I started smoking when I was 14 years old. A couple of my friends had started and, just as they show us in the movies, peer pressure got the best of me. At first, I started out smoking maybe one or two cigarettes per day. It was hard to smoke a lot at that point because I had to hide it from my parents. Then as time went on, I got better and better at hiding it. Smoking with rubber gloves on, liters of body spray, you name it, I tried it.
The first sign of how big of a mistake I had made by starting to smoke was when I tried out for the basketball team at the beginning of 9th grade. I didn’t make it and to this day I still blame smoking for that failure. I remember during the tryout being very short of breath and a lot more tired than everyone else. That was a big let down because I loved (and still love) basketball. I was also playing soccer at the time and I was always gasping for air, but that still didn’t stop my smoking.
During the summer after my senior year in high school I was smoking about one pack per day. I would go to house parties and hang out with my friends who were also smoking. It seemed like I would look to hang out with people that also smoked so I wouldn’t have to hide it from them. When you’re young, you don’t feel like smoking is going to hurt you. Even though everyone always told me that it was turning my lungs black and all sorts of cliché advice, it never really made me want to quit.
About a year after I finished high school, I moved to Colorado to live the snowboarder’s dream of cooking at a restaurantin a ski resort for a free season pass on the mountain. About 90% of the people I met there were smokers, so it definitely didn’t help the possibility of me quitting (even though it hadn’t yet crossed my mind to try). But then I met my future wife. At first, she acted like she didn’t care about my smoking. I knew she didn’t like it, but she put up with it at that time.
After a few months of dating, she started to voice her opinion about me smoking. She always told me how gross it was and how I smelled bad. I would just ignore her comments and keep smoking. Living on a mountain at a ski resort is like a big party. If we weren’t working, we would all be at a house party or in a hotel room hanging out. As every smoker knows, when you drink alcohol, it increases your urge to smoke. So, there I was, drinking a lot and smoking a pack or more of cigarettes a day.
Eventually, I started to become aware of how bad smoking was making me feel. Plus, my then girlfriend’s words were starting to get into my head. I really liked this girl so I decided to give quitting a try. I was 20 at this point, so I had been smoking for 6 years. It was weird to think about not smoking anymore after doing it practically every day since I was 14. I think I lasted 3 days that first time. It seemed practically impossible then. So, I just kept smoking.
After that ski season ended, my wife and I moved down to Argentina. I loved it. It was completely different than the U.S. but at the same time there were many similarities, which made the transition a little easier on me. One of the similarities was people smoking. It was great because I brought dollars with me and the dollar was strong at that time. I was buying a pack of cigarettes for about $1.50 per pack and I felt like a king, especially after leaving the U.S. where I was paying about 6 or 7 dollars per pack.
So, I kept smoking. I got homesick, which made me want to smoke. I got stressed about not finding a job very easily, which made me want to smoke. I kept smoking those cheap cigarettes like crazy. Then I really started to feel bad. I was getting a lot of colds and every morning I’d wake up with a lot of mucus in my throat. So, I decided that it was time to quit for real. I bought myself an electronic cigarette and it was great. I could use it indoors and everything! I think I lasted two weeks that time. It just wasn’t the same. I had always heard people say that the first three days are the most difficult when quitting smoking, but after experiencing it for myself, it didn’t get easier after those three days. Although I only made it two weeks that time, it gave me a sense of hope.
Every time that I would try to quit smoking, which must have been at least 50 times total, I would smoke a little less when I would start again. Whenever I started again, I would lie to my wife and try to hide it, which was impossible, so we would fight about it. After having the same fight over and over for a few years, I knew that it was finally time. Any more lies about smoking could ruin my relationship. So, I made that decision to quit smoking for the last time.
After all those times quitting and starting again, I finally quit. On January 15th, 2018 (12 years after starting) I smoked my last cigarette. I downloaded a quit smoking app which tells you how long it has been since you quit and gives you little milestone awards like “10 days without smoking” or “20 dollars saved.” I would check the app every day when I wanted a cigarette and remind myself that I had come this far, I better not ruin it. This time, I quit without any help. No nicotine patches, no gum, no electronic cigarettes. Now more than a year and a half later, I don’t even have the urge to smoke. I am even grossed out by the smell of someone smoking a cigarette near me, which is a smell I used to be in love with.
Quitting smoking was probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. In my opinion, if you smoke a lot of cigarettes every day it is almost impossible to quit from one day to the next. The main reason that I think I was able to quit is that I looked at it as a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time and multiple tries. I didn’t get mad at myself every time that I failed. Another important thing was that I was the one who wanted to quit. The last 10 or so attempts were for me, not for people telling me how unhealthy it was. Just me trying to make myself healthier. If a person doesn’t really want to quit, then it’s never going to happen. I don’t think that there is a magic solution to quitting smoking. You just need to be patient and not be too hard on yourself if you aren’t able to quit right away.
My name is Adam Aabel. I am a 27-year-old Minnesotan (born and raised) but I am currently living in Argentina with my Argentinean wife. I am completing my last year of translation school at an institute in my city. I do freelance translation work for a few local businesses and I also volunteer my services to Translators Without Borders and Youth for Christ. I love to read, play basketball and watch good TV shows (and some bad ones). Quitting smoking is one of my greatest accomplishments and I always try to provide advice to other people who tell me they are trying to quit.