Thanks for bringing this up front, HWC, and Congratulations on your Freedom-a-versary!
I've never read this thread before, and I am SO glad I did. I can relate to the stories here, and have one of my own. In the hope it will help someone--a complacent former smoker or a newbie still learning about the Law of Addiction -- I repost a portion of my journal into this thread: the story of how I threw away a 7 year quit and then smoked again for well over 10 years after.
Know what I learned: You may be special in the eyes of your loved ones, but addiction will treat you the same as anyone else. This really can happen to you if you break the pledge to Never Take Another Puff.
Oringally posted 3/8/09: About 20 years ago, I made it to the top of the longest, hardest mountain I had ever tried to climb. I had quit smoking. I was in my 20s. I had smoked off and on during junior high school (starting at around age 13) and got to be a much more regular smoker by the time high school rolled around. In college, though, I put them away and believed with all my heart that I would never look back.
For nearly seven years, I didn't. It was a tough quit, like they all are. I stopped and started once then stopped again. My whole family smoked then, and dealing with the constant smell of it and the always-available supply of smokes was quite a challenge. I had constant triggers to deal with and remember how relieved I felt when I was able to finally move out on my own and make my own, smoke-free environment. I bought my first car during college and remember feeling how great it was to be in a car that no one would ever smoke in.
I was lucky to find a great job right after college, and I packed up my new car and moved to a new city to start my life on my own. My first apartment was clean and fresh like my car-a non-smoker lived there. Time went by peacefully and I lived my life like people do. I learned all the things you learn when you're out on your own, I made some mistakes, I had some stresses and some really great times and I did it all without nicotine.
I was really comfortable and happy. So much time had gone by since I'd quit smoking and lived with smokers, I never even thought about smoking anymore. There was a guy at work who smoked, and all I ever thought about him was how bad he smelled. Early in my quit, I used to think all the time about how much I loved being a non-smoker. But years later, it just never crossed my mind. It was just that far gone from my thinking.
If you'd have asked me about it then, I'd have told you that I had that nasty little thing beat. It was over, and that's why I never thought about it. Smoking was just a thing of the past, a habit I'd kicked; just like when I stopped biting my fingernails.
If you'd have asked me "Would you start again?" I would have laughed at you and said, "Of course not! No more than I'd start chewing on my fingers again."
"I'm an adult now," I would have said, "and I call the shots in my life. I like long fingernails, so that's what I have. I don't like the way cigarettes smell, so I don't smoke them. Simple!"
Ah, me. What I didn't know then.
Nearly seven years into my totally numb complacency about smoking, I met a new friend. You've probably all met new friends with whom you have an instant bond-people you know you're going to know for the rest of your life. This was one of those people. And she smoked.
I didn't think much about that, frankly. I'd been around smokers before-as I said, my whole family smoked. She lit up one evening when a bunch of us were out having some fun, and I picked one up and lit it, too.
What did it matter? No matter at all. I had quit. I wasn't a smoker. I could have one, no big deal. "It's been nearly seven years," I would have told myself had any alarm bells gone off in my addled brain at that moment. "It's not like I'm starting again. It's just one."
I wish so much I had never done that.
I do not know why I decided to smoke at that moment after seven years of not smoking, but I can tell you what it did to me.
It made me start smoking all over again, and it made a much more regular smoker out of me. Whereas I'd smoked far less frequently in high school, I was a serious smoker after a few weeks of "social smoking." I got back all the things I had been so happy to leave: I smelled horrible; my car and house smelled horrible; my chest hurt (at the age of 27); I wheezed; I was nervous and anxious; I was chained to the pack all the time, unable to spend any comfortable time at all in non-smoking situations. I had to listen to my husband (who had only known me as a non-smoker up to that point) complain about it all the time. You know what it's like.
I had climbed that mountain, reached the summit, breathed the beautiful air up there, lived there for nearly seven years; and then one day, I just flung myself off of it all the way back down to the very bottom of the dark valley below.
In the years that followed, I climbed up the mountain again, but I always took the wrong path. I used NRT so many times I can't remember. I quit for a few weeks several times, I quit for six months, or nine months; once, I even quit again for a whole year. But each time, I jumped back down off that mountain top.
I suppose no one will ever really know why I chose to do that over and over again, but I do know something now that I was not aware of back then. And I believe this thing I know now-this thing I learned at whyquit.com and here at Freedom-is going to make all the difference in my quit this time: I know that I am an addict, and addicts can't "smoke just one" or "slip" or "have a little relapse." Addicts can't become complacent; addicts must remain vigilant.
I believe that if I had known at the age of 27 that I was an addict and known everything that means, I would have known better.
I thank God I know that now, and I pray that quitting at age 46 was not too late for me.
I have been free for 1 Month, 2 Weeks, 1 Day, 23 hours and 8 minutes (43 days). I have saved $117.04 by not smoking 659 cigarettes. I have saved 5 Days and 49 minutes of my life. My Quit Date: 1/27/2009 9:30 PM