Great American Smoke Out: You Don't Have to Stop Smoking in One Day.How many times have you heard me say I was going to quit smoking? I know a lot of you have, and honestly, I tried so many times; really, so many times. I am happy and proud to announce that I think I really did it this time! June 1 of this year was the day I decided to stop. Why now, why this time? I feel that it was becoming a grandparent—it made look at life differently. I want to be a good role model but more importantly, I want to be around for a while to see him grow.

November 15 is the national Great American Smoke-Out and it seems fitting for a blog from me on this topic. Well, we all know the devastating impact smoking has on our bodies, but knowing this didn’t seem to make much difference to me. Sad, I know, but real. I always got a chuckle when people would say to me “smoking is so bad for you” and “don’t you know what you are doing to your body?” I just wanted to say, “Nope, didn’t know that,” but of course I did know how bad it was, and still I smoked. Sometimes we need a nudge or a life-changing experience to make a big change, and as I said, for me it was the birth of Jameson.

I have been an on and off again smoker my whole life. I started in high school, like many others. It was the 70s, and smoking was cool. I worked in the restaurant and bar business for many years, and smoking went hand in hand with that scene. It was a source of stress relief for me; being in customer service is not an easy gig and dealing with so many personalities all at once is a bit wearing on the nerves, to say the least. Yes, many say that’s a cop-out excuse, but it was what it was.

When I had my daughter, I decided this field of work would not be good or healthy for me to raise a child. I needed a steady 9 to 5 job and I got just that. I made the switch to an office job, and that is when I stopped smoking. I stopped for 16 years! YES, that is the truth.

I did not smoke when I first started at PRA. But life has a way of throwing extremely difficult things at you, and people fall into old habits to cope with the stress, and that is exactly what I did. I started smoking on February 2, 2011, the day my daughter ran away. But that is a whole other blog.

I depended on my cigarettes to get through the day. Honestly, there was a time smoking was the only way to get through the next hour. I needed them, I honestly did. I felt they got me through. Was I weak? Yes, some would say. For me, it was a crutch that worked.

In time life moves on and things seem to work out. Well, they thankfully did for me anyway. Thankfully. I was able to stop and stop at a time that was right for me. I am sure I did some damage to my body, but for me, that outweighed the damage that being emotionally unwell was doing. We all know, especially through what we do and the people we work with, that everyone’s story is different and their own. This is a small part of my story, my addiction, my healing.

It is important for me to say thank you to each and every one of my coworkers who ALWAYS encouraged me to quit or at least try. People never seemed to look at me with doubt; it was always just a “you can do it” look with words of inspiration and it never wavered. I am so lucky to know you all and please know that you helped me in this journey to stop smoking.

Are you interested in quitting smoking? Start Day One with the American Cancer Society.