw an unsmoked cigarette on the sidewalk. I felt an incredible urge to bend down and pick it up. Now – even when I was a smoker I would have never smoked a cigarette on the street – but I still felt this weird urge to smoke that one. So the desire to smoke is not completely gone, I don’t know if it ever will be. I do know that there is still not a day that goes by when I don’t think about it – where I don’t miss it even a little bit.
But I did it. And she will too, I have faith in her. I look at my life now and enjoy being able to be free of that burden. I am glad to function without cigarettes in my life. I am proud to be a non-smoker. More importantly – I’m proud to be an ex-smoker. I know how hard it was and I feel a special bond with anyone else who has also quit (like my Mom and Dad). I guess I thought I’d put into words how hard it was in case you know someone trying to quit, or maybe you are yourself. It is possible. But it is not easy. I know I won’t be able to stop LilZ from smoking if he decides it’s what he wants to do. No one could have stopped me once I decided to do it. But I tell him all of the time, “I don’t want you to have to suffer through quitting. Avoiding that pain, that stress, that depression, that alone is reason enough to never start.”
I’m proud of you, Stace. I know you can do it. I want you to join my Ex-Smokers club. We’re totally cool, I swear. And don’t worry, we make up for the lack of nicotine by drinking copious amounts of beer. And eating dozens of donuts. We can’t wait for you to join us.
42 thoughts on “Former Smoker”
I am an exsmoker too. It was hard to quit; took three tries before I finally gritted my teeth for the long haul.
I am happy I quit, because it means less wrinkles and whiter teeth.
But, when on a long drive on warm sunny day a little white Marlboro sounds oh pleasant. Hack hack.
I quit the day I found out I was pregnant last year. Luckily for me, the taste of it made me naseous (you would have thought that feelign that way for two weeks leadin gup to finding out I was knocked-up would have made me quit, but no…I didn’t want to let go), and being 8weeks pregnant, i really didn’t need help in that deptartment. All through-out my pregnancy people asked “Do you think you’ll smoke agian?” and I would say “i really don’t know.” and they would like at me like “YOU IDIOT! If you quit why would you EVER go back?” Much like you, it felt like a HUGE part of who I was. I didn’t like it, I even hid it from my mother – I was 27 and LYING to my own mother about smoking – pathetic. So, anyhow, my baby is now 5 months old and I am happy to say that I am still smoke free and fully intend to stay that way. But there isnt’ a day that goes by where I don’t think about one, and even crave one. Espeically the really long days when the baby jsut cries and I can’t drink at 10am. But I remind myself that I am staying smoke free for my kid. that i need to do this for myself and for her, so she doesn’t grow up around the smell and dirt cigarettes leave. that I want to be a good example and also, I guess for my health. I want to be around for her when she grows up, and considering “pop tarts” are totally an acceptable food group for me, this is as close to healthy as I can get!
it’s a long road, and a rough one, and I know it sounds really stupid, but I was “fortunate” to be forced into quitting. If it weren’t for getting pregnant, I honestly think I would still be smoking today.
good luck to your friend.
After reading this book by Allan Carr, I found it reasonably easy to get over that first awful week after 50 years of the habit.
I still often wonder why I did quit, and I don’t think that feeling ever goes away.
I, too, have quit smoking. It is SO HARD. Actually, I find that quitting wasn’t that hard; not picking it back up is.
Keep on keepin’ on, girlie. It’s an every day thing. And, good luck to your BFF! My BFF is trying to quit right now also.
I quit 6.5 years ago – the craving definitely decreases over time – it’s only very, very occasionally I get that weird brief urge that you described. For the most part, I now find cigarette smoke annoying. What I love most is feeling “free” – not needing to brave the cold to get a quick one in, not needing to leave what I am doing because I have to have one. I like not being beholden to them.
I agree TOTALLY regarding the never having one again because I never want to have to QUIT again. Bleh. I will never have another one. Not even ONE, because it is just not worth the risk of getting hooked again. I envy social smokers because a cig every now and then is not a bad thing, it’s when it’s a daily thing that it’s a problem.
