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I'm a quitter

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Megan M. Tracy
  • 2d Bomb Wing Public Affairs
It's been nearly two months. In the grand scheme of things that doesn't seem like a long time, but it's been some very long, slow days without the familiar feel of the cigarette in my hand, the familiar taste of nicotine that started my mornings or the feel of the box in my pocket that comforted me during stressful times. To put it bluntly, quitting smoking sucks.

My addiction started 11 years ago at the young impressionable age of 15. I had just moved to Orange Park, Fla., and was the new girl in a school of students reaching almost 12,000. I was willing to do anything to fit in.

One of the "cool" girls, Becky, invited me to a party at her house one weekend. It was supposed to be the premier event of the month since her rich parents were out of town. I wanted--no needed--to fit in. This was my chance! I took extra care in picking out my outfit and making myself look like I belonged, and headed out the door to the party.

As the night grew on, most of the guests had left and there were only a few select people remaining. At some point, someone started passing around a pack of cigarettes. Everyone was doing it, so I figured that if I wanted to fit in, I had to do it too. I took one out of the box and, following everyone else's lead, I lit the end, breathed in--and immediately started coughing. After the coughing fit ended, I took another drag off the cigarette. It wasn't so bad this time and I felt like a total rebel. But, after a few awkward minutes of silence, one of the older boys looked at me, laughed, and said "You didn't even inhale. You call yourself a smoker? Yeah, right!" Everyone joined in with his laughing. I left the house that night in tears and unfortunately, swore that I would master the art of smoking.

Fast forward more than 10 years. It's a New Year, a new decade, and I needed a New Year's resolution. So, I chose to quit smoking. Mind you, I had tried to quit countless times over the years, but was never successful. I just couldn't seem to part with the one consistent thing in my life--the taste and smell of a cigarette. It was my best friend in times of celebration, in times of stress, boredom and in keeping me awake during long hours. But, this time I was determined. I was tired of smelling like an ashtray, tired of having trouble making it up a flight of stairs, tired of "needing" to have a cigarette. I was ready to quit--for real this time.

There are many options available for someone who is ready to quit smoking. There's the patch, quitting cold turkey, pills, fake cigarettes, hypnotism, tobacco cessation classes, the list goes on and on and all claim to be the "miracle" solution to quitting smoking. But, I think what works for one person may not work for the other.

I've tried the patch, the gum, quitting cold turkey, classes and guilt trips from my mother. I have tried just about everything. But, this time I was going to try something new. I was going to try prescription Chantix. I knew the side-effects (nausea, crazy dreams, possible suicidal and homicidal thoughts), but for me the ultimate benefit of not smoking would out-weigh the negative side-effects.

The first week you start taking Chantix, you can still smoke. This interested me because, if we're being honest, I was terrified of quitting. The first day I took Chantix, Jan 4th, the nausea hit me so hard I was doubled over at my desk and was convinced that I would never survive three more months of the medicine. But, I was determined to quit by the time I turned 26, which was only a few short weeks away. I set my quit date as January 11th and did not tell a single person. If I was going to do it, I had to do it on my own.

The infamous quit day rolled around a lot faster than I had wanted it to, but I kept my promise to myself and smoked my last cigarette at 9:30 p.m. Jan. 10. I would like to say that I enjoyed that last cigarette, much like someone on death row may enjoy their last meal, but it was horrible. It wasn't even worth the time it took to stand outside in the cold and smoke it.

I did it. I quit on Jan. 11, and have not looked back. It took some adjustments to get used to not smoking. I started sleeping in later because I didn't need that 10 minutes in the morning for a cigarette before my shower. I started singing more in the car to give me something to keep my mind occupied and I actually took the time to taste my food at meal times because I wasn't rushing to get to the cigarette. When I was a smoker, I spent 44 dollars a week on cigarettes. Now, I put 44 dollars a week into a savings account. Next year, when I have been smoke-free for a year, I'm going to take a vacation. It just so happens that it's also around my birthday.

I will be the first to tell you that quitting smoking is one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. But, it's worth the frustration and the hard times. I no longer get winded when I climb up the stairs, my clothes don't stink, I'm saving money, and I feel free from my addiction. If I feel this good after only a month, imagine how I'll feel the rest of my life?

If you're ready to quit, or just want some information to start you on the right track, you can call your base Health and Wellness Center. With Chantix as just one prescription option, they also offer tobacco cessation classes and tips to help you be successful in quitting. Another source is the American Lung Association Lung Help and Tobacco Quit line at 1-877-695-QUIT (1-877-695-7848). That number is specifically for the Air Force Tobacco Cessation Program.

I can tell you first hand that it will be hard and you'll want to not quit. But, don't give up. The difficult will be worth it when you see how good you feel. I for one am proud to say I'm a quitter.