Here’s the straight truth: I’m a quitter, and I’m damn proud of it! (But it wasn’t easy. Not by a long shot.)
You may have noticed that this Thursday, November 16, is the Great American Smokeout. This is an event sponsored by the American Cancer Society in which smokers are encouraged to give up or abstain from smoking for the day.
I did that— several times.
(Now, even if you are not a smoker, I encourage you to read on … There is a broader message to my story, I promise.)
Let’s start by going back to sixth grade, when my friend Sue Reid and I decided it would be cool to skip school and split a pack of cigarettes. Yep, Salem Menthol — I can still see the package.
Now, mind you, I’d never skipped school, let alone smoked before, but … I mean, what else is cool when you’re in the sixth grade?
Well, after my fifth cigarette, I remember thinking, “Wow, I’m missing recess for this? This sucks.”
After my tenth cigarette, I remember not feeling so cool — or so good. As a matter fact, I actually got sick and had to explain why to my mom. Mom actually thought my unpleasant puking was punishment enough, so I narrowly avoided being grounded.
And you think that would’ve taught me a lesson … right?
Let’s jump ahead to college.
This straight-laced, non-smoking non-drinker went away to college and behold! The little sticks were everywhere — they are ablaze! And that’s when it really started. “Can I have a drag? Can I bum a cigarette? I only smoke when I drink.”
Of course, all along, I was thinking to myself, I can quit anytime. I’m not addicted. When I want to quit, I’ll quit.
Let’s fast forward again, this time 20+ years, when I was smoking a pack (or more a day) and still thinking, I can quit whenever I want. It’s easy, because all you gotta do is stop, and I can do that.
And guess what? I did — about 7 times!!!
So what finally made the eighth time stick?
I asked for help!
Quitting is hard. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to quit smoking, drinking, overeating, drinking soda, or [fill in your vice here] … No matter what, quitting is hard.
But quitting is not just stopping something. It’s an action in and of itself. And taking action is what I finally did.
I made an appointment with my doctor. With that support, I finally did quit for good on January 10, 2008. I am quickly approaching my 10 year smoke-free anniversary, which makes me yell:
“I’m a quitter, and I’m damn proud of it!”
People often ask me what it is that made me finally decide it was REALLY time to quit. Did it have to do with cancer?
No, and yes. No, because I wasn’t actively afraid I was going to get cancer from smoking cigarettes. (Please do call me a fool!) But I saw people, loved ones, being impacted by cancer through no fault of their own, and here I was, doing something that was known to be one of the greatest contributors to poor health and cancer. It was time.
So why am I writing this blog almost ten years later? To let you know that though quitting is not easy — it takes effort, it takes time, and sometimes it does take that giant step of asking for help — it is worth it.
I’m hoping that by sharing my journey, I might inspire someone else to take action — the action of quitting. Whether it’s smoking or something else detrimental to your health.
Take control and take action! If only one person can join #DebsQuitterClub, I’ll be thrilled. And maybe that one person is you …
This could be the very first time you WIN by being a QUITTER!