There is only one day a year, every year, that I feel it's ok to be a quitter. The third Thursday in November.

For me it was the third Thursday in November of 1990. The actual date was November 15, 1990. I had worked a wrestling match three days earlier, and though I was in probably the best physical shape of my life, I couldn't wrestle for 15 minutes without being winded. It was that day I decided to quit smoking; to give up a habit which had varied from a pack to a pack-and-a-half a day for 8 years.

It wasn't easy. Early on I found myself often reaching for a stick out of habit or boredom. It was the subconscious habit that was the hardest part to break. I reached for it without really thinking about it. I had to retrain my mind. I used a clicker.

It was a little metal device that I kept in my hand at almost all times. Whenever I found myself reaching for a smoke, I clicked the clicker. It was annoying. After a while, it was VERY annoying, but it got me thinking about something other than lighting up a Marlboro Red. I was a "habitual" smoker. The "habit" part of the addiction took about 6 months to completely get out of my system. But the craving took much longer.

But according to studies, there were effects on my body almost immediately, that I didn't know about. According to studies, within 20 minutes of my final cigarette, my blood pressure began to go down, my pulse rate slowed and the temperature of my hands and feet increased.

Then within 24 hours, my chance of a having heart attack decreased; of course I didn't know this, but my body was beginning to heal, my system was beginning to repair itself. Within 48 hours of my final stick, nerve endings which had been deadened by the habit, began to regenerate. It was hard to believe, but after just a couple of days, foods that I had loved for years were tasting different...tasting BETTER!

The studies say that a few weeks after you quit smoking, your circulation has improved and your lungs have begun to function better. I could feel this part. I was working longer without rest holds. Then I was working longer matches. Workouts become much more intense and productive. I found myself coughing or wheezing much less in the morning.

The studies indicate the greatest benefits of quitting smoking are long term. After 1 year your excess risk of suffering coronary heart disease has decreased to half the risk of a continuing smoker. After 5 years, your risk of having a stroke has decreased compared to continuing smokers, and will continue to decrease over time. 10 years in, a decade after you quit smoking, your risk of lung cancer is now half that of people who keep smoking. You've also experienced a decrease in your risk of ulcers and other cancers, including cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, pancreas, kidneys, and bladder. And after 15 years of being smoke free, the risk of coronary heart disease is now equal to that of people who never smoked a single cigarette. Your risk of dying also is nearly back to the same level as that of non-smokers.

There are other benefits to quitting. By giving up cigarettes, I found that that my bad breath was gone. The stains on my teeth, fingers, and fingernails faded. And that nasty smoke smell that I didn't even notice until it was gone dissipated from my hair, clothes, car, and furniture.

Something else I never even thought about was the monetary benefits to quitting. At today's cost of approximately $6 per pack, a pack a day smoker would save $2190 per year on cigarettes. If a person quit smoking at age 40 and took that money and put that "found" money into a standard 401k which returned at 9%, at age 70 you would have a nest egg that would be in the neighborhood of $135,000 or more. That's a really nice neighborhood. And if you smoke a pack and a half or more a day, your savings would skyrocket.

So, with all of these health and monetary benefits, why are you still smoking? Make the commitment today, and get the help you need to quit smoking successfully. If you don't quit today, quit tomorrow. Or Monday. It doesn't matter what day you quit, but please quit. They say that today is the first day of the rest of your life. Make sure that today is the first day of the rest of your long life. Its ok to be a quitter.

If you want to quit, but you are struggling, there is help. You can find help online at becomeanex.org or by picking up your phone and calling 800 Quit-Now. Quit today, it will be easier to quit again tomorrow. Because one day leads to two, which leads to a weak, a month, and then a year. And then 24 years.