Nicotine addiction is the main factor that contributes to the hardships endured by the people who try to quit smoking. The consumption of this substance can lead to the development of addiction rather quickly and thus lead to clouded judgement. Any smoker who tried to quit is very familiar with this fact – deciding to quit can be rather easy, you put out your last cigarette, throw away your last pack and you’re done with it. That is, until the next time when you think how you’re just going to smoke one more because you had a rough day or because you went out for a beer or coffee and you simply need to light up. Making up excuses and rationalizing your decisions becomes very easy once the cravings start and it exactly because of this that many smokers fail at their attempts at quitting.
However, there are countless others who managed to find their way through the nicotine withdrawal effects and cravings, beating their addiction and achieving the goal of a healthy and smoke-free life. But, there are different roads leading to this goal, maybe as much as there are people who managed to give up smoking, but regardless of the exact method used, hearing the stop smoking success stories can be a great source of motivation for those who are at the very beginning of their journey.
“After 10 years of addiction, it took me just 10 days to really stop”
By the year 2015, I was already what you could call a veteran smoker, with more than ten years of smoking behind me. I enjoyed the feeling cigarettes gave me, both the way that lighting up a cigarette instantly made me relaxed and the hedonistic overtones of smoking, so I hadn’t really considered smoking before I started noticing that annoying coughing that just wouldn’t go away. After some time, I visited my doctor and although it turned out it wasn’t anything serious, the doctor immediately knew that I was a heavy smoker just by the sound of my breathing. Then it hit me, I never thought about smoking in that way, it was just something I enjoyed and although I was aware of consequences, I never really thought about them, that something might happen to me and I would be the only one to blame.
Those thoughts stick around for quite some time, but I still wasn’t ready to really consider quitting. During that summer, I went to Norway with my wife to visit her family there. One day, we went hiking, and during a break, I lit up a cigarette, sat down and watched the nature around me. I was still coughing a bit so I started thinking about my smoking and probably for the first time ever, I thought about it as an addiction. Something I wasn’t born with and something I can live without. It seemed like an artificial problem I created for myself and being there in the unspoiled nature, I felt the desire to get back to my true self. I didn’t know what exactly that means or what I wanted, but I was sure that quitting smoking is the step in the right direction. I just couldn’t shake off the feeling of artificiality and pointlessness of my addiction.
It was the last cigarette I smoked. The remaining ten days in Norway were probably the hardest in my life, the cravings were really bad, and it was a real struggle to keep myself from panicking and running to the store to buy a pack. But, I made it. When I felt anxious and like I couldn’t stand it any longer, I just started walking in the direction of the mountains, focusing on the nature around me and trying to ignore the cravings. Day by day it gets easier and by the time we returned to Manchester, I knew that after ten years, I was finally free of my addiction.
“Quitting smoking is like working hard to undo one of the most stupid decisions you ever made”
I started smoking because of really, really stupid reasons, and I’m not ashamed to say it. Mostly because I think nobody really starts smoking because of some good or justified reason, it is always just plain dumb. I started sometime during my high school years, can’t remember exactly when, but I do remember that during that period I’ve gotten into that “bad boy” phase. Cigarettes came naturally with my “image” and style from that period, I thought it looked good and badass, and frankly, so did the girls. It became a part of my identity, coming around the corner, cigarette in my hand, leather jacket and all that goes with it.
But as years went by and my high school days were left behind me, so did my “bad boy” image. However, smoking was still, mostly like something that could help me pass the time once I’ve gotten into the transport business. I was addicted, but in a way, it still felt like an important part of my identity. If something went wrong, if I was anxious about something, I could just light it up and get a sudden boost of confidence I often lacked. I think that was one of the biggest factors in my addiction. The thought of stopping crossed my mind a thousand times and over the years I started noticing and hating the results of my years-long smoking career – the taste in my mouth, the way that all my clothes and my truck smelled of cigarettes, that nagging feeling in your throat every morning that still doesn’t stop you from lighting up one as soon as you get out of bed. But, I couldn’t stop. I tried countless times, throwing away my pack, or deciding that I’ll just finish the one I already have and not buy another one, but every day it was the same story. I quit smoking in the evening and bought a new pack on my way to work.
