How I Quit Smoking

July 26th, 2012 | Posted by Erica House in Health

It’s amazing how bad habits go so well together.

The photos above were taken of me a few years ago during my binge drinking, chain smoking and fast food eating days.

It ain’t pretty.

I started smoking when I was 19. I didn’t know anyone who smoked and I just wanted to see what it was like. I stopped at a gas station on the way to the gym one day and bought a pack of Marlborough lights. I would smoke one maybe once a day on the way to the gym (how ironic). Eventually, I started dating guys who smoked and my smoking increased to over a pack a day. I kept this pace up for 8 years. Like most smokers I tried to quit a few times before I finally quit for good last year (June 2011).

One of the biggest side affects from quitting, that I was unprepared for the first few times I tried, was mild depression and increased anxiety. Without getting to technical on you (I teach a Drugs & Behavior course that goes into this topic in depth!) nicotine effects the dopamine receptors in the brain. Dopamine = you feeling awesome. After 8 years of my dopamine receptors being artificially stimulated every time I smoked it was a struggle to experience the normal pleasure in life without them.  After doing some research on quitting I found a few websites recommending the use of St. Johns Wort as a aide in smoking cessation. St. Johns Wort is an herbal supplement available over the counter that has been proven to assist with mild depression (5HTP is another great supplement to look into for anxiety.) The research on it’s effectiveness with quitting smoking is mixed, at best. Some studies have found it does help, some have found that it doesn’t help, and the American Cancer society believes it may assist but further research needs to be done.

The other difficult thing I found was having to deal with my emotions again without nicotine. When I was a smoker I’d smoke to deal with any emotion: stress, anxiety, loneliness, anger, frustration, happiness … a cigarette was appropriate at any time! One of the best pieces of advice I came across when I was trying to quit was to view quitting as the loss of a friend. This, thing, that has been there for you and comforted you 24/7 is suddenly gone. Be prepared to mourn!

Finally, don’t let yourself get caught up in future thinking. My biggest meltdowns came when I’d start dwelling on, “omg I’ll never have a smoke again after a good meal” or “I’ll never be able to have coffee and cigarettes” … don’t do it! When you find yourself thinking those things just take a breath and focus on the present craving. If you can get through those 5 minutes (the average length of a craving) you’ll be fine. Remember, you’re not quitting forever. Just today.

For further help quitting please follow these links:

American Cancer Society’s Guide to Quitting Smoking

Quit Smoking Today! from Smokefree.gov

The Center for Disease Control and Preventions Guide to Quitting Smoking

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12 Responses

  • Kat says:

    Im glad you were able to quit smoking. I know so many who do, and grew up around it since lots of my family members smoked. Its not a pretty thing to be around OR involved in, so good for you for being able to quit!

    • Erica House says:

      Thank you! It wasn’t easy but it was so worth it. I feel much better now and only hope my other healthy lifestyle choices can help combat the 8 years of damage I did to myself!

  • Ashley says:

    Thank you for this! I am currently a smoker and have been struggling with quitting. I am so appreciative of this post, as well as its timing. :) Thank you for sharing and the resources!

    • Erica House says:

      Anytime you need support or encouragement please feel free to email me! When the time is right for you to quit – you’ll know.

  • Good for you, Erica, it’s so awesome that you quit! I too struggled the first few times I tried to quit. Just like you mentioned, I was unprepared and lacked any understanding of what it would be like when I didn’t have that cigarette to calm my worries. Life is SO much better without them, but there are days where I’ll see someone smoking and have a sudden urge to smoke. Even after all these years, it’s nuts! I’d never do it, but it’s amazing to see just how deep addiction can get into you.

    • Erica House says:

      It’s always so reassuring to hear from people who have gone through the same struggle :) I find myself craving them still when I get really stressed. Thankfully I’ve learned to manage my stress better now but I anticipate it always being a small part of me. I caved and started smoking again the first few times I quit after having ‘just one cigarette’ so now I know all to well that I am always one cigarette from being a pack-a-day smoker again!

  • Laura says:

    Thank you for sharing this, it was really interesting to read. I don’t think you look bad a little bigger though, you look great :-) xxx

  • Caroline says:

    Well done Erica :) Making the decision to quit was the best thing I ever did. The benefits of not smoking outweigh any of the enjoyment I use to get from lighting up :)

  • I went through smoking, binge drinking and fast food eating in college too. I ended up quitting maybe 2007 or so. I had started exercising more and realized that the two didn’t go exactly hand in hand. So I dropped the cigs and went full throttle into exercising and back in to my ED. glad i don’t smoke anymore and managed to get through my ED afterwards.

    it’s strange, i always tried getting my dad to quit when i was younger and then i went ahead and started smoking. my dad eventually stopped too. i don’t remember how, but no cigarettes have been in this work area for years now. something i am very proud of.

    • Erica House says:

      I was also SO anti-smoking growing up. I thought it was disgusting and remember telling my best friend in middle school if she ever started smoking I’d never talk to her again lol. I’m not sure why I started, but I sure wish I hadn’t! At least I quit when I was fairly young. Still hate to think of all the damage I did after 10 years.

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