I decided on Feb. 1, 2007, to quit smoking and let the world know in a piece in Stars and Stripes. I figured I’d put myself out there and commit to quitting in public.

Well, 20 months and a few relapses later, I’m still going strong.

But it hasn’t been easy.

Last November, when I was writing a story about the Great American Smokeout, my boss asked me if I wanted to do an update on my progress. I told him no. At the time, I was smoking again and felt like a giant hypocrite for even writing a story about quitting in the first place.

I felt like a failure.

After smoking for nearly 10 years, it wasn’t just an addiction for me. It was part of my life and something I enjoyed. Sure, I felt guilty whenever I’d give in and buy a pack of smokes after several months without smoking. But as soon as I lit up, that guilt was gone. The trick for me was to recognize what parts of my life triggered my desire to smoke.

The big ones were when drinking, after a good meal and at work. Mainly at work.

Stressed out and trying to make deadline for a story, I now chew some gum and take a walk around the building. In the past, I’d head straight out the back door and burn one without a second thought. Believe me, chewing gum is no nicotine rush, but it calms me down.

I’m sure that the last cigarette I smoked more than two months ago won’t be my last. But I can accept that.

The biggest thing I’ve learned is quitting smoking isn’t something that just happens. It takes a lot of work. And a willingness to look at your lifestyle and habits, and the ability to accept that even though you might stumble along the way, to not give up.

There, I hit deadline for this story.

Now I’m going out to chew some gum.

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