Smoking in secret is a behavior that causes pain and loneliness to the smoker. We feel guilty, weak, and stuck.
Karen’s story will resonate with anyone who has tried to hide their smoking.
Thank you for telling your story, Kay, and congratulations on taking your life back.
My name is Karen, but my friends call me Kay. I started smoking when I was 14. I’m 31 now. I now realize that my reasons for smoking at that age turned into reasons why I still smoked 16 years later.
It’s like my whole life has been focused on cigarettes on purpose. Maybe that was it.
I stopped smoking on June 12th. Today is my fifth smoke-free day. I feel like waking up from a fog. I made up my mind to introduce myself to your smoking cessation support group while I’m still foggy so I don’t stop myself from being brutally honest with you.
I’ve always hid behind smoking, one way or another.
I don’t want to hide any longer. I want to take away the power of my addiction by telling you the truth about myself. If you like me after reading it, that’s wonderful. If you don’t, I won’t blame you! But I have to be honest with the monster I’ve become.
I’ve done a lot of lazy things during my relationship with nicotine, things that are shameful, things that I can’t take back. I’m slowly coming to realize all the lies that I told myself and believed just to be able to smoke. There is in order to many things that come into focus regarding my smoking affair.
Most dauntingly, “Marriage vs. Capri 120’s” has been the defining title for my life for the past five years. My husband is a non-smoker and when we met I had quit for a little over a year after years of smoking. He believed I was a non-smoker when we met. I did that too.
I can’t even remember why I started smoking again. But the point is, I did. And I did it with enthusiasm.
At the beginning of our relationship, my husband tolerated my 1-2 cigarettes a day while I tolerated his drinking habit. It was almost an unspoken code between us; I don’t talk about your habit and you don’t talk about mine. When I started smoking again I decided to control it and would only smoke if I was drinking alcohol. Since I rarely drank, this was a perfect plan.
Well not exactly. I noticed that as time went on, I was slowly pouring more and more beverages at home – one weak drink for me that I would sip all night and one or more strong drinks for him. Over time, my husband was spilled frequently and gave me permission to smoke almost an entire pack in the two hours it took my husband to pass out.
If this isn’t nicotine addiction, I don’t know what it is.
The power of the smoke screen
I’ve never seen it the way I just described it until the last few weeks. I was so blind to my manipulations and plans. If you told me what I was doing I would have thought you were crazy! I’ve always been the “too nice” person, the kind of person to trust, a friend. And I thought so.
But when the smoke disappears from my head, it hits me like a ton of stones. This became a revelation about who I have become, what kind of woman and mother I have been. Completely selfish and devoted to my addiction.
I despised myself for so many years but dared not bring it to mind for too long … otherwise I should have done something about it.
Nicotine took control, little by little
My addiction got worse and harder to control. In the past few years, I’ve put all the energy I had into planning my smoking around my husband. I thought that since I loved him so much, I shouldn’t force him to, and so secrecy was a necessity – out of love, of course.
Now I realize that my addict self is selfish and only motivated by cigarettes. It’s about finding a way to quench the addiction. I thought smoking away from my husband was a sacrifice I made (see how nice I am? Ha ha) but now I see it for what it really was – a way to stop him from having a To have an opinion on it.
When smoking cessation commercials appeared on television, I became the most talkative person in the room, desperately trying to prevent anyone from commenting on how bad smoking is. I desperately hoped my son wouldn’t blurt his knowledge of my smoking. I just couldn’t stand being hypocritical and agreeing to the commercial and then sneaking a smoke. It was better not to bring up the subject at all.
The heavy burden of secret smoking
My husband and I both work from home so we are together all day. I purposely got up before him in the morning and went to bed after him in the evening just so I could smoke. I was disgustingly sullen when he got up in the morning before I could sneak a cigarette and shower before he woke up.
I sneaked outside in the scorching heat and pouring rain more times than I could count to satisfy my addiction. I have a fake headache so I can stay away from outings that would affect my ability to smoke at least every hour. I have poof-po travel ideas because I knew we’d be together too much to smoke successfully and keep it hidden.
I always run to the store for everyone any Reason to sneak up to the gas station and buy cigarettes and then quietly smoke for a few minutes. I avoided good friends for years because I didn’t want my smoking habit to be discovered.
I would feel relieved if my husband and son went on a trip without me (on my insistence) just so that I could smoke “in peace”. They thought I wanted alone time, but what I really wanted was to be alone with my cigarette.
