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SkyGirl Blog

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Take a Deep Breath...

Posted by SkyGirl Jul 1, 2017

I'm sure glad June is over!  I finished up the last of five 3-day trips, back-to-back, with a transcontinental red-eye that arrived in DC at 5:58am.  I flew 15 days in a row.  I went to my condo to sleep for a few hours, then back to the airport to catch a flight home to  the Oregon Coast.  I have SIX DAYS OFF!!!!


Flying over the Cascade Range as we approached the Portland airport, we got a nice view of Mt Hood, which is the fourth highest peak in the range.  I took the picture below.



Every time I see Mt. Hood, I am reminded of the majesty of this earth of ours.  And of the feeling of breathing in cold, crispy, fresh mountain air.  And even though the only air available to me at that time is icky recirculated airplane air, I take a deep, deep breath.  I fill up my lungs, taking as much air in as I can.  I hold my breath for a few seconds, then I slowly blow it out.  And it feels so good to be able to do that!


Before I quit smoking, I couldn't have taken a "deep" breath, much less a "deep,deep" breath.  And when I tried, it always ended with me coughing.  And, demented as it may be, the coughing reminded me that I couldn't wait to land so I could smoke.  


But things are different now.  I quit smoking four years ago.  I gave my lungs a second chance.  They are healing every day.  Now, when we drive up Mt. Hood, I can take in huge breaths of cold, fresh air.  


They are wonderful cleansing breaths that give me a sense of calm, that help me to relax, and remind me that my stresses are mostly small ones, self-created and will eventually resolve themselves.


But, wait, aren't those the things that I used to insist that smoking did for me?  Make me calm?  Relax me?  Solve my problems?  These are the lies of addiction that we tell ourselves.  


And you have the power to change that for yourself and improve your life.   You CAN quit.  It isn't easy at first.  It requires some preparation, some reading, some thinking adjustments.  The improvements in the beginning of your Quit are so small at first that you may not notice them.  But every single day, every hour, every minute that you are not smoking, you are healing your body and your brain.


So take a deep cleansing breath.  And be proud of yourself for taking control of an ugly addiction that USED to have control of YOU.


You can do this.  Yes, I'm talking to YOU.


xxxooo, Sky


Denver, anyone?

Posted by SkyGirl Jun 27, 2017

Hey, I arrive in Denver about midnight tomorrow (Tuesday).  I layover for the entire day on Wednesday in Denver before flying out to Vegas at 6:45 pm, and then the red-eye to DC, arriving at 6am.


Are there any EXers in Denver that would like to meet for a late brunch, lunch or an early dinner?  I LOVE meeting new Quitters in person!  I'll be in a hotel near DEN.  If you are interested (EX photo op!), message me here on EX.


xxxooo, Sky

Good morning, EXers!  I'm just checking in today to see how everyone is doing.  The title of this blog describes my life since EX5.  I'm getting about 5 hours of sleep a night and flying three or even four flights a day.  There has hardly been time to brush my teeth, much less write a blog!  Summertime is always a crazy time for the airlines.  Just wanted to say "hello, I'm still alive and hope to spend more time here soon."


Wow, shortest blog I've ever written.


xxxooo, Sky


If you don't HAVE any...

Posted by SkyGirl Jun 19, 2017

I had a sort of epiphany. 

I DO sincerely believe that any person who truly wants to quit will have a huge advantage when they begin their Quit if they understand EXACTLY how nicotine affects the brain. When you have learned how nicotine actually PHYSICALLY alters the way that your brain receptors work (which makes you falsely believe that you "enjoy" smoking) you will have a whole new way of seeing smoking.

If you have any doubts about how the chemical nicotine gets into your brain and makes you believe that you love smoking, please go to and read the article at the top left side of the page called "Nicotine Addiction 101". It should rock your thinking.

But...didn't I say something about an epiphany...?

Yes, I did.  It wasn't recently.  It was the day I realized that I could could live a perfectly happy life without smoking.  Now, maybe it doesn't qualify as a real epiphany...because it's a concept that you might already know as "N.O.P.E", which means "Not One Puff Ever". Perhaps the so-called epiphany (Gosh, I love that word!!!) is more about HOW you go about living "not one puff ever".

