Amanda, 37 at the time of this writing, studied modern dance in New York and worked for many years as a dancer and choreographer.

When I was smoking and living in New York, I would go out on a Saturday night, come home at 2 A.M., and realize I was out of cigarettes. I'd pick butts out of my ashtray and trash can and smoke them. You know, with coffee stains or bits of food or lipstick on them. It was nicotine slavery!

Nobody is born needing to smoke. Nobody starts out needing to be a drug addict. You do it to yourself. I remember in high school thinking, "God, how disgusting! How could anybody ever even want to smoke? And what would that wanting to smoke feel like? I can't imagine such a weird thing." The first cigarette I ever smoked was in my junior year in high school. I smoked one or two, thought it was stupid, and stopped doing it. All the other kids in my school were doing it, so I thought I should try it. It was horrible. It tasted disgusting, and it made me shiver and shudder.

I didn't smoke again until I was in Czechoslovakia on a trip with a group from my prep school. It was a very loosely arranged two-month tour of Europe. My best friend was on the trip with me. She was 5'10", thin and slinky, and very glamorous. And she smoked! I wanted to emulate her.

I would smoke a couple of cigarettes, come home, and lie in front of the TV feeling nauseous. I don't know why I kept doing it. I guess I thought I was being risque. And, more importantly, I was doing something my parents absolutely forbade.

Nobody in my family smoked. Never. They were always ranting about it. My grandfather died of emphysema from smoking in 1970. And my father is a pathologist. My parents are against it because they're health-conscious people and they know that smoking can kill you. My father had smoked in the 40's and 50's and had quit. It wasn't a struggle for him. He just quit.

Neither my brother nor my sister has ever smoked a single cigarette. I'm the oldest. I smoked as an act of rebellion against my family. I was 18 and getting seriously into adolescent angst and rebellion. I wanted to assert my independence. Still, it wasn't exactly open rebellion: In seventeen years of smoking I never once lit a cigarette in front of my parents.

All of my friends smoked in college. We sat around and smoked cigarettes, middle-class girls sitting around being sullen, hating the establishment and objecting to the war in Vietnam. We smoked and talked and stayed up much too late. And we smoked a lot when we studied and stayed up all night for exams. We all knew smoking was bad for us, but it was somehow like thumbing our noses at the rules, particularly since our parents said it was horrible.

We smoked cigarettes, smoked pot, and took Dexedrine so we could stay awake and talk some more. We spent endless hours philosophizing about life. I associated smoking with thinking deeply and being intellectual.

I had an eating disorder where I would get really uptight or mad, or something wouldn't turn out well, and I'd think, "I don't care, I'll just eat. I'll be ugly and stupid and eat all this stuff." I would eat too much, get furious with myself, and then smoke to kill my appetite, so I wouldn't binge any more.

When I graduated I said, "Ah, now I can quit smoking because life is going to be ever so much simpler now that I'm not in school any more. All my troubles are over. " Now thats seems kind of a funny statement! I moved to New York, and of course, living there was more a panic than anything else I had ever experienced.

I worked in offices during the day. I'd get bored and I'd smoke out of boredom. In the evening I had dance classes at the studio, and all the dancers smoked waiting for class to start and then they'd smoke after classes, cooling down. New York is a smoking culture.

Those were the days when some dance teachers smoked while they were teaching. I don't think they are allowed to now. I think all of the ones who did are dead. I do! They don't do that any more.

Dancers smoke partially to not eat, I think. A lot of dancers have poor eating habits, particularly ballet dancers, and smoking has a lot to do with not wanting to eat. And partially it's something to do to kill time at rehearsals while you're waiting for your turn to dance. That was in New York. And if you live in New York City the air so so polluted, you honestly wonder what difference smoking is going to make. In California, hardly anybody in dance smokes. I can't think of anybody who does. Being a dancer is very stressful. You're always exhausted, you're always running around trying to whip together dance concerts, rehearsing, going to class, and working some miserable daytime job as a secretary or waitress so you can pay the rent and buy groceries. I saw myself as a groovy dancer or artiste--a New York artiste--not as self-destructive but as committed to creating art.

I worked in a publishing house as an editorial assistant five hours a day. I rehearsed in the afternoon, went to class at six o'clock every night, got home about eight-thirty, and had dinner. I usually went out because I was too tired to cook. I would end up eating hamburgers, stay out smoking and talking, talking and partying. And, I'd drink, and smoke.

Every time I smoked I'd think, "This is really stupid. Why are you doing this? This could kill you. Why are you doing this? It's gonna make you wrinkled. It'll make you go through early menopause. It will make you old, and stinky, and ugly. Why are you doing this?" But I wasn't ready to stop, I guess. The little voice that tells you to stop hadn't spoken and said, "No! Enough!"

