Real life part one: breaking the habit

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Heather M. Norris
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
With every New Year change comes, and people make their New Year's resolutions. In my experience, every New Year's resolution I have made has been an epic failure by the time February or March rolls around. This year, though, I have decided to try again.

I recently entered a new decade of my life, the big 3-0. At this age, metabolism slows down, there is less time to sleep, and the body just needs more time to recover. With the inescapable reality that I am just not as young as I used to be, I decided to take control. I decided I would quit smoking.

I am doing this for me and my health. As a very strong-willed and independent female, it will be a relief to not need - and I mean need - a cigarette. Many smokers will quit several times before they actually quit smoking. The same goes for me. My past attempts weren't the success I had hoped for, so this will be my fourth attempt to kick the habit.

My history
I started smoking when I was 14. At the age of 18, I decided to quit for the first time. The first time, I quit cold turkey. I threw away my cigarettes and never looked back - at least not for the next three years.

A change in lifestyle and joining the military brought my old friend, nicotine, back into my life for another four years before I tried quitting for the second time. I changed my lifestyle with dieting and exercising, and I was able to quit smoking with the help of a weekly support group, the patch and the then-groundbreaking smoking cessation medication Zyban. For more than a year, I basked in my success.

A permanent change of station to smoke-friendly Germany reunited me with my old companion yet again. A half-hearted effort to quit lasted about four months. My reason for quitting was to avoid standing outside in the cold as the German government banned smoking indoors at many of my favorite places.

My choice
I won't bore you with the hazards of smoking; doctors brief these every time you go in for a checkup. You simply need to watch the news or do a quick Google search to learn about the dangers associated with smoking.

As a previous smoker for more than 14 years, I don't think smokers care much about this. Smoking took me to my happy place, and that is what mattered. What matters to me now is my health. I can only hope that this will be my final battle with the habit that has been with me for half my life.

I've found that there are just as many reasons to quit smoking as a smoker will provide to smoke. There are also just as many smoking cessation resources available.

I decided to start at the Health and Wellness Center. The HAWC staff provided me with information about the American Lung Association Tobacco Cessation Process. A simple initial phone call to provide basic personal information to a trained ALA counselor started the process. After another stop at the HAWC for a blood pressure and heart-rate analysis, my last stop was the pharmacy for medication. The pharmacist reviewed my information and forms to determine the best method and medicines for me.

Chantix for three months, weekly call-ins to the ALA hotline, checkups with the HAWC and my motivated spirit will be the key to my success this time. Sharing this experience with the public should help, too. Failing myself would be far less humiliating than letting the world see me beat by something like a cigarette.

I began the medication Jan. 7. My official quit date was Jan. 14. So far, so good. A new smoke free me should kick off the best decade of my life.

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