Emma Coolen - Blog Stoppen met roken

Quitting smoking is not something you do once, you do it every single day

For the people that don’t know me that well or haven’t been following my online adventures for that long, it might seem strange: a blog about quitting smoking on the website of someone who is aspiring to be a professional soccer player. And it’s not the part of my life that I’m most proud of. But in the hope that there is one person out there that can find some value in my experiences, I’ve decided to share my story.

All or nothing

To call it an innate sensitivity to addiction would feel like a cheap excuse, but fact of the matter is that I’ve always struggled to do things with moderation. Whether it’s skipping school (with 52 hours of detention as a result of that), drinking alcohol (finishing a sixpack of beer by yourself in the middle of the night doesn’t solve problems, it just creates them), or soccer (see my blog about counting calories), I tend to do things either not at all, or I pour my heart and soul into it. For better or worse.

If only I was a rebel

From the time I was about thirteen years old, I started to cause some trouble. I was an incredibly insecure teenage girl, that wanted nothing more than to appear cool and tough in the eyes of her peers. All my life, people had been telling me how cute they thought I was, and given the fact that I had a history of being the youngest in both my soccer teams and my classes in school, I had developed somewhat of an allergic reaction to everything people found ‘sweet’ or ‘adorable’ about me.

(Un)fortunately, at that exact time I found a group of likeminded thirteen year-olds, and together we skipped French, drove our mopeds around the city and made bets on who could show up in class intoxicated without anyone noticing. Yeah. At that time I felt like the most bad-ass teenager around, but looking back at it ten years later, I mainly think it’s kind of sad.

Soccer dreams

Enfin, along came my big soccer dream. My rebellious habits weren’t exactly contributing to a career as a professional athlete, so I had to change my life. One of the things I had to do in that process was quitting smoking. In the seven years before that moment in which I decided I wanted to make the Dutch national team, I had turned into a chain smoker, and going through a pack a day was the rule rather than the exception.

At that time, I chose to quit cold turkey (only using my ‘all-or-nothing’ mentality for drinking evenings for a few years to come), which means not giving in to the addiction anymore from one day to the next. Words can’t describe how much I’d wanted to say here that it has been an amazing journey and that I never again touched a cigarette since that day, but sadly, that’s not the case. It definitely gets easier with time, but quitting smoking (or any other addiction for that matter) is not something you just do once and then be done with. You do it every single day.

Old habits die hard

The crazy thing is, no matter how big my soccer dreams are, and no matter how hard it is for me to imagine that that insecure, chain smoking, binge drinking teenage girl that I described earlier is the same person as the one typing this blog, old habits die hard. When I’m having a lousy day, get some bad news or just feel terrible, my first reflex is still ‘I need a smoke. And a sixpack of beer.’ Even after four years.

Dealing with that instinct fortunately is getting easier and easier, and ever since I also completely gave up alcohol at the start of this year I’ve tried to use my inner drive and motivation for more productive things than helping my body a hand in its unavoidable and eventual decay. But anyway. I’m not writing this blog because I want to be praised for the fact that I quit smoking, I don’t want people to sympathize with smokers, and I definitely don’t want to preach to people that do decide to smoke.

I’m telling my story today because I think it’s important that people that are going through similar things know that it’s not always sunshine and rainbows when you try to change your life. It can take years, even decades, before your old habits are completely out of your system, and even then it can be so tempting to fall back into old patterns when times get hard. But making a mistake does not mean that you’re weak. It means that you’ve been given the opportunity to make tomorrow a better day. Because on that next day, it will be just that little bit easier than on the one before, trust me. And to use the old ‘gay slogan’ here: It does get better. Pinky promise.

Thanks for reading, talk soon! 🙂

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