I never took drugs after college, but I smoked when I was bored or nervous or happy or having fun. Or because I was mad. Smoking blocks out emotions. If I got upset about something, I wanted to have a cigarette. It puts a lid on things and takes away the immediacy of what you're feeling.

The first time I tried to quit, I was living in Minneapolis, not New York. I wasn't dancing. I was living in a nicer place, and I wasn't as nervous as I used to be. That's basically what it was. There were still a number of people around who smoked, but there were also women I knew who had smoked about as long as I had who were quitting or who had quit recently. That's what motivated me to think about quitting, but my attempts to quit were half-hearted. I would always cheat.

I said, "This is for the birds," and I signed up for a quit-smoking class, and I went, and I still cheated. I never really stopped smoking. I would smoke, maybe, two cigarettes a day. I had all these signs--"Thank you for not smoking"--and brochures about smoking and all sorts of charts, stuff that's part of a packet of non-smoking material they give you when you sign up for the class. I did cut down for a couple of months. Way down. But then I started smoking more, and as soon as I allowed myself to do it once, I did it again. And again. I became lax, and gradually, over a week or two, I was smoking.

I went back to smoking my habitual amount, 15 to 20 cigarettes a day. I think everybody has a different level of how much they will smoke, given free rein. My limit was about a pack a day. Some people smoke two packs a day, some people smoke three packs a day. It is incompresnsible to me that anybody could stand to smoke that much.

The man I was living with also smoked, but he didn't have any compulsion to smoke, as I did. He smoked mostly to be social. He could go out to a party, smoke a pack, and not smoke again for three days. We had our own apartment, and we both smoked. Then he quit. We went to see his parents and his father is a very heavy smoker. He quit because it made him sick to see his father smoking. Then he would tell me not to smoke in the car when he was in it. I would do what he asked because I knew it was annoying, but I still smoked at home.

Then we moved to California into a group house where they had a rule: no smoking in the house. We did it on purpose. But since I couldn't smoke in the house, I went out in the backyard to smoke instead.

At the same time, I quit drinking coffee, which made it much easier for me to not smoke in the morning. I used to stagger to the coffee pot, smoke while I waited for the coffee to drip, and have a cigarette or two with my coffee.

I smoked at work still. I was a secretary in San Francisco, at two different corporations. And I started dancing again. There were only one or two other people who smoked in the class. It wasn't the same kind of studio atmosphere as in New York, where everybody hangs out in the studio and smokes. In California you go to class, take the class, and go home. I didn't have all my smoking friends here. It wasn't the same at all.

A year before I quit smoking, that guy Latka on "Taxi" died of lung cancer, but it wasn't from smoking. He was only one year older than I was, and that really gave me the creeps. I was thirty-four--and he died of this weird cancer." From that day I made a rule that I could smoke no more than six cigarettes a day.

Then they passed the law in San Francisco that said you couldn't smoke in an office building unless you had a private office with a door. That cut my smoking down even more.

It was hard at first, because it's such a habit. It's like not exercising when you're used to exercise. You feel like, "Eeyuchh!" You want to scream or something. I'd get nervous and irritable, and I'd want to stuff my face. I'd drink diet pop or eat Cheetos. I got used to it, though.

I read a lot of quit-smoking books, and one really got to me. It talked about all the physiological changes that one cigarette causes in your body. It was amazing. Worse, it said that you can smoke about 100,000 cigarettes and not necessarily cause permanent physical damage, but after that, with each one you smoke, you're playing Russian roulette, because that one could give you cancer or emphysema or heart disease. That one. Reading that did it, because I was sure I had probably smoked that many. I was sick of smoking. It was a pain to deal with it any more.

I still had a studio in New York, where I had my things in storage. I decided I wasn't going to live there, so I went back to arrange for everything to be shipped to California. I was still smoking my six cigarettes or less a day that I started when that guy on "Taxi" died.

At JFK Airport, waiting for my flight back to California, I had one cigarette left in the pack. I smoked it, crumpled up the pack, and said, "That's that!" And that was that. I didn't decide ahead of time. The day came when it was time to stop, and I stopped. Perhaps I associated it with closing the chapter on my life in New York, my years of adolescent rebellion, my image of myself as the driven artiste. I was leaving all of that stuff behind.

I used the things I learned in the quit-smoking class in Minneapolis--the signs and things they gave me. I put one up at work. They were sort of boosterish messages to myself. They say, "Thank you for not smoking," and I would say to myself, "Thank you for not smoking." Every time I looked at them, I would thank myself.

I didn't get nauseous and throw up, or get constipated, but I was nervous and wanted to eat. Every night I ate a giant bowl of popcorn with no butter, a huge bowl of popcorn. I would sit there and stuff my face with it around nine or ten at night. I did it about three nights a week. And then about six months ago, I couldn't stand the sight of popcorn any more.