Also, my dad, a former smoker, is a respiratory therapist and he’s pretty positive when it comes to quitting – meaning, if you can quit by your 40s, you’re doing pretty good. I have many, many elderly relatives who were smokers “in their day”, quit in their 40s and are still around in their 80s to talk about the “good ole days” of “roll your own cigs”. My dad has observed that the ill effects from smoking come in your old age after having done it for so long and of course, it can make situations worse. Non-smokers can still get emphysema if they are genetically inclined, but obviously, smoking speeds this up and makes it worse.
My dad is exactly like MrZ – could always just drop the habit when he wanted. Why couldn’t I have inherited THAT from him?
I quit smoking a year ago and TOTALLY know what you mean about loosing a friend. I couldn’t believe how sad I was right after I quit. I felt like someone had died. That was really unexpected. Got through it though – took a few weeks for me to stop feeling that sense of loss.
While I have never had an addiction, anyone who quits smoking has my admiration. My Dad quit smoking cold turkey on his 50th birthday, he turned 77 last week and he also said it was one of the hardest things he had ever done.
Now I need to get my hubby to quit chewing, now that is a a nasty habit!
I’m struggling with this now. I just posted about it this week on my blog. I can identify with everything you’ve said here. Thanks so much for posting this. 🙂
stace, as you know i am totally behind you 100% and KNOW you can do this.
HOWEVER, do not fall for zoot’s lies…….beer and donuts do not await you w/ her. instead she lies in wait w/ running, running, fake hamburger meat, and oh yes…more running.
love you both
I too smoked for just over 10 years. I tried quiting several times that never lasted for longer than a month. When I finally quit, it was by accident. I had run out of cigarettes the night before & the next day I was so busy I never thought about it until about 6 that evening.
The weird part was that I never really had a craving all day either, so I decided to see if I could go one more day. I’ve been doing one more day since 1991, so I think it’s working pretty well.
After I quit, I did have a lot of dreams where I smoked. I still have them from time to time.
Good luck Stace.
I started smoking cloves in high school. I liked the tangy taste they left on my lips, and their black packaging went well with the goth/teenage angst phase I was going through. When I got to college I eventually switched to menthols, and by the time I decided to quit (nearly 7 years after that first delicious clove) I was switching brands with every new pack, trying to find a brand that didn’t make my stomach hurt. That’s when I realized how incredibly stupid I was being. There are still some days I long to pop into the gas station and “reward” myself for a rough week. But I always think back to how freaking hard that first year of quitting was. You’re absolutely right, it IS a big part of you…your preferred brand, your “lucky” lighter of a certain color. But similar to what Cagey said above, it’s nice feeling free, knowing when I go out with my friends all I need to worry about is having my id, money, and lip gloss.
Good luck to your friend! I found it always helped to keep a bag of those little dum-dum suckers around. =)
Yes! Its so hard to explain the feeling of loss when you quit. In my mind I knew it was the best choice when I quit smoking but my body kept saying how bad could it really be. I still get cravings after 7 years, but not nearly as bad as that first year. I think I have developed an allergy to smoke. When ever I’m around smokers I get very, very sick. Like stay in bed and hack up a lung sick. Good luck to your BFF.
I, too, have quit smoking a zillion and one times, most recently Jan. 2 with only a slight slip up since then (out of town, husband and I convinced each other it didn’t count). I was just talking to a friend about this and telling her how much I loved smoking, how I would smoke all day if I could. It’s so gross and unhealthy, but I love it. I also hid it from pretty much everyone. I am with you on adivising people to never start b/c the quitting is so, so hard. Good luck to your friend and good luck to all of us!
Another ex-smoker here. Last Friday (1/12/07) marked my two year anniversary. There are still times (like during holiday madness!) that I would love to smoke, but don’t for the same reason as Miss Zoot…I don’t want to go through quitting again!
Here’s to all us quitters! And to those who haven’t….you can do it!!!
Apparantly I am eating enough for 6 people who are trying to quit smoking.
My addiction is food. I am lucky that smoking never became an addiction for me. It was only something I did when I was drunk at bars. Which thankfully is not a part of my life anymore.
