The Choosing Raw 2010 Smokeout

Note to CR readers: from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. EST on April 9th-10th, Choosing Raw will be getting a new look courtesy of Zestycook. Please bear with me during the transition, and check in tomorrow morning to see the results!!!


Hey all!

Last year at around this time I wrote a long, confessional post about my battle to quit smoking. I wrote the post in honor of what was then my one year quitiversary, on April 19th. I’m proud to say that quitiversary numero deux is about to roll around–another year smoke free! It feels incredible to have moved so far past my pack-a-day habit.

Smoking cessation is near and dear to my heart. We all like to give back to people who are coping with the same things we’ve struggled with, and nothing would make me more pleased than to give some encouragement to anyone who’s trying to quit. Believe me when I say that my interest in helping other people quit is entirely without condescension, judgment, or smugness: I loved cigarettes. Loved them. I know what it means to harbor tremendous affection for a habit you know is totally reckless and idiotic. I know how depressing it seems to contemplate life without your smoker’s rituals. I know how sad the most mundane of daily activities–morning coffee, walks around the block, the moments after a good meal–suddenly seem without a cigarette in your hand. Believe me–I know.

So try to believe me, too, when I say that it is entirely possible to move beyond the nostalgia and sadness and challenges of quitting. If I can do it, anyone can. I promise. There is life after Camel Lights. It’s not always easy, but it’s basically a much better life. It’s a life full of long runs in the park without wheezing, clothes that don’t reek when you peel them off, a clean-scented apartment, and a heavier wallet. It may be marked with pockets of reminiscence, but believe it or not, it’s also full of forgetting. I miss smoking, but I’ve forgotten how it was that I ever needed cigarettes as much as I did.

I’ll be in Chicago on April 19th this year, so I figured I would mark my two year quitiversary tonight, a little early. So here goes: Happy quitiversary, self. Here’s to a lifetime of forgetting.

This year, I’d like to invite any of my readers, lurkers, or fellow bloggers who struggle with a smoking habit–occasional or full time–to use this moment as your invitation to try quitting (or try it again, if you’ve tried it before). I really don’t have any awesome advice that will make the process any easier, but I can say this: it’ll never be easy. So at a certain point, you’ve simply got to decide to tackle it. Why not now?

If you’re a smoker who’s toying with the idea of quitting, please let my story be one tiny drop in the bucket of inspiration. I did it, and lived to happily tell the tale. You can, too. It will be hard, but the payoff will be great. And I’ll be here to support you the whole time. Anyone who’s interested in challenging him or herself to quit smoking is welcome to share a story, declare an intention, ask me a question, or simply vent a little in the comments section of this post. I’ll respond over the course of the next few days. I’m not going to call this a “challenge,” because I know that quitting is terrifying enough without loaded language. So let’s just consider this an invitation: an invitation to consider doing what’s tough, but necessary. Bloggers, share this with friends who are trying to quit if you’d like, or link to it. Readers, internalize it a little, and if you’d like to apply it to a habit other than smoking, that’s cool, too.

I won’t pretend it doesn’t still strike me as miraculous that I haven’t smoked since April of 2008. Or that I don’t still sometimes have dreams about smoking, or that I don’t think about cigarettes daily, because I do. But the road away from them has been a good one. And if you’re ready, I welcome you to join me on it.

Happy (almost) weekend, friends.


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  1. Hi Gena, thank you for creating such a fantastic blog. I found it through Fitnessista’s blog. I really appreciate your posts on quitting smoking (and Congratulations!). I’ve been quitting on and off since last Monday after a 15 year pack-a-day habit. I relate to everything you said in your 1 year post. I’m also a recovering alcoholic with several years of sobriety so I feel lucky I at least have a program devoted to helping addicts Not take drugs/alcohol to help me kick this addiction (which is proving to be Far harder to quit than drinking, Ha.) It’s very hard though. I’ll get there, and I’ll do it with the help of posts such as these. Thank you for your insight!

  2. Congrats Gena, this is a major milestone, you should be very proud of yourself.

    I’d like to make a pledge to quit being nasty to myself. I’d like to quit negative thoughts, especially those aimed at myself, quit some of my disordered eating, quit living with fear of my chronic illness.