Here's how: Get rid of ALL your cigarettes. And I mean every single cigarette that you might be able to access during a craving. Do not have any cigarettes in your house, your car, your office, your pocket, your kitchen drawer, your purse, your tote bag. Do not keep ANY "emergency" cigarettes "just in case". Just in case WHAT? In case you change your mind? In case it gets too difficult? In case you have a really strong craving? In case you feel stressed?

If there are NO cigarettes available to you, you won't smoke.


At least, you won't smoke UNLESS you get in a car, drive to a store, ask for cigarettes, pay for cigarettes, open the pack, put one in your mouth, find a lighter, ignite the cigarette and then inhale the smoke.

That last sentence does not describe a "slip".  A "slip" is an ACCIDENT.  It's something that happens TO you.  You "slip" on a patch of ice.  You "slip" when the floor is still wet.  Your car "slips" when the road is icy.   You  "slip" when something is beyond your control.


Many people here on EX talk about "slipping".  But was smoking a cigarette something that happened TO you?  Something beyond your control or your responsibility?  No, it was not.


I realize that people here on EX will continue to use the word "slip" to describe a lost Quit.  But please make sure that you understand that you are actually describing a conscious decision to acquire some nicotine and put it into your body.


So I guess what I'm saying is this: if you don't HAVE a cigarette, you can't smoke one.

I speak from experience. I know full well that, during the first few weeks of my Quit, if I'd been able to find a cigarette in my coat pocket or the bottom of my purse, get one from a nearby friend or from a pack I kept "just in case", I probably would have smoked it.


But I didn't...because when I thought I couldn't last another minute without a cigarette, I DID last without a cigarette.  Because I made sure that cigarettes were unavailable to me.

It's so important to get rid of all cigarettes, ashtrays and lighters when you quit.  If you don't, you are leaving the door open to smoking again.  


Close that door.


xxxooo,   Sky



Posted by SkyGirl Jun 12, 2017

I was writing a comment on someone's blog today and the concept of hindsight came to mind.


The definition of hindsight is "recognition of the realities, possibilities, or requirements of a situation, event, decision etc., after its occurrence".  The key word here is "AFTER".  We only TRULY understood what we were doing to ourselves AFTER we had done it.


It's pretty ironic to realize that every single person here on EX who has a successful Quit also has 20/20 hindsight.


 Why didn't we accept the knowledge of what we were doing to ourselves when we picked up our first cigarette?


 Where was all that realization of the damage we were causing to our brains and our bodies when we started to smoke years ago?


Why didn't we see that strangling cough as we inhaled for the first time as a harbinger of the health problems to come?


Who knows...


So the best thing that we EXers can do now, since we have only hindsight for ourselves, is to try to help other smokers develop some foresight.


The definition of "foresight" is "1) care or provision for the future; provident care; prudence. 2) knowledge or insight gained by or as by looking forward; a view of the future".


If we can help just one person stop smoking before they cause irreversible damage to themselves, then we are doing good work here on EX.  (And THAT, my friends, was the theme of EX5: "The Starfish Story".  Thank you, @Strudel!)


In closing, here is some Food for Thought:  Here's an excerpt from the famous book "The Remains of the Day" by Kazuo Ishiguro:


"Rather, it was as though one had available a never-ending number of days, months, years in which to sort out the vagaries of one's relationship with Miss Kenton; an infinite number of further opportunities in which to remedy the effect of this or that misunderstanding. There was surely nothing to indicate at the time that such evidently small incidents would render whole dreams forever irredeemable."


Did you read it?  Now read it again, but replace the words "Miss Kenton" and "misunderstanding" with these words: "cigarettes" and "illness".  


Makes you think, doesn't it?  Let's continue to use our hindsight to help smokers develop foresight and save themselves.


xxxooo,  Sky

Just a few quick (but VITAL) reminders for anyone who is struggling with their Quit...


You know your life will improve without your nicotine addiction.


You know that you'll love having that extra money that you used to spend on cigarettes.


You know that all the people who love you will be so proud and happy that you have quit smoking.


You know that you will be getting back all that time that you used to spend away from whatever event was going on while you were going off to smoke.


You know that educating yourself about nicotine addiction will help insure your success.


You know that the words "try", "attempt", "hope" don't belong in your thinking anymore.


