Pam Ezell smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for more than 31 years. Teri Martin started smoking when she was a teenager and has waged an on-again, off-again battle with addiction for years.

But the two women share something else - a sincere desire to divorce themselves from the grip of nicotine.

One has made it, one is on her way.

Ezell has tried to quit several times, managing to cut down to six cigarettes a day. But a time of emotional distress sent back to a pack a day.

But she's been cigarette-free for three weeks and she says this time she's made it, that she's put smoking behind her.

Martin still struggles with her addiction.

"Cigarettes make me feel out of control and ashamed," she said. "I never smoked in public. Even when it was legal to smoke in restaurants, I didn't, but I had one in my hand ready to light the minute I stepped outside."

Both women's parents smoked and both have a parent who died from lung cancer.

Like many, Ezell started smoking during her teens under pressure from friends and because of an example set by her parents, whom she said only stopped working to take a smoke break, and due to messages sent by television and advertisements that portrayed smoking as glamorous and sexy.

"Those visual images are very strong in your mind," Martin said. "By the time you decide you don't need to smoke or to quit smoking, it already has its claws in you."

In high school, Martin caught girls smoking in the restroom who forced her smoke so she couldn't tell on them. After that she smoked occasionally, especially when she went out with the "older boys who were cool and had cars."

While starting was the easy part, quitting has been another story. And not just for Ezell and Martin, but for legions of people who have tried, failed, and tried again and again to conquer their addiction.

But people will try just about anything: patches, gum, herbal remedies, acupuncture and hypnosis are all part of the arsenal.

But for most, it comes down to a simple choice.

"I had to change my mind," Ezell said. "I'd try to quit and could get through minor stresses and problems until it got to the point where I was trying to protect the addiction itself."

Hypnosis helped Ezell relax, allowing her to think through what she thought about smoking.

"Just relaxing helped me realize how much I really didn't want to smoke," Ezell said.

Martin said she bought a new car with the goal of never smoking in it. It has three cigarette burns, so she is angry at herself. She attends hypnosis sessions because "it's not a threatening or punitive thing, and I feel I have some part in the process" she said.

"I had the answer all along. I just didn't recognize it," Ezell said. "I didn't realize that I didn't really feel any different, any less stressed or more relaxed after smoking. That was the answer for me, 'If I don't feel any different, why smoke?' But I actually had to come to an internal understanding. When I smoke a cigarette, all I'm doing is satisfying that initial stress. Smoking isn't relaxing me. It's satisfying the brain screaming for a cigarette. I spent a lot of time talking to myself. My internal voice was very angry, because 'they' (every image of glamour, relaxation, social acceptance) lied to me."

The next day, she removed her nicotine patch and smoked as much as she wanted.

"Then I was angry with myself because I didn't want smoking to be part of my life," she said. She uses "the patch" now, and isn't smoking.

"It's hard to resist frequent and severe urges to smoke," Ezell said. "The craving is hard and fast and you have no time to prepare yourself (to think of an alternative behavior) when the urge hits."

But with determination, she's committed to a cigarette-free lifestyle.


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