Gene Ebanks could write a book about quitting smoking. It would be an epic, with enough chapters to cover 41 years, two marriages, the birth of a child and a grandchild, and seven or eight unsuccessful attempts to quit smoking cigarettes. And finally, after much persistence and hard work, a happy ending.
Gene first quit smoking when she was pregnant with her daughter years ago, “because cigarettes made me sick when I was pregnant. Thank God for that,” she says. She quit again when she married her second husband, as a wedding gift to him. Several years later she quit with the help of a smoking cessation class. Then there was the time she used acupuncture to help her quit. And so on, three or four more times.
“I think the longest I quit in those many attempts was for nine months,” says Gene, a travel consultant in Minneapolis. “It was always a struggle, a constant battle every day. At some point it wasn’t even the physical addiction. That was gone. It was the psychological addiction. I just wanted a cigarette! That was my stress mechanism. It never got easier. Never. And that’s why I always started smoking again.”
But this time Gene quit for good. And for all her experience with quitting, even she isn’t certain what made the difference this time. “The only explanation I have is that I really wanted to quit this time,” she says. “I promised my daughter that I was going to quit when my granddaughter was born. Well, I didn’t quite make it. She was born in August. But I quit in February. Having a grandchild was my motivation. The thought of not being here to watch her grow older just broke my heart.”
Her previous experiences with quitting gave Gene both insight and ideas that she used to her advantage this time. She used the patch for a long time and slowly curtailed her smoking, first cutting down on the number of cigarettes she smoked and then smoking only half of each cigarette before putting it out. She quit smoking in her house. “So even though I hadn’t quit completely, I had cut back over the years,” she explains.
Eventually she was down to three or four cigarettes a day. When she talked to her doctor about quitting altogether, he recommended that she stop using the patch and start taking Zyban to curb her cravings. But she still didn’t set a quit date.
“Then one night I suddenly realized I was down to my last cigarette, and I had to either go out to buy some more or not smoke,” says Gene. “I decided right then that I was going to quit the next day. There wasn’t anything special about that day, but I just decided to be done smoking.”
That was in February 2006, and Gene hasn’t smoked since. What really surprised her this time was the absence of cravings. She stayed on the Zyban until August, and when she went off the medication she still didn’t crave a cigarette. “It was the oddest thing,” she says, “because when I had quit in the past I had still had the urge to smoke.”
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