You know that, from the first minute you post a blog here on EX, that we will rush to welcome you, support you and help you find the ways that best help you to find your Forever Quit.


So, bring on your nicotine addiction, Newbies and Lurkers!  Because we can show you how WE quit and how YOU can also quit forever.


Smoking sucks.  (Even if you still think you love it.  Which you don't.  Ask us; we will tell you why your brain is telling you that you love smoking and need it to stay calm and beat the daily stresses in your life.  We will direct you to articles about how nicotine addiction hijacks your brain...)


"Loving" and  "Needing" cigarettes can be a thing of the past.  It's important to know that.  You CAN go on to a life without cigarettes.  I know this because I did it.  All the Elders here on EX have also done it, along with all the other Quitters in various stages of quitting.


And we aren't missing a damn thing.  I never believed that could be true.  Until I quit.


You CAN feel that way, too.  Because YOUR addiction to nicotine is no stronger nor harder to beat than OUR addiction was.   (Now, go back and read that last sentence again and let it sink in...)  


If we can quit cigarettes that, at one time, we thought that we "needed" in order to survive, we can help you to find your Quit.


Lean on us here at EX.


xxxooo,  Sky

That's the big question most of us had when we were on the cusp of quitting.  Smoking DEFINED us.  


The world was divided into two categories: Smokers and Non-smokers.  And we were about to jump the fence to the other side...  We didn't know who we would BE without cigarettes in our lives.   It's who we ARE, right?


Smoking was something we did every day, every few hours, sometimes every hour.  Heck, sometimes we just sat and chainsmoked mindlessly, without really even thinking about it...other than to worry about the dwindling number of cigarettes in our pack.


Smoking was something we planned our schedule around: When is my break?  How long is this meeting going to last? Do I have enough cigarettes to last me until I get out of work?  Do I have enough time to step out in back to smoke before the pasta is done?  I'll light up as soon as I drop off the kids.  Sound familiar?


And when we tried to imagine a life without cigarettes, we really couldn't.  Life would be empty.  Life wouldn't have any breaks to relax.  Life would require our attention every single minute of the day with no respite.  Life wouldn't have any "rewards" for handling the hard parts of our lives...  It sounded to us like life without smoke breaks would just suck....  I'll ask again:  Sound familiar?


Honestly, we could not envision WHO we would be if we didn't smoke anymore.  We felt a sense of loss and emptiness.  We thought, "But who AM I if I don't smoke" and "I can't imagine myself as a non-smoker".


And then we QUIT. 


Those first three days completely sucked as our bodies became free of the chemical nicotine.  And those first couple of weeks we thought about cigarettes a lot (okay, ALL THE TIME).  Life during those days was about making it through another minute, another hour, another day, another night without smoking.  We spent all our time using the tools in that Toolbox.  I know I bit a lot of lemons during those days.  


Here's how it happened for ME:


Everyone kept telling me it would get easier every day.  I didn't feel like it was getting easier.  But it WAS getting easier, despite my perceptions.  Slowly, I realized that I wasn't pacing around my hotel rooms like a caged animal.  I wasn't asking the front desk people where the smoking area was.  I was able to go a few hours without thinking about a cigarette.  I could drive without missing a cigarette between my fingers and tapping that ash out the cracked window. 


I counted each and every day like they were pearls on a necklace.  I came here to EX every single day to say how many days I had under my belt.  I blogged every single day about how I felt; if it was a bad day, a not-so-bad-day, a bad day, a pull-my-hair-out day.  And I got feedback.  Other Quitters commented and messaged me.  I received encouragement and suggestions to help.   I made friends.  I gave encouragement to others.  I persevered.


And, lo and behold, it DID get easier.  And I found out who I was without cigarettes.  I found my NEW NORMAL.  It took a while, but I wear my new normal with joy now.  It's comfortable now.   In fact, non-smoking IS my normal now.   I LIKE who I am without cigarettes.  And I wonder how I EVER thought that I "needed" cigarettes in my life.  I could NOT imagine that I would ever feel that way.  


And it will get easier for YOU, too.  Hang in there.  You will also find your own NEW NORMAL.  It will take a while before you feel like your new normal fits you comfortably.  But you will find out who you are without cigarettes in your mouth all the time.