    This was a post I needed to read, so thank you, as per usual Gena, for your beautiful insight.

  3. While you’re in Chicago, do yourself a favour and see Billy Elliot the Musical. (or see it on Broadway!) It’s about a lot of things, but most importantly its about the power of your community in helping you reach your goals!

  4. Congrats on two years! My one year anniversary will be 9/1/11. Quitting was easy; staying quit has been a whole other story but has been well worth! Here’s to many more wonderful anniversaries!

  5. Congratulations on 2 years Gena! Valentine’s Day was 5 years since my last cigarette. I was on my way home from the gym, smoking a cigarette (my habit was a pack to 2 packs a day), thinking about what I had to do before going home – one thing being stopping to buy cigarettes. I decided that I was doing all sorts of good things for myself by going to the gym that I was done smoking and I tossed the pack out the window (I know, that was horrible for the environment and today I wouldn’t do the same thing but at the time it was symbolic). I’ve never looked back.

    A website I found while in the early stages of quitting was and on that site I read about a book by Allen Carr called “The Easy Way to Quit Smoking” – I bought the book and for me it was a great resource. It made the process much easier since Carr explained what was going on physiologically during the process.

    To everyone struggling, stay strong and know that the first 3 days are the toughest. Those are the days when your body is getting rid of the nicotine and after that, it’s not longer the addiction you’re fighting, it’s the habit. Acknowledge the cravings, they are going to happen, just don’t give in to them.

  6. I am a social smoker – I’ve talked about it a bit on my blog. I have one friend who is an everyday smoker and she is also my neighbor, so we hang out a lot. When I see her smoking, the cravings come to the surface. I’ve been trying to break the habit of drinking + smoking, but like you said, I love smoking and it’s hard! I’ve gotten good about only having one (as opposed to 4 or 5!) whenever I go out and am trying to quit all together before Summer hits and I’ll be outside a lot. It’s easier to choose not to have a cigarette when it’s rainy ad 30 degrees outside.

  7. As a social smoker I know all about the “rituals” associated with smoking. The hardest part is learning to socialize without smoking. For me, a glass of wine equals a cigarette in the other hand. It’s true that social smokers have the hardest time quitting!

    Keen on taking up your challenge. I definitely need a push to quit.

  8. Congrats!
    I’m 3 1/2 months without a cigarette as well! It was cold turkey for me and I honestly didn’t have a huge problem with it – my lifestyle was already so NOT that of a smoker that it just didnt make sense to me anymore. My body feels right now, not to mention my run times are doing nothing but improving!
    My boyfriend quit with me as well, and seeing as how we’re both in the military, I am so so so proud of him for sticking with it – even during long sails!

  9. I remember reading your qui-iversary post last year and loving it. Congrats again! You are awesome. 🙂

  10. Awesome, congratulations!!! If only more of my patients had your will power, desire and strength to quit 🙂

  11. Congrats on your smoke free-iversary! That’s a big accomplishment. You must be a very strong person to overcome such an addiction.

  12. Congrats on two years! AN amazing accomplishment! This is a great post, it’s painful to watch loved ones struggle with quitting smoking or any addiction.

  13. I think you are so brave to again share your story of overcoming smoking and I am so proud that you have stayed smoke free! Though I’ve never smoked I certainly can relate to the struggle. Breaking free of any sort of addiction is so empowering and I love that you are empowering others to do the same! Mad love!!!!

  14. Hi,

    Thank you for posting this. I am 24 years old, and have smoked since I was about 20. The longest I’ve ever been able to quit is a month. It’s especially difficult for me because I am very social, so while I can easily stay away from cigs during the work week, when the weekend rolls around and I’m at a bar or party with other smokers, the temptation is strong.

    This Monday I vowed to quit again, and today is Friday. My challenge to myself this weekend is to not smoke at all. I know I’ll be around other smokers, people I normally enjoy taking a break from the party with to go outside and smoke, but I will just have to be strong!!!

