5 Years and Running: How I Quit Smoking

Aug. 2 marked five years since I started out as an intern at TheBody.com. I remember those early days of transcribing interviews and ordering lunch for the staff. Now look at me -- transcribing and conducting interviews ... and still ordering lunch for the staff. (We do company lunch every week. It's a real morale booster. Don't take it away from us!)

But I joke. There's been a lot of growth these past five years, both personal and professional. HIV news, particularly research news, has become a part of my everyday life. I write a lot more. I became a vegetarian. And I no longer live with my parents. Woohoo!

Anyway, the first day of work was also the last day I ever had a cigarette. I was 22 at the time, fresh out of college, kind of heartbroken. I had been smoking since high school and was trying to quit for good. It wasn't my first attempt, but I was determined. And it turned out to be pretty easy.

This may come as old advice, but I'm still amazed to see how many smokers I see out there. So here are my tips.

  • You already know how bad it is for you. You just have to really realize it will kill you and then really want to stop.
  • Don't treat cigarettes as rewards or stress relievers. They are poison sticks, which you pay your hard-earned money for, by the way. Here in New York, I've seen cigarettes go for $14 a pack! Paying that much to put poison in your body is not a reward.
  • Don't give up on quitting. If you slip and have a cigarette, don't stop trying. Just don't get too comfortable with allowing slip-ups.
  • Run! I started running a lot and wanted to get better at it. Smokers' lungs are terrible for running. Wheezing and hacking up phlegm are not sexy. It doesn't have to be running specifically, but make cardio a part of your life!
  • Completely dissociate yourself from cigarettes, smokers and places where people smoke. That means bars and alcohol. I mean, yeah, you can still go to the bar, but don't follow people outside when they "need a smoke break." Don't be a "social smoker" or one of those people who say, "I only smoke when I drink."

Ultimately, you really have to want it. For me, my health was more important than the short-term appeal of each cigarette. I stopped counting the days since my last. I didn't have any slip-ups. All my clothes stopped stinking of smoke. I started exercising a lot more and no longer feel like I'm dying after running for 30 seconds. And I'm sure I've saved a lot of time and money.

Overall, I feel fantastic. So, if you're still smoking, just stop and don't look back.