And you will LOVE that person.  We promise.


xxxooo,  Sky

You know how we are always talking about having the "tools" to help us when we are quitting? We talk about using our "tools" to make it through a craving. We talk about using the "tools" we've been given to protect our Quit. Let's talk about these tools.

It would be great if you could walk into a hardware store and say, "I'd like to buy some Quit Smoking tools, please." You can't. But if you's what you'd walk out of the store with:

1) Education: This would be articles, books, websites where you can learn about nicotine addiction. The tool of Education will be key in helping you learn that you CAN quit smoking and never smoke again. You will use this tool before you quit to get yourself ready and keep using it after you quit to keep you strong. This tool gives you knowledge and helps you benefit from the experience of others. Example: "The Easy Way to Stop Smoking" by Allen Carr and (my personal favorite) "Nicotine Addiction 101" on

2) Distractions: You should have plenty of suggestions and ideas from other people here on EX about ways to distract yourself if you need ways to redirect your brain when you can't seem to stop thinking about smoking or when a craving hits you. There are two types of distractions: Activities that will distract your hands/thoughts (examples: scrub your toilet, weed your garden, redo your nail polish, organize your tackle box, dance for an entire ABBA song, browse around on eBay, etc.) and Flavors/tastes that will surprise (or shock!) your tastebuds and sense of smell (examples: a spoonful of peanut butter, a drop of Tabasco, a shake of cocoa powder, blue cheese crumbles, a squirt of pancake syrup, a whiff of curry powder, Fruit Loops one at a time, Red-Hot candies, etc.) Make a physical list, written or typed, and keep it with you at all times.

3) Human Support: Online (like EX) or in person (family, co-workers, friends) can be some of the best tools you have during the first few weeks of your Quit. Obviously, it doesn't help to lean on someone who still smokes. Never-Ever Smokers can't understand what you are going through, BUT they can be your biggest face-to-face cheerleaders. Don't forget to educate Never-Evers before your Quit Date, using the "Letter to My Loved Ones". You can find this letter here on EX by doing a search for it. Many quitters have said it made a world of difference in the way their friends and family were able to understand and support them. EX is, of course, an invaluable support tool. I don't think I need to elaborate on why EX is so amazing, do I?

4) Common Sense: Your tool box should be chock full of common sense. Your common sense will tell you about things to do, things not to do, things that will help you, things that will hurt you, things to stay close to, things to stay away from. This tool is different from the knowledge you got from Education (#1 above) because it requires you to be creative and think for yourself within the details of your own life. It's that little angel/devil on your shoulder thing, right? Oh, wait. That's called "Conscience". Well, that's a good tool, too. But be careful of Conscience because that can cause a very UNhelpful thing called "guilt", which has NO PLACE in the tool box.

5) A Bottle of Water and A Big Yellow Lemon in a Baggie: Okay, okay, these both actually fall under Distractions (#2 above). But they are SO basic (the water) and SO effective (the lemon) that I felt they deserved the separate category of "Honorable Mention Tools". If you feel like you are losing control at any time during your Quit, take a big slug of water from the bottle. It's easy, it's available and it takes no great thought. Sometimes a few big swallows of water is all it takes to get you back on track. Or...take a deep breath and bite into that lemon, peel and all. It is not pleasurable. But it is a Hall of Fame Crave Buster. You will NOT want a cigarette after biting that lemon. I promise. (The baggie is so you can carry it with you. I got some very odd looks when I took out my lemon and bit it in airports! But...I don't smoke anymore, do I?)

6) Patience: Quitting doesn't happen in a day or a week or even a few weeks. As Youngatheart (Nancy) has said many times "Quitting is not an event; it's a journey.". It doesn't happen all at once and the road can be rocky, at times. Sometimes, all the best tools in your Tool Box aren't doing the trick. That's when you need this tool : PATIENCE. Thomas recently posted a blog about riding out cravings, experiencing the feelings, acknowledging the difficulty, not trying to fight it, and waiting for the urge to ebb away like a wave. It was a brilliant blog; go read it. Sometimes, you just have to be PATIENT.

