It is the strangest thing still to think of myself as a non-smoker even though I have not smoked a cigarette for nearly 2 years. I smoked from the age of 14 years old until 36 years old – a total of 22 years of smoking. Scary isn’t it?
Now anyone that is not a smoker, an ex-smoker or an addict of some sort won’t understand the hold that cigarettes has over a person. You can look at me and think I am stupid or have no strength or will power… but until you’ve been there you just won’t get it.
I’m now going to answer a question that I am very ashamed of and yes I know I am opening myself up for big time judgement but I know my truth and I feel quite sure that I did the best I could with what I had.
Yes I smoked while pregnant with both my children. I didn’t want to and I tried not to but I just could not stop. I am not proud of it but I am being open about it because I know that there are many moms out there just like me.
I did not plan my children and having the surprise of pregnancy thrust upon me came with a number of challenges. Firstly I am a recovering drug addict and alcoholic, plus I have bipolar disorder. When I found out I was pregnant I had to go off all my medication and fast. It was a roller coaster of note. I tried to stop smoking and I think I made a grand total of 2 days before everyone around me advised that I actually smoke.
The reason was that I was on a rocky path without my medication and the risk of relapsing on drugs or alcohol was higher than normal. Better to be having the odd cigarette than shoving cocaine up my nose right?
So there you have it. I chose to keep smoking. I wish I could have been stronger and quit, but I just wasn’t.
I always knew I would have to quit smoking one day or it will be the death of me. The problem is that I believe that because I am an addict in recovery perhaps the hold cigarettes had over me was stronger than other people in the way that it was the only thing I had left, my only vice. I couldn’t bear the thought of not smoking. The fear was so great.
So what changed and how did I manage to quit?
Well my daughter happened. When she was born we stopped smoking in the house and we stopped smoking in our cars. Even in the freezing cold evenings my husband and I would huddle outside in the cold like the die hard smokers we were.
When my daughter was three years old (nearly four) there were two specific incidents that made me decide to stop. The one day my daughter walked up to me and said “When I’m big I am going to wear your clothes, then I am going to be a mommy and I’m going to smoke” (Complete with the actions of puffing on a cigarette). She had a huge smile on her face waiting for me to show my happiness at my daughter wanting to follow in my footsteps.
All I felt was disgust at myself and disappointment at the role model I was for being her. That is not the sort of mother I wanted to be. I want my daughter to aspire to be the best she can be. I don’t want my children to be smokers.
This was the moment that I made my firm decision to quit. I had not set the date but I spoke to my husband and I told him that I was going to quit smoking, and soon.
A few weeks later my little girl came bounding over to me and asked me to build a puzzle with her. I told her sure, in a few minutes I will. She looked at me and said “Oh are you going to have a quick smoke?”. There was no accusation at all, she was just innocently asking me if I was going to smoke first.
The funny thing is that I never really understood at that moment how much damage my smoking was causing. When I was smoking I believed I wasn’t damaging anyone else. I was smoking outside and it didn’t have any effect on anyone else right?
Actually not so. I put my cigarettes above everything else, so much so that my daughter completely accepted that if she wanted to spend any time with me I would always have “a quick smoke” first. Once again this is not the type of mother I want to be. I want my children to know and understand that they come first, above everything else.
It was this moment that I set the date for me to quit. I decided to quit cold turkey on 01 October 2015, giving myself a few weeks to prepare myself.
I know that everyone says that you need to quit for yourself and that you need to be completely ready for that, I do agree. My daughter helped me to reach that point and it was great motivation for me.
Quitting smoking was not easy at all, in fact I was quite shocked to fully understand how strong and dark nicotine addiction is. That said I actually did it. I quit on the date I set and I managed to get through it.
My daughter is now 5 years old and a few weeks ago I said something about smoking and she looked all confused. I asked her then if she remembers me smoking and she can’t remember me smoking at all. For me this is a huge accomplishment and it makes me so happy.
I am so proud of the fact I managed to quit smoking and that my love for my children was what gave me the strength to do it.
I blogged about my experiences quitting smoking on my addiction website if you would like to check that out, here are the links to all those posts:
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Also published on Medium.