    I’m quitting for two people especially: my beloved cousin Billy who passed away from lung cancer, and for my 7 year old niece Kaya, who is horrified by my disgusting habit because she doesn’t want anything bad to happen to me.

    Good luck to all the other quitters!!!


  15. Congratulations on 2 years! that is phenomenal.
    This post comes at a perfect time — I am 2 days off coffee 🙂 I LOVE coffee—the aroma, the heat, the flavor—but really don’t need the caffeine. It makes me jittery and moody, and makes it impossible for me to fall asleep. So I am making the transition to tea + decaf coffee. Withdrawal sucks, but I know it’ll be worth it.

  16. It might not sound like a big deal since I was so young and it was so long ago, but I smoked alll through high school and then when I met my fiance to-be in college he was trying to quit smoking and got me on the bandwagon. As a runner it made sense to me, but I still had the occasional cigarette (or ten) when I was drinking, with friends who smoked, etc. I considered myself a non-smoker because I didn’t officially buy them anymore, but my last semester I realized that I was still a smoker and I had to stop once and for all – I faltered once since graduation in the month or so afterward (it was 1/2 a cig), and that was my last puff ever. 2+ years and no regrets!!

  17. Hi Gena,

    I quit last October and TOTALLY relate to everything you said! Congrats on your stopsmokingaversary!


  18. Gena, fabulous post, and congrats on 2 years! as you well know, the raw diet is best with an adjunct of an overall non-toxic lifestyle, and you’ve made all the right moves. kudos!

  19. Congratulations! I actually emailed you around this time last year and you encouraged me in my wanting to quit, and I am proud to say that as of 4/28 I will be cigarette-free for a year! Such a monumental occasion, and thank you for what you said to me last year, it really helped!

  20. Bravo to you! I think this post could be applied to any ‘unhealthy’ habit, like excessive drinking or junk food eating. It’s always a struggle that more of a journey than a STOP and BEGONE moment. It’s nice to have a community and a circle of support to be there for you.

  21. Congratulations on not smoking since then! I realize how tough it can be and you should be so proud of yourself for making that commitment!

  22. I love this post, Gena! I quit smoking completely since Jan 2008. I can relate to the struggle but I can also understand how it feels to do away with this terrible habit. One thing that rang true with me about addiction was that you just need to make a firm decision and see that it is something you don’t need in your life — zero space for it…. And if I could do it (I don’t have the best will power, either), anyone can. It’s so cheesy to write this but it’s really about choice.

  23. Huge congrats! Not an easy feat, I imagine… I can relate, as my battle is with sugar… also my gift. Thanks for the inspiration Gena! 🙂

  24. Congrats Gena! I just would like to support all of those who are struggling with this very difficult to quit habit. It’s very interesting to read all the comments. Happy smoke-free life to everyone!

  25. Happy quiteversary!!! I was never a pack a day gal, but in grad school, I started smoking and got up to about a pack or two a week. And the worst part is, I was doing it to be cool! Because I thought that writers needed to smoke. Ugh. So glad I got over that!

  26. I’m still so proud of you Gena! My mom quit about a year ago after over 40 years of smoking and says she didn’t think her life would change or she’d feel different and totally admits now she was wrong. It’s never too late.

  27. Congrats to you. My mom just quit smoking after 40 years and it was one of the best days of MY life!!

  28. oooh i have to comment! i quit nearly 9 years ago. i had wanted to give up the smelly habit almost as soon as i bought my first packet of “rollies” 30 grams at the tender age of 20.

    all i want to say in support of people trying to give up as they embrace a healthier, even rawer lifestyle is that it’s the psychological part, not the physical that’s hard. i gave up, started again, quit, started again, quit (times this process by 50)…until my boyfriend lost his mum to cancer. he hated smoking and i loved him. it was the incentive i needed.

    i snuck a smoke in without telling him, with my friends now and then, but gradually the time between the smokin and non smoking increased. then finally it just me want to throw up!

    give your body enough time without the toxins and it will eventually reject the taste,smell etc of the habit you once had. like a snake shedding it’s skin you will find new ways to find pleasure.