So, Quitters, go check your toolboxes! Are you missing any of these tools? And if you have counted "Willpower" as a tool, forget it. Pitch it out. It won't help you find a Fovever Quit and it's not a real tool at all! Instead of "Willpower", use Education.

xxxooo, Sky


We all know that smoking cigarettes leaves nasty, dangerous residue in our lungs.  But watching a simplistic test like this will definitely reinforce what we already know about smoking.  It can't be illustrated any more simply, can it?

Here's the link:   Be Aware - Wat blijft er achter in je longen na het roken... 

And all of a sudden,  EX5-Virginia Beach was over.  We had barely gotten started!  When the Old Lady Caravan arrived on Thursday, May 18th, the weekend stretched long and luxuriously ahead of us.  But just a little more than 72 hours later, we were hugging and making plans for next year.  We all stayed at the hotel breakfast until 10am when they closed it up.  Then there were hugs, pictures, promises and off we all went on our separate ways.  


But still together.  Always together.  Held together by a bond that you can't understand until you've experienced it...



Patty and Donna.  In the left background, Pops and jojo hug while Nancy watches.  In the way-back, from left: Sharon, Shawn, Chris and Pat.

Donna and me (Sky) acting like we don't realize we are about to spend the entire day together in the Old Lady Caravan!

Patty and me (Gee, I don't very wide-awake for getting ready to drive The Old Lady Caravan for almost ten hours!). Three Old Ladies in the background: Nancy, jojo and Ellen.

Laura, Pops, Sky, Tommy, Kathy

Pops, Sky, Tommy (Nice photobomb, Laura!!!)

Sharon, Sky, Pat

Tommy and Kathy in a grave discussion about something important...?

Nancy, getting ready to roll...

The room was cleared out and Tommy, Shawn and Tommy were saying their last goodbyes.  (Little did Shawn know then that she'd end up staying an extra night (flight delays) and having a sleepover with Jackie!)


And a good, amazing, never-to-be-forgotten time was had by all...  Goodbye EX5!

On Sunday night, there were still 17 of us staying overnight.  So somebody organized a group trip to Murphy's Irish Pub for dinner.  Most people walked the two blocks, but the Old Lady Caravan drove for anyone who needed a lift.  Somehow, we ended up with more people in our group than Murphy's had prepared for, so there was some scrambling of chairs and squeezing folks in.  But it all worked out and we had a final semi-official gathering on Sunday night.  Here are a few pictures:

From left: Sharon, Donna, Jackie, Rick, Sue and Pat

We were all running around, trying to get some last photos of everyone.  Here's Jackie, snapping away!  (With jojo in the foreground.)

From left: Sharon, Donna, Jackie. (Grumpy old man in background)

Rick and Laura

Two GORGEOUS smiling women from the Old Lady Caravan: Nancy and Ellen.  (Sue and Pat in background)

Patty and jojo

Tommy and Patty

Shawn (with half of jojo on one side and half of Mary Ellen on the other side)

Handsome Tommy!

One last shot...the food was all eaten and we had to start thinking about tomorrow's travel plans.  That explains the long faces...


A good time was had by all!

One of the highlights of EX5 in Virginia Beach was driving over to Norfolk, VA, to enjoy a dinner cruise on The Star of Norfolk.  Thank you, Kathy, for organizing that.  I only regret not getting video of Jackie and Pops dancing!  Here are a few photos of us stuffing our faces.

From left: Mark Admin, jojo, Brenda M and Rick

From left: Mary Ellen and Sue (Rick's family friend and wife, respectively)

From left, Laura, Donna, Ellen

Nancy has such a gorgeous smile, doesn't she?

From left: Pat, Megan Admin and Laura

Tommy and Pattycake

Our Super-Star(fish), Kathy (Strudel!)

From left: Tommy, Patty, Kathy and Chris (Kathy's sister)

From left: Chris, Pops, Jackie, Jennifer

Jojo and Brenda M at the table, Sharon and Ellen in the buffet line

From left: Jim, Mark Admin, jojo, Brenda M and Rick (Sharon in the back)

From left: jojo, Brenda M and Rick

From left: Sue, Shawn and Jim


A GOOD TIME WAS HAD BY ALL!  Thanks again, Kathy, for making this trip so special!

One big thing is missing from my blog about the EX5 Brunch...does anyone have their postcard with the "Story of the Starfish"?   That was the MOST important thing about that entire EX5 Brunch and we need to highlight it!


