After 8 years of trying to quit smoking, Nate was sick of it—literally. His throat hurt so much from smoking that he said to himself, "This is stupid." He tossed his pack of cigarettes to a friend and hasn't looked back.
Nate started smoking in his teens with friends from school. After 2 years of smoking, he'd had enough. But by then he was hooked, and quitting was hard. "It was like a constant try from one 'quit' to the next," Nate says.
Nate tried stop-smoking aids like gum, mints, and the nicotine patch. "I tried the patch, which worked for a day or two." But soon the anxiety would overwhelm him, and he would start smoking again.
Feeling like a failure
This constant cycle of attempts and relapses was hard on Nate's self-esteem. "I could go 4 or 5 hours without a cigarette, but as soon as I made up my mind I wasn't going to smoke, it was only 2 hours," he says. "It seemed like trying just made it more difficult to quit. I felt like a failure every day."
Besides the emotional price, Nate paid a physical price too. He began to notice changes in his health. He coughed a lot, especially when he woke up in the morning, and his throat hurt. His dentist pointed out white spots on his gums, so Nate also worried a lot about gum cancer. Nate's doctor told him that the glands in his throat were very swollen but that it would take surgery to find out what the problem was.
Finally it was the throat pain that helped Nate give up smoking for good. Dealing with a sore throat all the time just wasn't worth it anymore.
But it wasn't easy to deal with the cravings. The toughest times were after a meal or when driving in his car—times when he used to smoke.
Nate chewed a lot of gum and drank a lot of water those first few months. The withdrawal made him feel anxious and irritable. He didn't sleep well, and he gained some weight.
Done with smoking
But little by little it got easier. "Calling my girlfriend helped," Nate says. She was there for him and listened when he was stressed.
Then, 3 weeks after quitting, Nate began to have hope that he might be able to kick the habit for good. He noticed that after a meal or driving somewhere, he didn't have the intense desire to smoke like he used to. That's when he knew he was done with smoking. It's been over 2 years since Nate quit, and he still feels no temptation to smoke.
And he feels so much better. "I no longer have swollen glands or cough in the morning. It used to feel like someone was sitting on my chest," Nate says. In the end, it was feeling healthy that gave Nate the strength to give up smoking.
Nate's story reflects his experiences as told in an interview. The photograph is not of Nate to protect his privacy.