Now that I've stopped smoking, I feel better. When I drank coffee and smoked I was very sluggish when I got up. Now I just wake up and I'm awake. I can even have a normal conversation within three minutes of getting up. It's like being a kid. I don't drink any stimulants like coffee or caffeine tea when I get up. I just drink water and leave the house and I'm fine.

I haven't noticed food tasting better or smelling things more, but my clothes smell better, and I smell better. And I have much better color. I used to get really pale, and I think it was from smoking. When I first was in New York, my cheeks would get rosy when I danced, and after seven years of smoking, they didn't. My wind is obviously much better. I used to get winded going up the stairs for a subway, even though I danced hours every week.

I had always been very interested in health and nutrition. I always ate basically healthy food--broiled chicken, steamed broccoli, and baked potatoes. There were things that I ate then that I wouldn't eat now. Candy and cake and coffee, for example.

I didn't drink at all when I first quit because I couldn't separate the two in my mind: they really went together. Now I drink wine, but I don't need to smoke when I do it. I dont' even think about it any more. I just don't smoke.

I thought that choreographing without smoking would be a problem, but it wasn't. When I moved out here no smoking was allowed in dance studios, so even though I was still smoking, I couldn't smoke when I was in the studio. I adapted to the situation. I used to worry that I wouldn't be able to dance and choreograph any more, the way writers quit smoking sometimes and think they can't write without a cigarette hanging out of their mouth, but it's not a problem.

I used to think about having a cigarette every day, but every time I wanted to smoke I'd say to myself, "Just wait it out, it'll pass." And I'd get over it. I'd go for a walk, exercise, or do long stretches and wait until it passed. They became farther and farther apart, and I thought about smoking less and less. Now, most of the time, I never think about smoking, unless someone is smoking near me, and then I get disgusted. I hate it and I don't let anybody ever smoke in the house where I live. I hate the way it smells, and it makes me feel like I'm choking: It's as simple as that!

I always was a weird smoker. I couldn't be in smoky bars for very long because the smoke would hurt my eyes. It was very difficult--my eyes would get red and burn. And if I had gone for twenty-four hours without smoking, the first time I would smoke a cigarette would give me those shudders. I mean it physically affected me in a disgusting way.

When I was smoking six or less a day, every time I smoked I could feel the hit. I could feel my heart rate increase, and I could feel myself getting wired. The physiological things were as plain as day. It's the same thing that coffee does to me.

Smoking always seemed like it wasn't me. As I became an adult, I started associating smoking with people who were uneducated, who didn't know any better, who didn't take responsibility for their health. I felt weird about smoking toward the end. I thought, "This is a creepy thing to be doing." I was embarrassed that I did it. I felt humiliated at myself. I wasn't feeling very good about myself in general, and so these feelings about smoking reinforced my lousy self-image as an inadequate twit. Somebody who wasn't quite with it. Somebody who wasn't successful.

I feel tremendously clean from not smoking. Now I see myself an an energetic person who is bright and fun to be around, somebody who's disciplined and had the strength to quit smoking.

Every once in awhile I'll just get this flash: "Gee! I'd like a cigarette." I get them at all different times. I'll be driving down the street and all of a sudden have this feeling of wanting to smoke, or be talking to somebody and want to smoke. I just put it out of my mind.

After I quit, I dreamed about coughing up blood. I was coughing and there was blood on my pillow. I dreamt it twice. I never dreamed about it while I was smoking, but after I quit I did. It gives me the creeps.

My ex-boyfriend started smoking again. He asked me, "Don't you ever sneak a puff or anything?" No. I never do. I never will, because I can't. I was addicted to nicotine. And he is, too.

Sometimes I feel weak when something horrible has happened. I had another boyfriend who turned out to be a terrible jerk. I was really upset, and I talked to a friend of mine and I said, "I feel like having a cigarette." She said, "Don't do it; he's not worth it. Nothing is worth it. Don't do it." Every time I'm really upset about something and I find myself thinking, "I want to smoke," I think instead, "It's not worth it. This piece-of-shit person is not worth smoking over. This ridiculous work situation isn't worth smoking over. It's no big deal, nobody's going to die--except me, if I start smoking again."

Please take the time to share your experiences with others. You could help someone more than you'll ever know. Thank you.

Home  |  Site Map  |  Other stuff  |  About us  |  Contact us  |  Links

Pictures  |  Testimonials  |  Coming Soon

© Copyright 2003-2006
All Rights Reserved
A division of PFH®

 Click here for a short
synopsis of how you can
learn to quit smoking.
Unlike any stop smoking
program that you've
probably ever read.

 Click here to read
about free gifts/rewards,
from some very caring
people & businesses,
that also want you to
Beat Nicotine.

 Number of successful
 quitters in the U.S.A.
 Over 50 mil. and counting.
 YOU can do it too!