I can't find mine!!!! Kathy, if you have any extras, please mail me one. (I'll give you my mailing address if you have one to send.).


If anyone still can find that amazing postcard that Kathy had printed of the Starfish story, PLEASE take a closeup picture and post it here on this blog in a BIG BOLD PHOTO.


Because it was that story about about the little boy making a difference, even if it was only to ONE particular starfish, that got that whole Brunch started on the amazing theme of helping each other as EXers, ON A ONE-TO-ONE basis.


That wonderful short story reminded us that you don't have to be a STAR here on EX to make a difference.   Everyone doesn't have to love the hell out of you here on EX.  You don't have to be an EX celebrity.   You don't have to be creative or fancy or clever or loud or funny. You MATTER if you just say one thing to one person who needs to hear what you have to say.  You can find someone you connect with during your Quit and you can be a quiet hero to that person.


If you say the right thing at the right time, if you can be at the right place to comment when someone needs support or love, if you can listen when someone needs to spill out their heart, if you can just BE for someone in pain, if you can help someone understand their confusion or doubt, then you have made a difference for that one person.  


And that one person may not ever pick up a cigarette again because they remember YOU and what you said, what you did, your words and how you held them, virtually, in your arms when they most needed it.


If I can know that I helped even just one person beat their nicotine addiction and I know that I made a difference to that one person's life?  Wow.


xxxooo,  Sky

First, let me explain that our Saturday morning meetings at EX Get-Togethers are referred to as "Brunch".  Sometimes, the venue won't allow us to serve food, so it's really more of a "Non-Brunch".  But it's always Saturday morning and there is always an agenda that includes "The Reading of the Blogs and Comments".  First time attendees read one of their first ever blogs out loud to the group.  It's usually an epiphany for the reader of how far they've come and often ends in tears of emotion.  (That's why the Brunch was originally called "The Tear Fest"!   Previous attendees read one or more of the comments they've made on other people's blogs that have really made a difference to that blogger.  Not so many tears, but lots of wisdom, gratitude, knowing nodding of heads and even some laughter.  It's a wonderful tradition we have established.  And every single attendee gets a Paper Plate Award.  They are meant to be sometimes meaningful, sometimes teasing, always fun and given in a spirit of the loving EX bonds between us.   I wish I'd taken pictures of everyone's Paper Plate Award, so if you have pictures of anyone's Paper Plate Award, please post it in the comments below.  

Thank you to Kathy (Strudel) for her hard work and her wonderful "Story of the Starfish"-themed Brunch.  She worked so hard and is so creative!  Here is her agenda for this year's Brunch.

Jojo, at her first-ever EX Get-Together.  Her Paper Plate Award was the "It's About Darn Time You Came" Award.  Behind jojo (from left) is Jennifer, Shawn and Rick (notice Rick on the phone; it's a recurring theme.  Love you, Rick!)

Jim was happier than he looks in this pic.  Needed more coffee, I guess.  In the background (from left) Mark Admin, Brenda M, Ellen (Elvan) and Pops at the far right.

The hard-working IT team of (from left) Laura (Michwoman) and Pattycake and Tommy (Pir8fan).  I think we called these folks the Audio Visual Geeks back in the 60's/70's, didn't we?   Laura and Patty made sure that the Skyping with Giulia and Dale went smoothly.  Tommy gave moral support!

Our Skype Celebrities!  Giulia on the left and Dale on the right.  At one point, Dale's eyes were closed and he wasn't answering us when we spoke to him...we thought we'd bored him to sleep!  Turns out the screen was just frozen.  It's my dream to get Dale to one of our EX Get-Togethers.  And to get Giulia back again to another one (she was at EX3 in Nashville).

Laura (Michwoman) reading her comments during "The Reading of the Blogs and Comments".  Others in the picture (from left) Jackie, Megan Admin, Pat, Nancy (wearing Tommy's hat), Tommy.  That's the back of Jim's (Freeneasy) head.

(From left) Ellen (elvan), Donna (DJ), Jackie, Nancy (wearing Pops' hat this time; she's a hat-stealer!), and Pat at the far right.  I can't fathom why no one was smiling.  I suspect it was because I took the photo during a first-time attendee tearfully reading their first blog out loud.  I guarantee you it sure wasn't because we weren't having a great time!

