Defeating nicotine addiction is tough, but when you don’t have the support of others who don’t know you smoke, it makes the task doubly difficult.
This poignant account of the history of a secret smoker demonstrates the stress that comes with the territory and the support an online community can offer on the journey to recovery.
Congratulations to Nope55, member of the smoking cessation forum, and thank you for sharing their story here.
I started smoking when I was 12 years old – I used my paper money to buy packets of cigarettes.
I grew up in a time when smoking was generally acceptable.
Both of my parents smoked, but my dad said if he ever caught me smoking he would let me smoke a whole carton so that I would be so sick that I would never want to smoke again.
Unfortunately, I was never caught and my smoking continued. When everyone around me was smoking, nobody could smell it on me.
I was soon in high school smoking a pack every day – spending my lunch break in the bathroom with the other “cool kids”.
All of my friends smoked, and in college I could even smoke in class. Life went on and I met my future husband. He was against smoking so I told him I was a social smoker (if there is anything like that) who has one at parties etc. Little did he know that by then I had smoked well over one pack a day.
I stopped smoking two hours before his arrival, showered several times a day, and changed clothes faster than I could wash them. I hid packets of cigarettes in socks that were hidden in drawers, at the bottom of the laundry basket, or in coat pockets in the back of the closet. I never had an ashtray – I wrapped asses in wet paper towels, put them in a bag, and threw them in bins in stores.
Soon I was in my thirties and almost everyone I knew had stopped smoking.
They either got pregnant or quit because their parents were ill with smoking-related illnesses. I continued as I didn’t think I was strong enough to stop and I was still young.
I managed to stop my two pregnancies but started again soon after. I told everyone I don’t smoke because I am ashamed to be so weak. I looked at my little one’s faces and thought “I have to stop for you – you need your mother around.”
I made my first attempt to abort in 2003. I used Zyban and it took away the urge to smoke. It was almost too easy. I didn’t do any homework and soon Stress and Bam hit – I stopped in the store and smoked a whole pack that day. I said to myself – “I’ll stop again soon.”
I hated being a closet smoker.
I was scared of family holidays as I couldn’t smoke. I hated weekends because everyone was there. I made endless trips to the store so I could stop and smoke on the way. And worst of all, I sometimes gave the kids money to go to the movies so I could stay home and smoke. I also avoided hugs from them when they got home early because I knew I would be found out.
I think sometimes that people must have smelled cigarette smoke on me, but no one ever commented on this.
Fast track to 2009. Yes, it took me so long to try the second time. They would have thought that since I let two parents die within nine months of smoking-related illnesses, I would have quit sooner, but the stress only made me smoke more.
This time I used nicotine replacement therapy. It wasn’t as easy as Zyban, but I did it for a couple of weeks. Then stress hit and the car drove to the store to buy another pack.
I was obsessed with quitting now. I knew genetics wasn’t on my side and that I was getting to the age where I had to do something very soon. But there was always a reason why today or this month wasn’t going to work because something was going on in my life.
Then one day I was volunteering and had to take someone to the hospital for radiation therapy. She looked about 65 and was very frail and could barely speak. She told me her age and that she had lung cancer and was terminally ill. I totally freaked out. She was younger than me and had smoked fewer years and fewer cigarettes than me.
I went home, had one last cigarette, and threw the pack away. I googled online groups and found this forum. I’ve never looked back since then.
I used nicotine replacement therapy for the first month and it was hard, but not as hard as I thought. I did my homework and read Allen Carr every day. It’s still in my bedside table. The combination of all of this has got me to this day, a year of smoke free, and freed me from the prison of nicotine addiction and the terrible double life that I led.
Thank you to everyone who helped me with this and to everyone who cares for a faceless person who lives on the other side of the world. The last two months have been a big challenge for me as I live with my family on another island and build a house – there is no TV, no furniture, no fridge, no computer etc. It was stressful in my former city of Christchurch Living still shows the devastation of the earthquakes including my house. But I stay smoke free.
Kia Kaha (Maori for Staying Strong)