I think the hardest thing for me was that feeling of confidence, of some kind of clear and strong identity I got from smoking, or just holding a cigarette. So, I decided that is something I need to tackle first. So, I bought a ton of nicotine patches to try and keep my addiction in check and just stopped. Honestly, I don’t think if patches helped at all during the first couple of days. Every time something went wrong, even if it was the smallest possible thing, like dropping a pencil or spilling a bit of coffee on my shirt, I got insane rage attacks and started thinking about cigarettes that very same moment. From time to time, I did give up to cravings but tried to keep it to the minimum. In time, it got easier and I started reducing the patches. It took me somewhere around three months all in all, but since then, I have been smoke-free for almost a year. Quitting smoking was hell, but it’s something I had to do, like paying for the stupidest decision I ever made years ago.
“It was a tough 12 weeks, but it was well worth it”
I started smoking relatively late compared to other smokers I know. I was already nearing my mid-twenties when I first started and to be honest, I can’t really recall the reason. But at the time I haven’t thought much about it. It was that “I can quit anytime” mentality. Maybe it was true. But later on, when I got a job on a cruiser, smoking became something me and my co-workers did to pass the time, especially when we were working night shifts and there was nothing else to do. It was probably then that it really became both a habit and a serious addiction.
I switched jobs a number of times, but smoking remained. It was a short break from a busy day, five minutes I had for myself and I was enjoying it. It took quite some time to notice how it impacted my body and my health. I noticed how easily I got tired when I walked up the stairs or how my lungs were burning when I ran. Each day I started noticing more things, maybe even getting slightly paranoid – are my teeth slowly turning yellow? There’s some strange feeling in my chest, I’m coughing a bit, could it be something serious?
In time, the constant fear that something might go terribly wrong because of a stupid habit led me to the thought of quitting smoking for good. It was a good idea, I prepared for it, set a quit date and felt ready. But the quit date came and passed and I postponed it for a week, and then another week and soon it was another year I spent as a smoker. I was so depressed and demoralized because of my perceived failure that at one point I simply gave up. But the same thing happened; I was getting more and more worried about my health and the possibility that something can go very wrong, so I decided to try again, this time with some smoke cessation aids. I tried with an electronic cigarette and it worked great for quite some time, but I felt like I wasn’t going anywhere. I was still smoking, still getting my nicotine fix and it was rather easy to just light up when I forgot to bring my e-cigarette or when I run out of battery.
So, I switched to nicotine gums and patches, but that did nothing to diminish the craving for smoking a real cigarette, not to mention gums tasted awful and patches gave me some mild, yet annoying rash. At this point I was hopeless, so I decided to consult my doctor. I felt horrible, like a drug addict, but was out of ideas, when she mentioned Champix. Frankly, I had no idea that there was a medicine without nicotine used for quitting smoking, and I was extremely sceptical about it. My doctor claimed it had a really good success rate, but I just kept thinking – if an overdose of nicotine patches and gums didn’t help, how this nicotine-free remedy could possibly do anything.
I was sceptical, but the doctor gave me a prescription and told me to think about it. Since I have already tried everything, I thought more and more about trying Champix, so eventually, I bought a starter pack and started treatment according to the prescribed schedule. In short, I was shocked – I never expected Champix to be so strong. The first thing I noticed was nausea and my first instinct was to just stop the treatment because it’s only making things worse. I even smoked instinctively when nausea hits. But, I decided I should go through with the treatment, at least for another week or so. However, my opinion did not change – I was sure Champix was a useless medicine that was just making me nauseous. But something else did change. I started enjoying cigarettes less and less, the taste in my mouth was foul and the smell of cigarette, especially in the morning, was enough to make me sick.
Finally, I thought that there might be some truth to this Champix thing and I decided to complete the full treatment of 12 weeks. It wasn’t easy. Nausea was pretty constant, although somewhat milder in the later stages of the treatment, and I have gotten the chance to experience a couple more unpleasant side effects, but when the treatment was one, I was truly free of my nicotine addiction. I never lit up a cigarette ever since and am still grateful to my doctor for recommending me this drug. It really changed my life for the better and when I think about a healthy life I have in front of me, I know those twelve weeks of struggle were worth it.