I have been smoke free for 190 days and with each day that passes, I'm still in disbelief. I never thought I would get here; smoking was a big part of my life for 43 years.
Everyone around me growing up smoked, including my mother and brother. I was 13 years old when I had my first cigarette. Unfortunately, my mother died within that same year. It was a difficult time in my life, and so I started smoking regularly as a teenager feeding my habit, regardless of the consequences.
I had COPD and asthma which was being exasperated by my cigarette habit. When I was an adult, my doctor told me I had two choices: quit smoking or die.
As all smokers know, quitting is challenging and terrifying. It took 25 years of my doctor insisting I quit, before I was able to successfully stop smoking. I tried everything, including cold turkey and prescription medication; nothing worked. I knew I wanted to change my life around for the better. My family needed me, and I knew I could do this for myself, and especially for them.
My two wonderful grandchildren are a large part of why I stopped smoking; I want to be around to watch them grow up.
Eventually, I started using nicotine patches and free counselling programs, including the Smokers Helpline, CAMH's Nicotine Dependence Clinic and QuitNet to finally quit for good. The accountability of having the counsellors following up to see how I was doing was important for me in order to avoid picking up a cigarette.
The hardest part of quitting are the triggers making me want to smoke. The main trigger is being surrounded by other people who smoke. When I see my kids having a cigarette, I get a craving. If there's a stressful moment, such as an argument or misunderstanding with a family member, I'm tempted to smoke.
To curb these cravings, I immediately have a lozenge and think back on the reasons why I quit. My counsellor at CAMH advised me to use a combination of two nicotine replacement products in order to really combat my cravings. Using the patch consistently, in addition to taking a lozenge, helps me through those really tough moments when all I can think about is smoking.
My two wonderful grandchildren are a large part of why I stopped smoking; I want to be around to watch them grow up. I will never forget the big grin on my five-year-old grandson's face when he learned that I quit. My hope is that I inspire them to never start smoking in the first place, so they never have to experience what I have gone through.
I had a CT scan after being smoke-free for three months, and my doctor was shocked. My lungs are healthier and breathing is easier, I feel much better than I have since I first picked up a cigarette.
If you are reading this and thinking about quitting smoking, I encourage you to seek out a support program such as the Smokers Helpline, and talk to a pharmacist about using nicotine replacement therapies to combat cravings.
You are not alone on your journey. Tomorrow could be your day one of being smoke-free.
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