    BUT if you start again, don’t beat yourself up. guilt is a pernicious emotion and you will give up again. keep trying. and have faith in yourself.

  29. Congratulations, that is awesome.
    I mean, if my dad who smoked for 40+ years can stop, anybody can. That’s what I think. 🙂
    I’m really glad that I never became addicted to cigarettes, even if I did smoke some times when I was a teenager.

  30. Gena, this is a wonderful post. Addiction is so strong and so painful to overcome sometimes…The anniversary of my stepfather’s death was yesterday, and one of the contributers to his death was his heavy smoking habit (in addition to obesity). He was one of the strongest and most intelligent men I’ll ever know but he could not overcome the addiction. Congratulations to you for doing so – it is so powerful.

    On a brighter note, April 19 2008 is the same day I stopped smoking (I say stopped because I never had that ADDICTION, and what happened is, I woke up, lit up, got nauseous, put it out, and never went back. Not everyone can be so lucky I know).

  31. Jessica – Free and Healing for Two Years, Eight Months, Fourteen Days and 53 Minutes, while extending my life expectancy 102 Days and 22 Hours, by avoiding the use of 29641 nicotine delivery devices that would have cost me $9,263.37.

    Its called a Quit Counter and my stats always amaze me. I paste it out on Facebook from time to time hoping it might provide a little inspiration to others.

    Congratulations Gena! It is no small feat!

  32. congrats ,Gena.I’m trying to quit and free of smoke for a week now. My biggest fear is to gain weightCouple years ago I left that habit behind me for 2 years but i gained 20 pound and I start smoking again and all those pounds melted away.I’m on raw food diet now for almost a year ,really enjoy it and now staying away from cigs make me think of weight gain again.Your advise on that and did you gain weight also ?

    • Hi Arzun,

      I didn’t gain weight, no. I think one has to smoke more than 2+ packs a day for metabolism to actually slow down while quitting: the rest of weight gain is usually do to snacking urges. I coped with those with tea and carrots and some Glee gum. Weight gain was never really one of my quitting issues — it was more the psychological loneliness. But I know it’s a big fear for so many women, so I hope I can assure you that there are people who ditch a pack a day habit without weight gain!


  33. That’s truly a great accomplishment, congratulations.
    I like what you said about doing it now because it’s never going to be easy. My grandma always said that it wasn’t the right time for one reason or another — a stressor in her life, etc. She thought she would have more time, but she died of lung cancer at 54. You’re right — it’s never easy, so the best time to make a change is now.

  34. Congrats on TWO years! I’ve seen people go thru the trials of quitting so I understand what an accomplishment this is. Good for you!

  35. Wow! 2 years! That means it’s been almost 2 years for me, too! I quit in May, 2008. Erik quit at the same time but he’s been struggling with it and he’s going back on the patch again, coincidentally, starting tomorrow.
    Cheers, Gena. It’s great to be smoke free with you.

    Anyone who is thinking about quitting (and if you are a smoker, you know you are thinking about quitting) just do it. Get the patch, get the gum, join a support group, taper off, quit cold tofurky, whatever it takes, just quit.
    Do it for your self, your kids, your pets. Second hand smoke is terrible on your pets tiny, little lungs. Do it so your friends don’t have to smell it anymore (pee yew! ;P). Just do it, whatever it takes.

    I smoked 1-2 packs a day for 30 years. I never tried to quit, I thought I would smoke all my life. Then two of my coworkers/friends quit at the same time and I saw them do it and decided I wanted to quit, too. I put the cigs down and never looked back. I had withdrawals, I still have dreams, I still crave a cig once in a while but I don’t use them.
    It felt like someone pulled some cosmic chair out from under me for a couple of months but now it seems so strange that I smoked all those cigs. What a waste of time and money!

    PS Carrot sticks ROCK!

  36. Congratulations! That’s a huge accomplishment!

    I second what you said- take the present as an opportunity to overcome the challenge! It is difficult but doable! People do quit, and you can too!

