Sandra Melanson started smoking when she was 15 years old.

“From the very first inhale of tobacco smoke, I was hooked,” she recalls. “All my friends smoked back then; it was out of peer pressure that I started. We’d be smoking in the school yard and at the bus stop.”

The 54-year-old was born in Germany and then moved to Canada with her family. She moved around quite a lot throughout her childhood and adolescence. She now lives in Dieppe, New Brunswick and has taken steps to kick the smoking habit for good.

“I tried quitting three times in the past, during my 40 years as a smoker,” she admits. “It never worked, because it was never for the right reason or, at least, a reason that was good enough of a motivation for me. The first time, I quit because I felt the cost of cigarettes was becoming too expensive. The second time, it was to please my father who kept bugging me about the fact that I should quit. The third time, I thought I was doing it for my kids. But it was never for me. This time, I’ve decided to quit just for me, for my sake. And it’s working! I’ve finally realized that if I don’t do it for myself, I won’t do it right.”

“In October 2015, I just snapped. I like starting things on a Monday, so on a Monday morning, I told myself, this is it! Unfortunately, that same morning, I ended up having two cigarettes. But that got me furious at myself, enough to be motivated I suppose. I’ve been smoke-free ever since.”

Melanson admits that one of the factors that helped her move towards a smoke-free lifestyle was taking stock of some of her lifestyle choices. “My husband and I bought a house with a nice sunroom. The sunroom is where we would relax and smoke, and it’s the reason we bought the house. I was starting to feel so ashamed about this – the fact that we purchased a house just to have a nice room to smoke in.”

Melanson says the journey has been difficult, but it gets better every day. “The first two weeks were tough. The first day, I was in a fog, I could not think straight. I just had to get through one day at a time. Fortunately, the nicotine gum helped me a lot. I started on four milligrams and then reduced to two milligrams after two weeks. I also have been relying on the Smokers’ Helpline. They are encouraging and don’t reprimand you if you make a mistake. I use their website and look up tips to deal with some side effect of nicotine withdrawal. It has given me lots of useful tips on managing my triggers as well. It’s also inspiring to read about other people’s struggles and victories. You know, they say the first week is hell, the second week is a bit less bad and then by the third week, you start to feel like you’ve made it out of the deep end.”

Melanson says she already feels many benefits from kicking her daily smoking habit. “My breathing is better. I used to get up in the morning with a terrible cough. Now, I don’t cough anymore. I also sleep more and better at night. “

Melanson also had some health scares, which has helped her a lot with her decision to quit smoking. “As I am getting older, I see some symptoms in my health that need to be managed better. The doctor has told me that quitting smoking will help lower my cholesterol and blood pressure. Plus, I had an incident not too long ago where I was rushed to the hospital thinking I was having a heart attack. Turns out I was having a panic attack after a long weekend of heavy smoking. My nerves were shot from all that nicotine.”

She has some sage words of advice regarding e-cigarettes and flavoured tobacco products. “Those e-cigarettes have eight milligrams of nicotine! They don’t help you to quit, but rather keep you a prisoner of your dependence on nicotine. They are not good for you; they just give you the illusion that what you are doing is less severe than smoking a real cigarette. They are very deceiving!”

Melanson reached her 6-month smoke-free anniversary in April 2016. “I’ve never gotten past six months in my previous quit attempts. This is a big milestone for me worth celebrating! I know that this time, I’ve quit smoking for good! I’ve finally quit smoking for the right reason, and it’s the most powerful motivator.”

Keep up the good work, Sandra!

Photos and story used with permission from Sandra Melason.

Published in August 2016

By Nathalie Landry – NBATC Communications Coordinator