But food is. How do you walk away from food? You can’t. It’s an addiction that you face every single day. Because you have to. I have to.
My sister, who is also overweight, doesn’t understand how it can be so hard for someone to quit smoking. And all I can tell her is to compare it to her food addiction. That made her understand a little bit better.
So my point is… I know it’s hard. My husband smokes and he quit for 2 years and then started again and he just can’t stop. I’ve made him promise to stop smoking as soon as I get pregnant. But I still don’t think he’ll be able to.
Would someone hurry up already with that magic pill that cures everything?
PS – Proud of myself for a leaving a second comment even though I read you ALL the time.. my first one being for delurking week.
Dude! When I first started reading this I was thinking, “CRAP! I’m never going to make this! Might as well go get a carton, a dozen donuts AND a case of beer cause I can’t hang like Zoot!” Instead I’ve just decided to kill my ex-husband. Solves all problems, no?
You’re AWESOME! I love you, girl!
I had a fairly easy time quitting. I just stopped. However, 4 years later? I still have that “pick it up off the sidewalk” craving.
Wow, I used to smoke, too!
That was what – 95 pounds ago? Yeah, that was it.
Still quitting, still smoking, still guilt-ing. This is so hard.
It’s been a year for me, and it’s still a daily choice to not start again. I agree you with you 100% ~ the quitting process itself is a great deterrent. (the extra money I have in my bank account helps too!)
Good luck Stace!
Yeah, it was like losing a friend. I quit in June 06, and I still feel like someone broke up with me or something. The one relapse that I had in October… I felt like I was having an affair, it felt so wrong. Sigh. It’s hard.
Yes, I am an ex-smoker too. It took me 4 days to quit. I quit because they started to smell and taste nasty. I have had no desire to smoke again. Just lucky, I guess.
Oooh, I started smoking at 28 (WHAT was I thinking???) on cigars, moved to clove ciggies and then menthols. I tried many times to give up and the only time it stuck was the week after I met my husband. Guess I had something else to keep me busy!
But 4 years later I still get cravings, after a hard days toil in the garden or a really shit day with the Spud. I could’ve bought a pack this week, I really could. But like you the reason I dont is because I dont want to go through the withdrawl again.
I’m 17 days into not smoking right now. I read today that a study was published showing that tobacco companies have increased the amount of nicotine in cigarettes by 12% in the last several years. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is.
I’m still craving them. I would sell my soul for a cigarette. I’m cranky. Hostile. Bitchy. Munching fat-free, salt free pretzels like the world may end tomorrow.
I walk by people who have just had a cigarette. I want to lick their fingers to get that nicotine residue. I want to take their clothes off, pour water through the fabric, and wring the water, laced with nicotine residue, and drink it.
But, tomorrow is my birthday. And my biggest gift will be 18 days of not smoking. That has to be worth something.
Thank you for the post. It certainly will help me get through another day.
I quit when we were trying to get pregnant. It was prety easy to not smoke when I was pregnant- that whole carrying a defenseless life inside me thing. About three weeks after she was born, the massive post partum storm I was going through was too much and I grabbed some of my husband’s from the carton on the fridge. That was almost four years ago and I just can’t get up the will power to quit again.
I wish your friend success!
That is an amazing achievement, Zoot. Good for you! And good luck to those trying to quit.
I quit smoking Oct 1, 2006 with the help of Chantix. I had tried many times before with (obviously) no success. I miss it horribly. Non-smokers just don’t get it. Those first days, weeks, etc it was hard to go 5 minutes without thinking about smoking one. My fiance just didn’t understand how sad I was that I couldn’t smoke a cigarette as my reward for getting off a tough (or easy!) 12 hour shift. I definitely lost part of my identity, even tho it was a part that I (like others) hid from so many people. But, I definitely relate to Cagey’s sense of freedom. That I don’t have to think about taking my own car somewhere so I can smoke, or getting away from a party or whatever so I can smoke or getting to the store for more cigarettes so I can smoke. It is liberating and terrifying at the same time. Now if only I could shake the sniffles/congestion since I’m supposed to be healthier since I quit?!??!
