Shanna saved the money she would have spent on cigarettes and took a vacation instead.(SHANNA DANIELS)I'd been a smoker for as long as I could remember. It's hard to believe, but I picked butts out of ashtrays when I was just 2 years old. I was pretty sneaky as a child. Then as I got into my teen years, I was hooked. I thought I looked cool, and living in the country, everyone smoked. In my huge family—grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins—all but two were heavy smokers.
When I got older, I had my daughter—and guess what? She was born four months premature. Yeah, I guess those warnings are true. That's when something clicked for me. Then my niece was born. She has severe allergies, so I knew for my familys sake and my daughters (plus my nonsmoker husband's) that it was time to quit.
My mother used to smoke three packs a day and had stopped just a year before. She had peripheral vascular disease made worse by smoking, and she was on the verge of losing her legs. All in all, cigarette smoking had damaged two of the most important people in my life: my daughter and my mom.
Quitting with class
My cousin had told me about a smoking class she'd started recently, and told me I should try it. I was determined to try, but the first meeting had already happened. I was going to be a week behind, and the teacher didn't want me to start late. She said it would be too hard on me trying to quit. But I begged her and promised her if she let me start I would quit right along with my other classmates, because I was determined. She allowed me to stay.
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That first class was on my nieces second birthday, and I laid my cigarettes down that day for good. I stuck with the class even though I have a busy life, and my husband would rush home at night just so I could go. My husband, daughter, brother, mom, and niece were my biggest fans.
My nonsmoking reward
That was well over two years ago. I kept that promise to my teacher and haven't picked up a cigarette since. Out of that class, only two of us made it; I run into my classmate every now and then, and we are two of the happiest nonsmokers you'll ever meet.
We took the money we saved from not buying cigarettes and took nice, long vacations. Our husbands put the money we would have spent in jars and promised us both a trip if we quit. Needless to say, my daughter and I had a wonderful week at Disney World and SeaWorld in Florida. It was worth the effort.
I think the first three days are the worst. After that, every day has been so much easier. I know people think they can't do it—I used to be that person—but you can! And you can breathe so much better, smell so much better (I never realized how much smokers smell!), and feel so much better. I will never smoke again!
Shanna shared her story with Health.com in hopes that it will inspire others. What about you? Did you quit? Are you struggling with cigarettes now? Please email us at tellyourhealthstory.com (with "Quit Smoking" in the subject line) and share your strategies and struggles. You may help someone else overcome a nicotine dependence.