This Saturday, July 16 marks the 1-year anniversary of when I quit smoking. 365 days smoke free. I smoked a pack of day for almost 19 years. I started smoking when I was only 14 years old. I’m celebrating my one-year anniversary smoke-free by participating in the Ballantyne YMCA Triathlon this Saturday.
I had quit two times in my life before, during both of my pregnancies. I quit smoking the moment my husband and I decided to start trying to conceive and successfully abstained throughout my pregnancy. But, after about three months post-partum, I slowly started back. I could quit smoking for my precious babies and wouldn’t dare harm them with the poison of cigarettes, but I couldn’t do the same for myself.
I had tried to quit many times before, but I just couldn’t stop. I WANTED to quit, but I couldn’t stand the mood swings, withdrawal symptoms and weight gain that came along with kicking the habit. I tried the patch, wellbutrin, quitting cold turkey, EVERYTHING, but nothing worked.
The final straw came last year on July 16, 2010. I had to finished running a 10K at the South Carolina Peach Festival and I placed first in my age category. We went out to eat at Cracker Barrel after the race to celebrate and I saw a fellow racer, with her race number still pinned to her shirt, light up a cigarette. I commented on the irony of her running and doing something good for her body, and then undoing all of that great work by smoking. I realized I was doing the same thing. I was already about a month into my marathon training and I was still puffing away. I felt like a poser. How could I advocate for health and fitness, run a marathon and write a healthy eating blog while smoking?
I also realized that if I wanted to run the Disney World Marathon in January, I needed to quit. I would not be able to run 26.2 miles with limited lung capacity. My kids are also getting older and they notice everything. As much as I tried to hide my smoking from them, they had seen my husband and I smoke, and I didn’t want them to follow in my footsteps.
A friend of mine had mentioned that she quit smoking through hypnosis, so I decided to give it a try. I was skeptical, but I bought the Max Kirsten Quit Smoking App on my iPhone for a minimal investment.
I listened to the track before bed and the next day I didn’t feel like smoking at all. After a few weeks, I no longer needed to listen to the hypnosis app and I was completely smoke-free.
My running improved, my skin looked better, my asthma disappeared and I felt wonderful. Not only did I not gain weight, but I lost ten pounds!
I replaced smoking as a stress-reliever with exercising and yoga.
I’ve never heard anyone else tout yoga as a solution for quitting smoking, but it worked wonders for me. Part of the reason I smoked was for stress relief. In addition to the nicotine, I think part of the stress reliever of cigarettes is process of taking deep breathes through inhaling. Yoga is a healthy way to take deep breaths and deliver oxygen to all of the cells in your body.
I LOVE yoga, but I can’t always fit in a full hour into my schedule. On the days I can’t fit in a class, I either get in halasana (plow), vipatrita karani (legs-up-the-wall) or uttanasana (forward bend) and take deep yoga breathes. Yoga breathing, involves breathing through your nose and focusing on lengthening exhalations. This does wonders for my stress levels.
My marathon training also did wonders for my motivation to stay cigarette-free. I knew that I couldn’t keep up with 20+ mile runs on the weekends if I was puffing away.
I now set new training goals to stay motivated and reward myself for staying smoke-free. I did my first Triathlon on June 18, my second one, Ramblin’ Rose Triathlon on July 10 and I’m celebrating my one-year smoke-free anniversary at the Ballantyne YMCA Triathlon this Saturday, July 16. I plan to run the Thunder Road Marathon in Charlotte in November and I hope to set new fitness goals throughout the year.
Am I cured? I don’t know if there is such a thing as “cured” from smoking. I view smoking like cancer, I believe I’m in remission. There are still moments that I crave cigarettes and I think that I’ll face that for my entire life. Smoking was so ingrained in who I was, I thought I would never be able to kick the habit. I’m not proud that I used to be a smoker and I tell very few people, but, I have to accept that it was part of my life. My hope in sharing my story is that it may just inspire someone to quit.
I pray and hope that my children never pick up the habit. Smoking is highly addictive and quitting is not easy. The best way to quit smoking is to never start. But, it is possible to quit. I know many people don’t want to quit smoking for fear of gaining weight, but I was overweight my entire life, while I smoked, but I was able to get in the best shape of my life after I quit smoking. I had already lost 70 pounds, but after I quit smoking, I lost that last 10, bringing me down a total of 80 pounds.
I’ll continue to take it day-by-day, but I hope to never pick up a cigarette again in my life.
Does anyone reading this blog smoke? Have you tried to quit? Has anyone else successfully quit? I’d love to hear from you!