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Transcript for Podcast: One Woman's Journey to Quit Smoking and Be Healthier


[Host]: Thank you for visiting the Center on Psychiatric Disability and Co-Occurring Medical Conditions. This recording is part of our Health and Wellness Podcast Library. For more information about our Center, please visit us our web site at

Are you interested in quitting or cutting back on your smoking, but don’t know where to start? Maybe you’re interested in quitting smoking, but are afraid you’ll gain weight or have to deal with anxiety and uncomfortable emotions. Well, you’re not alone. I experienced all of these feelings, and more, before I finally decided to quit.

Looking back, there was a point in my life when I began to take charge of my overall wellness. For me, this journey began with healthier eating and I became a vegetarian. I ate smaller meals more frequently, lots of vegetables, tofu, and whole grains. Being vegetarian helped me avoid fast food and make healthier choices when eating out, too. Then, I began exercising. I started out slowly, just 45 minutes 3 days a week. I told myself I would not skip more than two days of exercise in a row, so I would get in the habit of going to the gym. I didn’t always feel like going, but once I began my workout, I was always glad I made that choice. The longer I kept up a workout routine, the easier it became. As I lost more weight, I slowly increased the amount of time I would work out and the number of days I would go to the gym.

After a while, though, I realized that I wasn’t as healthy as I could be because I continued to smoke. I found it difficult to breath, and even more difficult to work out at a steady pace. If I was at the gym, I would often crave a cigarette before, during, or after a workout, which was difficult because people usually don’t appreciate when you smoke outside a gym and it would cut into my workout time. I would often wake up coughing and that wasn’t comfortable.

Also, I looked around and noticed that smoking was becoming less socially acceptable, even among my friends. In the past, I had smoking buddies, but by that time many of my friends had quit. I had to go out of my way to smoke, often by myself. I started to realize that my clothes smelled like smoke, my hair smelled like smoke, my car smelled like smoke, and it was bothering others and me. I had adopted a healthier lifestyle overall, and decided smoking didn’t match with my desire to be healthy. I decided I wanted to stop smoking. The next step was figuring out how.

There are a number of reasons people decide to quit smoking. Having a goal and clear reasons for quitting are key to success. For me, I wanted to feel better physically. Even though I am fairly young, I started to realize the bad effects that smoking was having on my body. I started to accept that smoking can and does lead to cancer, as well as heart and circulatory system problems. Smoking causes changes in physical appearance, too, like “leathery skin” or yellow teeth and nails. I also realized that, when smoking, I was more susceptible to colds, flu, and other illnesses because it was weakening my immune system. It reduced my sense of smell and taste, and was putting others at risk because of the second-hand smoke[1]. And, cigarettes aren’t cheap either.

Once I had clear reasons why I wanted to quit, I set a plan. I chose a step-down method, with the help of the nicotine patch. I knew that once I started the patch, I could not smoke at all because too much nicotine could be dangerous to my health. Over two months, I used the patch and followed the instructions. The first few days were scary. I was afraid I’d go back to smoking, or I would experience uncomfortable emotions, or I would gain weight and lose all the progress I had made with my health goals.

Work became more difficult for a while, too. I no longer could smoke to relieve stress when the store was busy. Instead, I went outside for fresh air breaks. I also relieved my stress by sharing it with co-workers who had many of the same stressors and were able to sympathize. Everyone at work knew I was quitting. They were very supportive and understanding. Their encouragement and positive affirmations - like “you can do it” or “look how far you’ve come” - were very helpful; so were the positive affirmations, support, and encouragement I received from my family. My non-smoker friends were helpful too. They would check in with me and ask about my progress, and I could proudly say I had not had a cigarette in 10 days, then 20 days, then 30 days, and so on.
I also believed I could do it, because I had made up my mind and that helped me reach my goal.

The longer I stayed on the patch, the easier it got to stay away from a cigarette. After a couple weeks using the patch and not smoking, stressful situations became easier. I truly believe this was a result of a combination of things, including the amount of time I had stayed away from cigarettes, the different activities I chose to keep myself occupied, and the people who supported me throughout my journey of quitting smoking.

