By Leah Todd, SEARHC Health Educator
JUNEAU, Alaska – Andra grew up watching her parents smoke. It seemed normal to her. At nine years old, she tried her first cigarette. She smoked off and on until she quit for her pregnancy. Andra became a non-smoker for the next thirty years. But six years ago, during a stressful divorce, she took up smoking again.
Smoking causes a permanent rewiring of the brain to crave nicotine and the associated smoking behaviors. Even after 30 years, nicotine haunts people in their most vulnerable moments. Divorce can trigger relapse because smoking may feel like the only way to cope. However, smoking is not a solution to stress, and can in fact worsen episodes of depression or anxiety.
Before she knew it, Andra was back into her nicotine addiction. She noticed her asthma worsening and had trouble sleeping. She often woke up in the middle of the night from the sickening smell of cigarettes.
Two years ago, she began to think, “It’s time to take care of myself.” She was fed up with her difficulty breathing and the smell of smoke on her clothes. With the support of her non-smoking boyfriend, Andra made the decision to quit for herself – for good. She overcame cravings and urges becasue it wasn’t on her mind anymore. She said, “All of a sudden I had something better to do.”
Now, Andra, a non-smoker, is thankful she didn’t give up on herself. “If I didn’t quit I wouldn’t be here for my grandson.” Andra tells her story to empower other smokers to keep trying. “It’s important to take care of yourself. Smoking isn’t taking care of yourself.”
Talk to your doctor about quitting smoking and increase your chances of success. You can also call Alaska’s Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.