First Person: Thoroughly and Hopelessly Hooked on Cigarettes -- But Quitting Anyway

Smoking at Both Ends

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First Person: Thoroughly and Hopelessly Hooked on Cigarettes -- But Quitting Anyway

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Smoking in Las Vegas 2008

Nov. 15 marks this year's Great American Smokeout, when organizations across the country encourage smokers to quit the habit. Yahoo asked former smokers to offer to advice to those trying to stop smoking.

FIRST PERSON | When I was a young student in the 1970s, I remember my first encounters with cigarettes in the boys' room of my junior high school.

I was one of the kids who tried to look his coolest while coughing and turning green -- mostly for the prestige of being a smoker, rather than for the nicotine. That's why I quit smoking after I graduated high school, because I didn't see the point of it anymore.

Thirty years later, when the economy went south, I lost my strip-mall maintenance business of more than 20 years. I took back up smoking and proceeded to slip into an expensive and health-debilitating more-than-a-pack-a-day habit for three years straight.

I was given a wake-up call one day when nicotine helped clog up a much-needed and well-traveled section of my heart. After regaining consciousness in the hospital, surrounded by concerned-looking family members, I was faced with having to quit smoking when smoking was a big deal in my life at that time.

Quitting smoking became an incredible challenge, even though my habit was only three years old; I was thoroughly and hopelessly hooked on cigarettes.

I tried using the nicotine gum and that only made me wish I was chewing a cigarette instead of the terrible-tasting, overpriced poisonous candy it was. I would recommend the gum over nicotine patches, though; gum at least provided some mental stability with the constant mindless chewing in order to drown out the screams for a cigarette that echoed in my mind. Patches don't have this advantage, but were good when I was stuck at work dying for a fix.

Carrot and celery sticks worked at home, but they were no good in public and I found myself subconsciously smoking a carrot in plain view of everyone. Smokers tend to be cruel if they see the signs of a quitter -- like a skinny guy holding a carrot stick between his fingers. Nine times out of 10 they would light up and blow succulent puffs of foul smoke into my face out of spite.

When people say no one likes a quitter, don't believe them. I have never made such a popular decision with my family than when I decided to quit smoking for their sake and my own. It has been three years now since I've had a cigarette.

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