6 ex-smokers share the wake-up call that finally made them quit

Korin Miller
·Writer
Close up portrait of young attractive woman breaking down cigarette to pieces. Studio shot selective focus isolated on grey. Addiction concept
Close up portrait of young attractive woman breaking down cigarette to pieces. (Photo: Getty Images)

May 31, 2019 is World No Tobacco Day. Join the conversation on social media at #NoTobacco.

Talk to anyone about how they quit smoking and you’ll hear a story. The journey is often inspired by someone or something in their life, and rarely is it a simple process.

Everyone has a different method that works for them, and the process of quitting smoking is highly individual. Still, it’s possible to learn something from people who have been through the trenches and come out smoke-free on the other side.

Whether you’re looking for inspiration, guidance, or are just curious, these former smokers have stories worth reading.

“I tried a half dozen times before to quit, but never really tried hard.”

Jon Parks smoked for seven years and said he spent a lot of that time wanting to quit. “I knew I could if I tried, but someone told me everyone says that,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

Parks smoked about five or six cigarettes a day and says he ultimately quit cold turkey “to prove I could. I didn’t want to smoke anymore.” He says he relied on gum and an “obscene” amount of coffee to get him through the initial phase.

Photo: Getty Images
Ex-smokers share what motivated them to finally quit the habit. (Photo: Getty Images)

“The hardest part was breaking the routine,” he says. Parks would have a cigarette while walking his dog in the morning, in the car on the way to work, having a smoke break with coffee, at lunch, and on the way home from work. Parks, who is in the military, said that deployments were especially difficult because smoke breaks in the “smoke pit” would be a good time to socialize with coworkers.

Ultimately, he managed to stop smoking for good in 2011 and hasn’t smoked since. “What made it work was someone saying I wouldn’t actually quit,” he says.

“I was very unhealthy and I was trying to get out on dates again.”

Quitting wasn’t exactly easy for Abe Navas, who stopped smoking in January 2017. “It was a hard and bothersome task,” he told Yahoo Lifestyle. Navas says that his love life inspired him to quit. “I was very unhealthy and I was trying to get out on dates again,” he says. “I figured that smoking isn’t a desirable habit for someone to have.”

Navas says the process of quitting took him a week, although the first month was “really hard.” He ended up having to avoid watching movies or TV shows where people smoked because it made him crave a cigarette.

It all worked out for him in the romance department: He now has a fiancé who isn’t a fan of his former habit. She “hates people who smoke,” he says.

“A friend told me about his dad needing an oxygen tank.”

Ian Jackson says he tried quitting a few times and “failed miserably” because his heart wasn’t in it. “Someone had told me that if I quit by the time I was 30 then the effects of smoking would have been completely erased by the time I met old age, so I had this general target in my head,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

Jackson says he “started to fall out of love” with smoking near his 30th birthday and even began to think about how his habit would impact his future children. But by the time he was 31, he was still smoking — and “detested” it. “All I was waiting for was the trigger that would give me the push to do it,” he says. That came one night during a conversation with a friend. “His own dad needed an oxygen tank and he said he should have quit smoking earlier in his life,” Jackson recalls. “The next day, I woke up, decided I had quit and have not smoked again since.”

He shares he struggled with sleep for about a week or two afterward, but the experience was otherwise “easy” because Jackson was so ready.

“It generally felt unhealthy.”

Beverly Friedmann quit smoking in May 2017 after wanting to quit for a while. “The odors in clothes, linens, and in my home at the time were fairly unpleasant,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “At social gatherings or on stressful days I would certainly smoke too much, and I would go to different lengths to try and cover up the odor at work.”

Friedmann says she was also wiped out every night due to smoking. “I also had a rather superficial motivation in wanting to maintain the appearance of my skin, teeth, and hair,” she says. “Of course, not wanting to develop any major smoking-related diseases or conditions are always a fear and motivating factor.”

To quit, Friedmann switched from regular cigarettes to vaping and “tapered down from that point.” The process took about two months overall. “It was difficult to kick nicotine and the psychological habit,” she says. Friedmann wants other people to know that the process is doable and freeing. “You absolutely feel so much better after quitting,” she says.

“I expected to take a four-day break and then get back to it.”

Douglas Jones had to stop smoking when he had surgery on his leg — and it ended up sticking. “I expected to take a four-day break and then get back to it,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

But once Jones realized he was able to quit for a short period of time, he decided to try to wean himself off of cigarettes. He limited himself to smoking once an hour, then once a day, and then once a week to wean himself from his “voracious appetite for nicotine.” “Eventually, I realized that the thought of smoking occurred less and less often, and I was able to distract myself,” he says.

“My doctor scared the pants off me.”

Robert Barrows says it was a trip to his doctor’s office that motivated him to quit. “I had a slight cough and my chest hurt when I coughed,” Barrows tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “While my doctor was examining me, he asked me question after question after question about my family medical history. How many people had heart attacks? How many people had strokes? What age did they die at? And he asked me these kinds of questions for about 20 minutes.”

Barrows’ doctor also tested his lung capacity and learned that it was only about 70 percent of normal. “When I saw the graph that showed 70 percent of normal, I quit cold turkey and have not smoked again,” he says. “His questions and that test were enough to make me quit.”

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