By the time my two months on the patch were up, I was excited to stop using it and become fully nicotine-free. I was able to work through a lot of my fears, too. I didn’t gain weight from quitting smoking because I kept up my exercise routine and continued to eat well. Eating right and exercise also helped me deal with the uncomfortable emotions that arose as I was quitting. I started occupying myself with other things, like listening to music, playing flute and piano, meditation, talking to friends, and writing in a journal. It was important to find things I could do to manage uncomfortable feelings.

The further away from smoking I got, the better I felt. I immediately noticed several benefits to quitting. I no longer got that anxious “I have to have a cigarette now” feeling, and my emotions became a bit steadier. I also noticed soon after quitting I no longer woke up coughing, and no longer had frequent congestion. I also noticed soon after I quit smoking that I was able to breathe a bit better and run a bit farther. I’d say about 6 months after smoking, I noticed I was able to breath very well and no longer had frequent difficulties. About a year after I quit, I began to notice a better sense of smell and taste.

It’s been about 4 or 5 years since I quit. I am now able to breathe better, I don’t wake up coughing, I am able to run and bike long distances without abnormal breathing difficulties, and my sense of smell has completely come back. I never have to get up in the middle of class to smoke a cigarette, and am not preoccupied with thinking about when my next opportunity to smoke will be. I don’t have to worry about bothering non-smokers with clothes that smell like smoke. And I don’t have to excuse myself at social occasions where there are few smokers to have a cigarette. During the winter, I can stay indoors as long as I like without having to worry about going outside in freezing weather to smoke. I have more money in my pocket, too, which I’m sure everyone can agree is a huge plus!

Not a single day goes by where I am not glad I quit smoking. The cravings for a cigarette are much, much less. They hardly exist at all. Once every few months I may get a passing craving for a cigarette when I am especially stressed, but it usually goes away in 10-15 seconds and is more of a passing thought than the strong cravings I got those first couple days when I was quitting.

There are so many reasons and ways people can stop. First, let’s discuss the different reasons to quit:

You’ll decrease your risk of many illnesses related to smoking, including cancer, heart disease, heart attacks, acid reflux, COPD, other respiratory problems, dental problems, and Crohn’s disease[3]. No more standing outdoors, freezing in the middle of winter just to smoke that cigarette.
You’ll live longer, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.[4]

I am sure you can list at least 5 reasons why it would benefit you to stop smoking. Once you identify why, then it is important to set a plan. While there is no “best” way to quit, there are a lot of different options. Some options work better for some people than others. For instance, I know when I quit going “cold turkey” - or, quitting without any assistance - would have been very difficult for me. I decided to use the patch instead. Some other treatments include[2]:

It is important to work with a doctor to plan your best approach to quitting, and certainly before using any of these products. If you are worried about the expense of treatment, you’re not alone. But, in my experience, the patch cost about the same amount of money, even a little bit less, than it was costing me to buy cigarettes. Some states and many insurance programs cover smoking cessation treatment as well.
There are also many non-medication resources to help:
1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872)
This is a call center run by the American Lung Association staffed by registered nurses and respiratory therapists who can answer your questions about quitting smoking.
Another resource is 1-877-44U-QUIT (1-877-448-7848)

You also could try 1-800-227-2345
This is the American Cancer Society, which can point you towards resources to help you quit[4].
Just remember, if you have tried to quit before and didn’t succeed, this time could be different. Not being able to quit in the past isn’t a reason not to go ahead and try one more time. In fact, the American Lung Association notes that it takes most people several tries before quitting for good. I wish you the best on your personal quit-smoking journey.

[Host]: Thank you for listening. You can listen to additional podcasts or download a transcript by visiting us at and clicking the link for Podcast Library.


  1. Mayo Foundation for Medical Educational and Research. 2011. [online] Accessed from: Accessed 2011 December 13.
  2. American Cancer Society. 2011. [online] Accessed from: Accessed 2011 December 13.
  3. 2010. 97 reasons to quit smoking. [online] Accessed from:,,20210803,00.html . Accessed 2011 December 13.
  4. American Lung Association. 2011. Stop smoking. [online]. Accessed from: Accessed 2011 December 13.
  5. FDA. 2011. Smoking cessation products. [online] Accessed from,LearnAbouttheProducts. Accessed 2011 December 13.
  6. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 2011. Smoking and tobacco use. [online] Accessed from: Accessed 2011 December 13.

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