Real life part two: making a smoke-free me last

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- You may not know who I am, but I'm sure you can relate to me in some way. Almost everyone knows a smoker. I could be your neighbor, child, significant other, co-worker or friend. I recently shared with you my decision to be a quitter. They say quitters never win, but I think I may this time.

Kicking my smoking habit has been one of my most difficult battles. After setting up a smoking cessation program through the Spangdahlem Health and Wellness Center and the American Lung Association, I am on the right path to a smoke-free me. So far, though, it hasn't been all fun and games. Some of my most recent experiences and realizations include:

Jan. 7: The pharmacist informs me I will take the medication, Chantix, for one week while continuing to smoke. This seems odd. Supposedly after three days, the nicotine will be out of my system and the real struggle of mentally breaking the habit will begin.

Jan. 14: This is my first day smoke free! I don't feel any different. No cravings to report. I go through my house and collect all of my smoking accessories. I find five ash trays on the first floor alone. As a single person, I have no reason to explain this. I end up with a stockpile of about 50 lighters. Why I could never find a lighter as a smoker is beyond me. With no other use for them, I think I'll stock up on candles and incense.

Smoke-free day three: I begin to notice that while not even wanting a cigarette, my body instantly digs for my pack and lighter as soon as I enter my vehicle. When I walk in the house after work, I reach for cigarettes before I realize I don't smoke anymore. It is like a knee-jerk reaction. I didn't realize smoking dominated my routine so much. On a more positive note, I am getting more of my household chores done since I can't come home and just relax. By staying busy, I don't think about smoking. My co-workers are a huge source of encouragement as I update them at our daily meetings.

First smoke-free weekend: In the public affairs photography section, we have one person on standby 24 hours per day each week. Standby means no life for a week as I have to respond to alert notifications from and document incidents for security forces, family advocacy, safety, legal or the Office of Special Investigations. I thought being on call for my first smoke-free weekend would be better than enjoying the commotional company of friends. This rationalization comes to a brutal halt when I don't get any sleep, a result of multiple alert calls. After documenting a case that lasted three hours, I want a cigarette. I choose not to give in. The support of a friend reaffirms my decision that it's not worth it.

End of smoke-free week one: I can already see that I am reaping the benefits of quitting smoking. One of my friends stops by and comments that my house smells better. Another friend comments that I am wearing perfume. I explain that I have always worn perfume, but they could never smell it through my surrounding cloud of smoke. Runs with my dog, General, are becoming much easier and I can hike up stairs without feeling winded.

Smoke-free day 10: This is my first night in a social environment with smokers around. Armed with my Chantix and a good friend by my side, I have no worries. I make it through the evening no problem.

Smoke-free day 11: This morning brings a new dilemma. After a long night celebrating with some friends around a fire, I realize how disgusting the smoke smell is. My senses truly were intensified after I quit smoking. The smell of smoke has my head pounding, so all I want is a shower and two aspirins. A huge thank you to all of my friends and family who tolerated this smell during my smoking years.

Smoke-free week two: My schedule does not always allow for breakfast. While on the go one morning, I make one of the worst decisions of my life. Let's just say I was briefed on the side effects of the Chantix, nausea being one if not taken with food. I learn that a two-year-old granola bar, paired with the acids in my stomach, is not sufficient or substantial. Here comes the nausea. Smoking can't be worse than this. I begin to wonder if it is worth it.

This is the second in a series of articles featuring Staff Sgt. Heather Norris and her efforts to quit smoking.