But after my cigarette was stuffed, I would want to be with them again. And they weren’t there. Well then I could at least smoke another … then another … then another …
“When are you coming home? In 15 minutes?” … I could smoke three more before they get home …
My smoking has created a huge void that my husband is not even aware of. He tells people we don’t smoke. Either I’m very good at hiding this, or he really doesn’t want to know because it has to be obvious, right? I didn’t think so five days ago.
Today I’m not so sure. What he doesn’t know is that I was hiding from him. He doesn’t know that I looked through the windows of my house to see where he was before I went in. If I could see him through the window I would use another door to get in because I don’t want him to approach me and smell cigarettes.
Before I went into the house, I would go into the garden (if I wasn’t already there) and pick rosemary, basil or a hot herb. I would rub them on my fingers and chew on one. Then when the coast was clear I would come inside and make my way to the bathroom for a frantic session of toothbrushes, mouthwash and hand / face scrubs.
I would use lotion last and rub a small amount into my hair. Only then would I feel a little safe. I would finally feel like I could sit next to my husband or son for a while and be fine.
But then I would inevitably want another cigarette.
The infinite cycle of nicotine addiction
And so the circle goes around and around. For the past 16 years, I’ve lived like someone I don’t even recognize. And it got worse and worse. Every time I smoked I felt tremendously guilty.
I’m just beginning to realize what life with me must have been like for my family – constantly distracted, spending most of my time rushing around, making sure they settle down, taking care of every whim because when they’re in something else involved, I might go outside and think that if all of their needs were met, they certainly wouldn’t be looking for me?
My husband and I decided over a month ago that he would go for a couple of weeks to build our dream home out of state near his parents (who smoke). I thought I was really lucky. Almost every thought focused on moving next year involved a scene with me and his parents out on the deck smoking together. It sounded great that he was gone for a couple of weeks where I could smoke without “risk” …
My son and I will arrive in July to spend the rest of the summer and then we will all return home.
Having so much time alone made me think a lot. I thought about the madness that has become my daily life. I really don’t even have a life anymore. I live in a self-imposed prison. I am both a prisoner and a prison guard because I am the only one who has the key to let me out.
Suddenly I realized and I made the biggest decision in my life. I decided to quit smoking.
I decided to end the madness and chaos. I decided to look my addiction in the face and say NO MORE! I don’t want our son to smoke. I want to be close to my family. I don’t want to burden my family with the cost and pain of a debilitating smoke-related illness (like my father did).If youIf you
I want to be able to hang out with my non-smoking friends, I want to look forward to traveling and spending time with my husband. I don’t want to spend my time smoking. I want to be free from the influence smoking has on me.
I picked a day to quit
A friend suggested we arrange a cancellation date. I did. I started obsessing about my quit date. I went to everyone I could think of for advice. I called 1-800-no-butts. It was after work and I was listening to whatever information they could put on their answering machine.
I read the articles on smoking cessation on Verywell.com. This page inspired me. I finally felt like I could do it. I decided to do it. I asked my mother for help. I asked my sister for help. I asked my son for help.
In the meantime, my husband doesn’t know anything about my smoking, let alone that I quit. He doesn’t know how to cry myself to sleep because I’m such a terrible woman. He doesn’t know how I wish I could take back every moment I smoked just to spend that time with him because I miss him so much. He doesn’t know that I’m a selfish, manipulative person or how sorry I am for not realizing who I have become or what that addiction did to us.
I will just be brave and reach you through my story because I am so tired. I’m tired of keeping secrets, I’m tired of pushing people away, I’m tired of being ashamed, and I’m tired of apologizing. I’m tired of hiding and being someone I am not.
This is the fifth day since I quit. I will not smoke today. I won’t be the person I hate
I have a fiery determination and indefinite patience to stay free from smoking. I’ll rise above the smoke I’m starting to feel good again.
The last 5 days of nicotine withdrawal has been physically tough: nausea, sweats, headaches and a feeling of emptiness.If you.
But there is the truth. I have that and it keeps me going.
Thank you for letting me share my terrible secrets with you. It helps me a lot to look at myself honestly. I haven’t done that in a long time. Thank you for being there and letting me reach you.
~ Kay ~
More stories from smokers:
Freedom after 40 years – Nenejune’s story
The Double Life of a Secret Smoker – Nope55’s Story
I’ve always smoked in secret – Michelle’s story