Five years. One thousand, eight hundred and twenty five days. Forty three thousand, eight hundred hours. Two million, six hundred and twenty eight thousand minutes. One hundred and fifty seven million, six hundred and eighty thousand seconds.
My hair smells better. My clothes smell better. My skin looks better. I no longer have a yellow tinge to my first two fingers on my right hand. My sense of smell and taste has improved. My nerve endings have regrown. My circulations has improved. My lung function has improved. My risk of coronary heart disease is half of what it was 5 years ago. My lung cancer death rate has decreased by half. My risk of cancer of the throat, mouth and esophagus has decreased by half, along with my risk of stroke.
For five years I have been smoke free. Quitting smoking was the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life, aside from giving birth to my children. In my 31 years years, I have been through a lot. Trials and tribulation should be my middle name. I am not a stranger to hard. Quitting smoking almost did me in.
I quit because I loved someone else more than myself. I quit because deep in my heart I knew it was the right thing to do. I quit because my children needed their mother to be the best mom she could be. I didn't want to quit. I wasn't ready. But someone else was, and they needed me to do it with them. I didn't understand at the time how it could be hard to quit when someone you lived with still smoked. I get that now. I admire him for even trying the first time alone.
The first few weeks were hell. I thought we might kill each other, and if not, certainly destroy our marriage. I started smoking when I was 17 years old. I often blame my parents turmulous marriage, and their constant fighting and looming divorce. It was a stress relief. One I didn't have to choose, but I did. My choice. I was hooked fast. Smoking was an escape. A way to deal with emotions that I didn't know what to do with. A way to relieve stress, and deal with anger. I could cry and smoke at the same time and not miss a blink. I didn't do it because it was cool, or because of peer pressure. I did it because my emotional state was a mess and I didn't know how to cope. And it my young mind, it beat the hell out of drinking.
I smoked for almost 10 years. When I quit smoking, I had smoked for almost my entire adult life. Every hard thing I had been through, smoking was there for me. I would try to quit. And life was still messy and it didn't work. I quit when I joined the army. I was smoke free for 5 months. Then I was in a horrific car accident that almost took my life and left me in horrible pain. I was in the hospital, facing a scary future in the worst pain I had ever been in... and I asked the nurse for a smoke. I crutched out into a blizzard and thanked God for my life. And then I lit up. Kind of ironic now that I think back on it.. but I was a mess. Smoking got me through those first years of chronic pain. When I became pregnant, they told me to cut way down. Quitting was stressful for the baby, and so my babies smoked in the womb. I won't even tell you the guilt I carry over that.
I learned how to deal with stress in new ways. The first few weeks I yelled. And he, being in the same boat I was, yelled back. And it was ok. I took up crochet, and later knitting. Something to do with my hands that wasn't smoking. I crocheted my then best friend an afghan for her birthday during those first months. I honestly feel having something to do helped me stay on the wagon. I counted days religiously, and made a big deal out of each weekly milestone. Every time I thought about lighting up, I thought about all of those weeks that I would be throwing away. And I stuck with it.
Eventually it got better. The cravings went away. Mostly. I never realized how awful people who smoke smell. My parents were smokers, I grew up with it. I didn't realize there was an odor. Now I wonder how anyone could stand to be around me. Every once in a great while, when things are really horrible, or I'm suffering an anxiety attack, I think of smoking. Maybe 3 times a year, if that. In 5 more years, my chances of getting cancer or any other disease related to smoking will be the same as a non smoker. Piece of cake.