"When Smoking Became a Pack-a-Day Habit, I Put My Mind to It and Quit Cold Turkey"

Peter McGuigan worried that his social life would suffer if he gave up cigarettes


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Peter, a pack-a-day ex-smoker, didn't experience cravings when he quit.
(PETE MCGUIGAN)
I always liked smoking but never loved it. It just seemed like a good thing to do whenever I had a drink in my hand, and that's more or less how it all started. My dad is a passionate smoker, still, in his early sixties. I knew that wasn't me; I rarely had the experience of the pure joy of smoking, nor did I ever think, "I can't imagine this not in my life."

But I did like a nice Nat Sherman's or American Spirit on the front porch with a glass of whiskey in my hand. It was a civilized combination and one that I looked forward to at the end of the day.

I realized I was a real smoker four or five years ago. I was visiting a friend in Rome, and suddenly I was out of smokes—European Marlboro Lights, which are so much better than their American counterparts—but hadn't I just bought a pack yesterday?

Could it be? Was I smoking...a pack a day?

Gulp.

I realized it was time to quit. The casual happy-hour smoke had turned into a bona fide habit. Still, a million thoughts went through my head, the primary one being: What will I do with my hands while sitting with others who are smoking away? At the time, it seemed like the most insurmountable aspect of the entire problem.

Worse and more daunting than giving up a pleasurable habit, I needed to drop the chief timing mechanism in my social life. I'd gotten used to planning my days and evenings around the places and times I'd smoke, and I wondered how I would deal without this structure. Funny, but this turned out to not be such a big deal once I got on the other side.

Soon after my smoking realization, I read some statistics about senior citizens and sex. Turns out that if you're an 80-year-old man and single, it's likely that you'll have five, six, even eight women eager to be your companion; there just aren't enough men to go around at that age, and women agree to share you at the old folks home. To me—practical, realistic—this sounds like a good deal. Some might say, "Who would get excited about sex with grannies?" I say, "A lumpy, incontinent, blind old coot like me, provided he lives long enough!" But if I kept smoking, I would almost certainly not get that chance.

I quit the next day, cold turkey, and it wasn't even that hard—like I flipped off a switch and never looked back. When I set my mind to something, I usually do it.

My first year as an ex-smoker, I didn't even have any cravings. I've had a few recently, due to work and stress, I'm sure, but I still find being around smoking pretty disgusting. Like I said, I never loved smoking anyway; it was just something to pass the time. Now I'm saving money and I feel much better: I dont hack/cough/wheeze all the time, and I know my health has improved.

Peter shared his 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@health.com (with "Quit Smoking" in the subject line) and share your strategies and struggles. You may help someone else overcome a nicotine dependence.
Last Updated: July 09, 2008

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