How to Quit: Eight Former Smokers Show the Way

Who knows better how to quit than those who've done it? Eight quitters share their thoughts on pills, patches, meditation, support groups, and how leaving cigarettes behind has made them feel sexier and happier in a million small ways.
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Sharon
Her story
I was 13 when I started, but back then it was not a big deal. I actually would walk into any convenience store and tell them I was getting them for my mother. It was a different world back then! I smoked a pack a day for 26 years. After my kids were born, I really started to think about quitting. I had several motivators: my health, my children, my pocketbook, and my social life—I hated standing in the cold by myself! Now I have a new car and the payment is still less than what I was spending on cigarettes.
Her advice
Don't worry about the money for the patch. You're going to spend a lot more on cigarettes. I fight off urges by walking away from where I am and find something to do. Even if it’s something silly like going to pet the dog or wiping down an already clean counter. Keep your hands and mind off the cigs! Don't give up. The urges at the start are really strong, but over time they fade.
1 of 9 Sharon (Courtesy of Sharon)

Greg

His story
When my daughter (who is 15 now and has always been the absolute love of my life) was 6, she came home from school one day and told me "Daddy, if you don't quit smoking you will get cancer and die. I don't want that to happen to you so if you quit I will give you 30 hugs and 30 kisses every day for the rest of your life." I tried everything: The patch, hypnosis, gum, I even went to a Chinese acupuncturist who glued a bb behind my ear to pinch when I had cravings. None of it worked. I felt like such a failure.
The attempts went on for 2 years. Then one night at work, I was walking down the loading dock having a smoke. I felt my chest get real tight and then it felt like there was a 500 pound beast sitting on top of me. I couldn't breathe. I thought I was dying. All I could think of was that I would never get to see my daughter again. I have never had another cigarette since. It has been 7 years 2 months and 28 days now. I still get hugs and kisses from her every day, just not 30 of them.
His advice
No matter how many attempts it takes, never give up. You will feel so much better. The first few weeks I would get these oxygen rushes from breathing just clean air. They are so cool!
2 of 9 Greg (Courtesy of Greg)

Erin

Her story
My husband was also a smoker. I watched him quit a few times for at least a few months or more. I tried 5 or 6 times but never made it past the first day. My husband always went back to smoking probably because I still smoked and cigarettes were around the house. I felt guilty about it but secretly happy that he started up again so I wouldn't be the only one. Finally, when I was turning 40, I told my husband that I didn't want to be a smoker. He said he would quit again with me. We chose a date (Aug. 31, 2009) and chose a method. We decided to use the Committ Lozenges. That did it for me. They kept my mouth busy. I was quite jittery for the first few days but that subsided. For our one year (quit) anniversary, we took a cruise. We went down to the casino where quite a few people were smoking. It really bothered me. I was ready to leave and not be around it. That's how I knew I had really done it.
Her advice
It helps if you have a support system. My husband and sons constantly tell me how proud they are. My doctor high-fives me every time I go in to see her. Even the nurses. The self-satisfaction is totally worth it. And not smelling like smoke, not having to duck out to grab a smoke, not worrying when you will be able to smoke again...... it controls your life and you don't realize how much until you quit! You can do it!
3 of 9 Erin (Courtesy of Erin)

Donna

Her story
I've always wanted to quit. I was one of those people that would hike to the top of a big mountain and smoke a butt up there. I realized it was a contradiction, but that's what I did.
I've quit for a year and two years at a time but foolishly started smoking again. Not this time. And I feel great!
Her advice
Don't be afraid of (the prescription drug) Chantix. The worst it did was screw up my period. Believe in yourself and your decision. Tell yourself over and over again about the risks and hazards of smoking and the benefits of quitting. You have to want it.
4 of 9 Donna (Courtesy of Donna)

