Two years ago today, at 2:15 in the afternoon, after over 30 years of smoking, I QUIT. I haven't had a cigarette since.
I'd been wanting to quit, and had tried several times without lasting success. This time, however, I had the _____ scared out of me, when I couldn't breathe and the doctors all thought I was having heart trouble. YIKES! I'd been miserable all that previous week, and had really cut back on smoking, but this was enough to make me STOP. For the first time, I clearly saw/felt/KNEW that the pain far outweighed the pleasure. (That's the key to changing any habit, by the way -- pain vs. pleasure -- and if you want to know more about THAT, I suggest that check into this guy's stuff. )
I did it cold turkey, too. No patches, no nicotine gum, no nothing but willpower. I still have my half a pack of cigarettes in the drawer, by the way -- and I can start back any time I want to, but I have to start with THOSE cigarettes. Needless to say, they are pretty stale and nasty by now. I hadn't smoked in the house for many years, so I didn't have the problems of adjusting my habits by the computer or in front of the TV too much. My hardest time was in the evenings, around 8 p.m. -- I figured out that what I really missed was the hot bitter taste of smoking then, so I would make a strong pot of decaf coffee and take it out into the garage, sit down in my "smoking chair", and get my hot-bitter fix. It worked for me.
Other than remembering how TERRIBLE it felt to not be able to breathe, day by day I reminded myself that EVERY day I didn't smoke really did make a difference in my health. I kept these kind of facts in mind:
- Within 8 hours of your last cigarette, your carbon monoxide levels drop to normal and oxygen levels in the blood increase to normal.
- Within 24 hours of your last cigarette, your risk of heart attack decreases.
- Within 48 hours of your last cigarette, your nerve endings begin to regenerate, and your ability to smell and taste is enhanced.
- Within 72 hours of your last cigarette, bronchial tubes relax, making breathing easier. Lung capacity starts increasing.
- Within 2 weeks to 2 months your circulation improves, and walking becomes easier
- Within 1 to 9 months, coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue, and shortness of breath all decrease. The cilia RE-GROW in your lungs, which increases your ability to handle mucus, clean your lungs, and reduces the chance of infection.
- Within 3-5 years your risk of dying from a heart attack decreases to that of a non-smoker.
- Within 10 years your risk of dying from lung cancer decreases to that of a non-smoker. Precancerous cells are replaced with healthy cells. Other cancer occurrences, such as cancer of the mouth, larynx, esophagus, bladder, kidney, and pancreas all decrease.
Pretty impressive, huh?
I did gain weight. So what. I knew I would, because the actual effects of nicotine on your body cause it to work harder and burn more calories. It's like you suddenly aren't burning the calories you once were. Eating wasn't a big deal -- I made sure that I didn't substitute mints and gum for the cigarettes -- I substituted nothing but my evening coffee! I increased my water intake, increased my healthy foods, decreased my processed foods. I was more interested in generally getting healthy than in whether or not I stayed skinny. Plus I had this mysterious breathing-but-not-and-heart-but-not whatever going on, and it made strenous exercise difficult. Actually, about that time, I would have said that strenous exercise was IMPOSSIBLE for me. Something was going on and I was exhausted down beyond my reserves. It was just a matter of rest and recouperate. *
Now I'm no longer the skinny girl. I'm the chunky one. I'm feeling much better though, and am ready to kick it up a notch! Remember my goal of losing 10 pounds by the end of April? Well, I've lost 2 so far. Not bad, considering that, due to really nasty weather and a fairly annoying knee problem, I haven't been able to meet my exercise goals of walking 3 times a week and doing yoga 3 times a week. Still, I'm determined, and am really blessed with a hubby who likes me the way I am, whichever way I am, but is super supportive of healthy lifestyle changes. So, in support of good health, we bought an elliptical machine this weekend (a nice chunk of change, thank you honey for the early birthday present!) and I'm ammending my goals to using it daily, also walking the 1-2 miles whenever the weather allows, and getting the doc to take a look at my knee so I can get back into yoga without modifying most of the poses and squealing "ouch" a lot.
And, I've managed to type the 15 minutes away -- so, as of right this minute -- I have been TWO YEARS -- smoke free.
(* I now think it was a case of mixed stuff -- chest wall pain, a sprained sternocostal joint, hormonal changes, and adrenal fatigue. It took a lot of research to figure all that out, and I had to do some arguing with my doc to NOT be on a bunch of medications that I know now I wouldn't have needed. Sometimes you NEED to rest, and I still believe that I was right.)