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How I Quit Smoking

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I have stopped smoking. Me. To be honest, I can't believe I accomplished such a difficult feat and I wasn't sure I could do it.

Now, over three months later, the only time I think about smoking is when I remember that I don't! It was tough; I lost my most self-destructive friend who was always there for me. A dirty crutch that allowed me to bypass my emotions and lean on, whenever I needed a "break" for what life threw at me. Smoking my Marlboros got me through an agonizing divorce and was my only time-out while I laid in my dying Grandmother's hospital bed, during her final days. It has been said that cigarette addiction blocks emotions and in my experience, I found that to be true.

My smoking career began when I was 27-years-old living in Athens and lasted heavily for eight years. Sure I'd smoked a cigarette here or there when out with friends prior, but I was never a smoker or purchased a pack. Since I was small, I always wanted to live and work in Athens-the best city in the world and my namesake.  While working at a multinational company that featured no-smoking signs in every room, I eventually smoked a cigarette in the tobacco permeated atmosphere. Everyone smoked in that office and I guess I figured, "if you can't beat em, join em." One cigarette turned in to two, and so on. In a mere matter of weeks, my routine was smoking heavily, downing Nescafe and conversing with colleagues via Skype. I felt guilty about it; I lived in Athens for four years and managed to stay a Greek-American vegetarian but turned into a smoker?!

When I decided to move back to America, I had a tough transition. I missed everything about Greece-the smells of Athens, the dirtiness and pureness of the capital, and the richly infused cultural aspects of everyday life that is significantly lost here in the States. When I was younger, I cried when I touched down in Greece and I cried when I left. The nation has always had such a concrete impact on me that is hard to describe in words. To combat my feelings of homesickness even though I was born and raised in America, I smoked even more. In a sick way, smoking reminded me of Greece. In America, smoking isn't as widely accepted, it is looked down upon in many locations and is banned in various open-air settings. In my projected defiance, I thought to myself, I'm Greek and miss the European way of living. Who was I kidding?! I was slowly killing myself!

It has also been said that smoking is one of the hardest addictions to stop and it was for me. The long-term effects aren't noticed right away and it is so easy to smoke pretty much anywhere if you are determined to. Anytime I wanted to check out for a couple minutes I smoked. I took smoke breaks at work, I smoked in my car, I smoked with my morning coffee, I smoked when I was happy and I smoked when I was sad.  I don't know why I finally cut it but I just couldn't take it anymore. I had tried without any assistance a couple times in the past, but always broke down a couple weeks into it. I mentally prepared myself this time with a date of when I was going to slap the nicotine patch on my arm, and fight this disgusting addiction once and for all. And so far, it has worked!

I can't say enough about the patch. If you want it to work and give it your all, it works. It was still tough, but the program reduces your nicotine dosage gradually over eight weeks. It has its fair share of side effects, including horrific night-terrors, but I constantly reminded myself that quitting smoking wouldn't be easy and to get through it. This was my last chance I told myself. If I don't quit now, when would I? I'm not sure why the patch worked for me. I believe it was a combination of things-knowing that nicotine is flowing in my system and feeling like a looser if I puffed one out, paying for the expensive smoking aid, and the feeling of failure if I ripped it off and started smoking again. Many naysayers told me while I wore the patch that is was b.s. and didn't work; the majority who made these comments are active smokers.

Naturally this wasn't easy, but why would it be?  Nothing worth fighting for ever is. Nicotine, additives and chemicals in cigarettes are extremely addicting. I repeatedly told myself that the reason it was so hard to quit is because it was so toxic for my system in the first place.  This made me even more determined to fight this nasty habit. I have always been an eater so I can't really gauge if I have been eating more than usual. If so, what's a couple pounds versus slowly killing myself? Things surfaced for me that I have pushed away over the years. I rewarded myself for not smoking and spent the money I previously wasted on cigarettes on fresh fruit juices and manicures. Anything that helped transfix my mind on trying to treat myself better. I'm the only one that has to live in my body, so why not start respecting it?

I was naturally nervous when the final day came of my nicotine patch. I thought of wearing it longer than the eight-week program but at the end of the day, it's up to me and my self-will to stop smoking once and for all. I have had the patch off for about a month now and I haven't thought to smoke at all, only when I remember that I don't and I am so proud of myself. It is a truly freeing feeling to not be reliant on anything other than the basic necessities of life. If I ever have the craving to smoke again, I can reread this article and look at the personal photo attached to see how detrimental and unattractive smoking is. Good luck to everyone out there who is trying or wants to quit. You can do it! And remember, YOU ARE WORTH IT!