  37. I’ve been seriously trying to quit for two months now, for perhaps the sixth time in the last five years. I don’t even know if it’s possible anymore — whenever I get deep into my “quitting” of cigarettes I relapse in Anorexia. How can I choose between such a nasty, deathly habit and painful dark disorder of starvation? I bounce back and forth between what is better; the pure emptiness or the satisfied toxin filled body. I know it’s possible to let go of both trials, but I simply don’t know how. I’m simply exhausted of trying.

    I think it’s absolutely beautiful that you succeeded in what I aim for. It gives me some hope to know that a life free of both cigarettes and disordered eating is somewhat within reach. I wish you the biggest congratulations for your two year smoke free anniversary.

    • Thank you so much for sharing bravely, Heather. I do promise you that life without cigarettes or disordered eating is a possibility.

      It’s funny: I never associate smoking with my eating history. But when I look back, I did begin smoking at the end of high school, soon after I done the majority of my ED recover. So I wonder if one compulsion was being brought in to replace another.

      • I’ve never smoked so this is all conjecture but I do find it interesting that so many people give it up, completely, and despite a certain smokers’ nostalgia, manage to become non-smokers. Sure it takes some folks a few attempts, but my mom’s generation is for the most part a generation of ex-smokers. And while I imagine there are folks who try to quit and just never manage, for the most part smoking seems to be one of those addictions people get a handle on. I wonder if that’s 1. because most people who quit give it up completely (you don’t really hear about people trying to smoke moderately – I know some “social smokers,” but I think they’re a rare breed) and 2. because we the culture (for the most part) doesn’t support smoking. I also think that people approach qutting smoking very differently than they approach other addictions, and that attitude (I can do this) is what allows them to be successful. I know there are programs to help people to quit, but they run for a few months. As far as I know there’s nothing like AA where you stand up and say “I’m a smoker” when you haven’t lit up in months or years. My mom for instance (who smoked a pack and a half a day for over 10 years and quit almost 30 years ago) might identify as an EX-smoker (though it’s hardly constitutive of her identity …). So I’m just wondering what distinguishes nicotene from alcohol and sugar and other addictions and why there are two entirely different treatment models, one of which seems far more effective than the other.

        • I can always count on you, E, to bring up the very things that interest me!

          I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that society likes to pick and choose its “bad habits” selectively. Most people have a far more codependent relationship with certain foods, and with alcohol, than they do with drugs like nicotine (sounds weird, but I think it’s true). Cigarettes are in some ways far worse than booze or junk food, in that they can be harder to enjoy in moderation (ie, most of us can have cake now and then without eating it many times daily, whereas it’s hard to smoke a few cigarettes without quickly becoming a smoker). But then again, if we were to eat junk food every day all day, or drink all day every day, it would be every bit as deadly as cigarettes can be.

          But most people are more attached to food and drink than to smoking, which is why we love to vilify cigarettes, but also love to talk about unideal food and drink “in moderation.” This sometimes annoys me. If I were to have a puff of a cigarette at a party I know I’d be pounced upon and attacked, whereas if I had a drink or some chocolate I’d be applauded and patted on the back for “living a little.” But in fact, a puff of a cigarette is not SO much worse than a big mac; it’s just more addictive (though junk food is addictive too).

          This isn’t a defense of smoking, but it is an observation that we’re very biased in which things we demonize, and which we tolerate. And in the end, I believe part of the high success rates of smoking cessation (even though it’s so, so hard) has to do with the fact that society simply allows zero wiggle room — smoking is universally frowned upon, and never applauded. I wish that some of that strictness were applied to really damaging food habits, and I ESPECIALLY wish it were applied to alcohol, which is frowned upon only when it hits a terrible degree of excess, and tolerated the rest of the time to a degree that seems shocking once you stop drinking.

          GREAT COMMENT.

      • Gena, thank you for your supportive response. I truly appreciate it!

        I now recognize that I bounce between compulsions quite regularly: disordered eating to addictive relationships to smoking to obsessive rituals and so forth. But now that I’ve made this connection I do know that my coping mechanisms are slowly evolving for the better.

  38. I was shocked to realize how helpful – and healthy, natural, and affordable – ACUPUNCTURE was in helping me to quit. I HIGHLY recommend it.

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