Kathleen

Her story:
I started smoking in 1968, the year of the Monkey. I wanted to be a rebel and not miss anything exciting. It was a time when people would drink beer or alcohol while driving and not suffer any consequences. Of course, I did drugs and started drinking then also and became addicted to not only cigarettes but alcohol also.
Finally, with the help of the nicotine gum, I quit but I did a lot of research and used the knowledge. I gained weight but I felt so much better, freer, at last at last free of all drugs! Sexiness is not thinness. Sexiness is healthy, glowing skin. Being sexy is being healthy, not looking like a grey set of bones. My hair, clothes, pillow, house, car, body all smelled luscious. I felt a new found appreciation for sensual things. Not just sex, but for fragrances, food, the touch of silk and velvet, fresh cut hay and grass.
Her advice
I don't respond to punishment (no one does really), so rubber bands on the wrist do not work. I think it's important to know why you started in order to quit. Research why you began to smoke and why you continue to smoke. Research nicotine and its effects on your brain and body and what happens when you smoke. Make a plan, choose a date. This is part of your journey and you can quit. It sound trite but if I did, you can.
5 of 9 Kathleeen (Courtesy of Kathleen)

David C

His story
I started at the age of 18. I had just left home to go to college. Everyone else smoked, and smoking seemed to be the final sign of coming of age. It felt sexy to smoke.
Years later, I had just had six months of chemotherapy to put leukemia into remission, and I was still smoking. One day it hit me: "Why am I still doing this?" I enrolled in a program at the hospital sponsored by the American Lung Association. It cost $99 and included two group meetings per week for a month. I hated going to them, but I had paid the $99, so I stayed with it. After one week they told us to choose either the patch, gum, lozenge or something to help us quit. I chose a product called Commit. It's an over-the-counter lozenge that Arnold Palmer used to pitch. Arnie had always been a hero of mine, and I thought, "If it's good enough for him, it's certainly good enough for me!" Commit did the trick for me.
His advice
If you don't succeed at first, just consider it practice and try it again when you're ready. I still get the occasional urge, and I take three very deep breaths; in through the nose and out the mouth very slowly. The breathing fools your brain into thinking you just smoked.
I smoked for so long that I now have COPD (chronic obstructive lung disease). Don't wait until you get COPD to quit. Do it now. There's nothing cute and sexy about smoking. There's nothing cute and sexy about hocking up and spitting wads of thick yellow phlegm for the rest of your life. There is definitely nothing sexy about chemotherapy.
6 of 9 David C (Courtesy of David C)

Rick

His story
I, like many smokers, had tried to quit many times, trying everything available: gum, patches, pills, cold turkey, tapering off, etc. All had short-term success, three to 12 months. I discovered the E cig while purchasing normal cigs at my discount store.
But when reordering nicotine I noticed you could buy flavored vitamins also. I ordered some with the nicotine, and started alternating nicotine and the vitamins. After 30 days, I switched to all vitamins; about five weeks later, I put nicotine down and was done. Seventeen months later, I'm still smoke- and nicotine-free. I've been unemployed for over a year, and although tempted by stress, boredom, etc., but because I feel so much better since quitting, the temptation does not last long.
His advice
Having something to address the mechanical action associated with smoking helped me the most. My advice is to keep trying to quit, never stop trying. Find the key or keys that unlock your addiction. The difference in my overall feeling, as well the return of the operation of my senses affected by smoking is amazing. I can actually do things and not be winded or have to stop and rest. Everything smells and tastes better. Head colds that used to hang around for weeks, I get over in a week. Funny how much more level-headed I feel and act now than when I smoked. Most importantly, I feel good about myself.
7 of 9 Rick (Courtesy of Rick)

David B

His story
Money was key motivator on my last and most successful attempt. I had tried numerous times before (probably six to eight times). The best results I finally had was from using hypnosis in conjunction with the patch. My theory is that the patch took care of the actual physical addiction to the nicotine, while the hypnosis took care of the mental aspect and the habit aspect of smoking.
As a backup, and also a huge incentive, I developed my reward program. This program simply involves putting $10 into a jar every morning … religiously. Don't miss a day. If you could come up with $10 every day to buy your killer smokes, then you can find that same $10 to put in the jar, period! Then you can do whatever your heart desires with that money. At $10 a day, it adds up fast, so you don't have to wait long to reward yourself.
His advice
If you remember way back when you started to smoke, you had to teach yourself to like it. You probably felt nausea, etc., but you kept on smoking anyhow. Eventually you got hooked on the nicotine and the rest was history. Now you need to help yourself learn how to go in the other direction. 
Keep trying, and each time you try and don't succeed, make some mental notes about what went wrong, and store them in your head to use as ammunition for the next time you try. Eventually you will get it right.
8 of 9 David B (Courtesy of David B)