I went for 2 weeks after the new year with having only 2-1/2 ciggies. Until this past weekend. I had a pack and a half. I worked out a deal with my roomie that has kinda worked. She takes the pack from me at home and I can only have them on the weekends. Of course I have bummed 2 at work this week. But I figure it is a start and I am doing better!! 🙂
My boyfriend and I quit on November 17. I cheated while he was travelling for work about a week later, but haven’t smoked since. He’s been out of town since Monday and I have wanted to buy a pack EVERY DAY SINCE HE LEFT! The only thing that is keeping from smoking is that I’m going to get a lower rate on my life insurance if I hold out another month. Thanks for the post, zoot!
I quit when I was pregnant, but was (insert all excuses here) and started up again 🙁
You need to get out of my head, woman! I was going to post about this at some point this week and I even had a title “smokin’ mama – and not in the HOTTIE way”. I need to find some free time first…stay tuned…
wanna re-design my site for me again (and help me w/MT “glitches”? i’ll put money in your tip jar – i promise! what else did you like…ummm…i’ll send you postcards? call you beautiful (b/c you are!)? send you a krispy creme? c’mon…you know you want to!
Good luck to Stace!!
I know that sad tale of being addicted to something bad. I have no will power and love food. My husband doesn’t understand this. The cigerette you saw on the floor and wanted? Yeah, I’m the same way for candy and soda. I must eat it all.
Good for you for being healthy and being a good example to those around you.
I smoked for 28 years. Was a serial quitter, but only for a few days at a time. Tried quitting because someone else wanted me to. Then, magic happened. Decided I wanted to quit for myself. Took a class and have never looked back. 880 days now. What keeps me going is knowing that even one drag on a butt can undo all the progress the last 880 days has brought. Scary thought. Now? Half marathon this year. August I think. Not too early to train, right?
Best of luck tyo your friend Stace. I know you’ll be a great support for her.
i started smoking about 6 months ago after a devastating breakup…a close friend of mine “helped” by introducing me to clove cigarettes, which are delicious and wonderful and SO. BAD. FOR. ME.
i’ve tried to cut back to one a day and then i’m going to try to quit……guh.
i wish i had never started.
I quit smokimg 3 1/2 years ago. It’s still hard sometimes, not day to day, but when things get really hard. I however replaced my cigarette addiction with a food addiction, so I have gained about 70 pounds over those 3+ years. But, I am working on eating healthier, and am trying to replace my food addiction with an exersise addiction. Hopefully that works.
I quit four and a half years ago, after a 12 year, pack a day habit. I quit cold turkey and on a whim. It was tough, and I gained a shitload of weight, but then exercise became my new addiction and I lost all the weight and then some. I hate that I smoked all those years, but I, too, sometimes miss the ritual aspect of it.
I quit five years ago, and nonsmoking is much better! I admit it wasn’t that hard for me; I was always a light, 2-5 cigarettes per day smoker, and if I went a day or two without smoking, I didn’t miss it. Stace, just try to think about all the people our parents’ age (my dad included) who have absolutely ruined their health smoking. It’s very hard on the kids to have to see their parents like that. Remind yourself that you don’t want to do that to L&L..
Great post, Zoot. I’m going to send this to both of my currently-smoking sisters.
I smoked for about 11 years. Then I quit for my first and I swore I would never go back again. Everytime I saw someone smoking I couldnt believe they did and how gross and no not me never ever ever. Then my dad died and I started again. Then I quit again when I found I was preg with the new one. Now everyday that I am not preg anymore its a fight not to stop at the gas station and get a pack just to smoke one more. I miss it truly even though I thought it was the most disgusting thing in the world. That part of my life feels empty without the ciggs. I hate it. I feel like I may fight this urge for the rest of my life and honestly I cant promise anyone that my relationship with ciggarettes is over. I said that too many times before. Never say never.
I am trying so hard. My friend came across this site. Thank you for having it on here. If you feel the urge to email me I would love the support!
For those who no longer smoke but regard the habit with nostalgia: