Sunday is an anniversary for me. Four years ago, on February 28th, I smoked my last cigarette.
My journey to becoming an ex-smoker was long. I never think of myself as a nonsmoker, only an ex-smoker. I’d quit before. Many times. As Mark Twain said, “It’s easy to quit smoking. I’ve done it a hundred times.” This time was going to be different though.
I’d wanted to quit for years. After I got married in 2001, I started back to school to get my BA. When I first moved to St. Louis in 1995, I’d fully intended to complete my degree. I earned my Associate’s in Liberal Arts just before the big move. Unfortunately, life got in the way.
In the fall of 2001, I finally started to begin my dream of a BA in English. All this time, quitting my nasty habit was in the back of my head. My husband hated it. I refused to smoke around him and felt more like a sneaky teenager than a grown woman. I also felt it was impossible to quit while I was holding a full-time job and attending night classes. But I tried. It never lasted more than a day or two.
When my degree came in the mail in December of 2005, I celebrated with a smoke and a call to my mother. Mom’s great. She was a lifelong smoker. In April of 2004, she quit. After several decades of smoking, my mother decided it was time and found a way. She never snapped at me. She never nagged me to quit. She encouraged me. She told me I had the strength to do it. She’s still an ex-smoker.
There was another reason to quit. We wanted to start our family. But I’d seen women get pregnant and quit smoking only to start right back up again after the baby was born. I didn’t want that. I wanted to quit permanently.
So I set the date. March 1st would be my first smoke-free day. I had about five cigarettes left in the pack. After smoking my last one, I tore them in shreds over the trash can on the 28th. When I woke up on March 1st, I put on the patch. Less than a month later, I wouldn’t need it. I gave the left over patches to my friend. She quit in April. She’s still smoke-free too.
My daughter was born in May of 2008. She won’t see her mother smoke.
Every year, I celebrate this achievement. But I do so alone. I don’t remind my husband. I don’t want him to congratulate me. I did it for myself. I did it for my family. Looking at them is the only reminder I need. And that’s what I do. I hug them, knowing that I’m better because of them. Knowing that they are better because I had the strength and determination to quit.
I will never forget that the reasons outweigh the brief euphoria of one little smoke.