On June 10, 1982, I quit smoking FOREVER! I have 3 friends who are currently giving up this health-killing habit. It's not easy. But, you know what? It's the best thing I could have ever done for myself (and the hardest).

This is how I felt on the first day: HORRIBLE! All I could think of was smoking. Just one puff, just a sniff – I could not wait to go to bed that night so I could stop thinking about it. I was tired, cranky, mean, miserable, depressed, ticked off at the world, and yet, I stayed the course. My coughing increased a bit (my lungs were already cleaning up the damage). I was constantly chewing on hard candy. I held a small pencil between my 2 cigarette-holding fingers so that my brain would “think” I had a cigarette in my hand. I had a rubber band on my wrist which I snapped every time I had an uncontrollable urge to smoke. I wrote in a diary about my successes. My activities included ONLY things that would not allow smoking. In 1982, that part was difficult. Church, the library and local movie theaters were pretty much the only places where you could not smoke. Today, nonsmokers have lots of places to visit where smoking is NOT allowed. Yay for us! I never could understand smoking and no-smoking sections in restaurants. Smoke goes where it wants to go. How can a no smoking section stay smoke-free when the smoking section is in the same room? Duh! Some restaurants had a “no smoking table” near the restrooms (I always thought the manager was a smoker when that happened). It was the manager's way to cater to smokers when laws started tightening up. All they had to do was provide a “no smoking” table and that's what they did. Thankfully, nonsmokers are now the majority. Yay for that!

I saved up all of my cigarette butts from the last 2 weeks of smoking, put them in a jar, and filled the jar with water. When I had a strong urge to smoke, I opened the jar and took a whiff. Gross! But it worked. Who wants to smell like that? And yes, that's what a smoker smells like. You do not realize it until you're off cigarettes for a week or so. When food smells like food again and flowers are fragrant, you begin to realize just how nasty smoking is. Even my dog ​​was healthier. Yes, dogs, cats and children breathe in second-hand smoke making them more susceptible to illness, allergies and difficulty breathing.

If you are able, exercise. Take long walks. Drink fluids. Lots of water. Try to stay away from caffeinated beverages for a short while since caffeine is similar to nicotine and may increase your cravings. Alcohol is also something to avoid for a while. Most of all, change how you live. Avoid situations where you used to smoke. I stopped sitting at the kitchen table in the morning. That's where I smoked the most. I changed my routine. I got up, ate in the dining room, and got busy.

It takes time to be a nonsmoker. It took 22 years to become a 2-3 pack-per-day smoker. It took me 2 years to mentally kick the habit. However, after only 2 weeks, I no longer had the physical cravings. My body was free of nicotine. Now, 29 years later, I have absolutely no desire to smoke. I hate the smell. I just had a lung capacity test (pulmonary function test), and I passed with flying colors. My lungs are as healthy as a nonsmoker's lungs.

So, hang in there. It gets better and better. There are gums and medications that can help, but my recommendation is to try everything else first. One more thing, beware of “jealous” smokers who will sabotage your efforts. Avoid them until you are comfortable with your new status. Or invite them to join you in quitting. Make a no smoking rule at your house, inside and outside. I did, and I did not lose any friends.