Pop's getting his Paper Plate Award.  He was still a few days out, but I gave him his key to The 6% Club anyway. (Over Pop's shoulder: Megan Admin and Pat)

Sharon (Shashort) receiving her Paper Plate Award for entering the The 6% Club a few days earlier.  Her key was not attached to the paper plate like Pops' key was; Sharon's key came on a string of pearls to wear around her neck!  I LOVE this picture of Sharon!  (New avatar, Sharon??)

And here's Pat receiving her 6% Club Paper Plate Award.  She had, like Sharon, attained the one-year status that gets you into The 6% Club just a few days prior to EX5.  It's hard to see in this picture, but Pat's key came on a gold braid keychain with a glittery lime green and aqua keytag that said "6%" (except that we didn't notice the wrong side was turned to the camera when we took the pic.  Oops).  Again, I'm thinking this should be Pat's new avatar, maybe?  (A smiling Megan Admin in the back).

Jim's (Freeneasy) Paper Plate Award was the "You Light Up Our Lives" Award.  Those are strings of tiny colored lights on his plate.  Just look at his grin!  Jim, you are so adorable!  See you next year, for sure, right?

(From left) Jennifer with her "925 Miles" Paper Plate Award, given because she came the furthest to attend EX5.  I think she'd say it was definitely worth the trip.  Shawn with her "What a Soft Heart" Paper Plate Award.  There is a small, very soft, furry kitty glued to her plate.  Maybe if you zoom in, you can make it out.  Rick with his Paper Plate Award.  I had to admit to the group, when giving out this last paper plate, I had run out of stickers, gimmicks and clever ideas...but one sticker that said "CRAZY!" caught my eye.  Somehow it seemed appropriate for dear Rick.  So I gave him the "You Are Crazy & We All Love You" Paper Plate Award, loaded with all the leftover stickers and plastic stuff I had left.  Forgive me, Rick.  I promise you a better Paper Plate Award next year, ok?

Here's the aftermath of creating the Paper Plate Awards.  The hotel housekeeper was truly confused.  I sent her away.

Because the hotel wouldn't allow us to serve food at the Brunch, everyone received two sparkly starfish sugar cookies on their way out the door.  I broke mine, but took a picture anyway.

Here are some better pictures of the starfish cookies.

Lastly, this is the logo on this year's t-shirts.  This is the proof sent by the embroiderer, but the actual shirts were a dark beige and the final thread color was a little less aqua, more blue.  Sand and Ocean Water color-theme, get it?


These Brunches are my favorite part of EX Get-Togethers.  I can't wait for EX6.  xxxooo,  Sky

When I first found EX (which was a completely random Google miracle), I wasn't even sure I wanted to quit yet.

And yet, here I am, a successful Quitter.

Why? Because when I came to EX, I could see that there were people here who had already achieved what I thought that I maybe, sort of, kinda wanted to do.  These people were ex-smokers and I was still a smoker. They had something to share. I should listen.

I accepted that. And I DID listen.

I read what they told me to read (even if it seemed stupid and simplistic.) 


I read blogs.  I responded to the people who reached out to welcome me and to just talk.

I did the tracking exercises offered here on EX. I learned that, even though I smugly thought I already understood my triggers (phone, car, coffee...duh), I had one MAJOR trigger that I had never before understood. (It was my patio). Many smokers have unconscious triggers that they are completely unaware of!

I did the separation exercises offered here on EX. Yes, I felt stupid (and I'm embarassed to admit it) superior when doing these exercises. But, holy cow.  I cannot tell you how scary it was to walk out of my door on a trip to the grocery store, leaving my cigarettes behind ON PURPOSE.  I remember standing next to the dining room table with my car keys in hand, looking at that pack of cigarettes sitting there...and telling myself that I was only going to be away from my cigarettes for about one hour.  And not knowing if I could actually do that.  I did it, though.  And how incredibly empowering it felt to make that trip to the grocery store and back again without lighting up in the car...and (surprise!) NOT dying for want of a cigarette during for that one hour.   The preparation for quitting is so important.  But I'm getting ahead of myself...

There's been some discussion here lately about whether or not you have to WANT to quit in order to be a successful Quitter. Here's the thing, folks. You don't have to come here with the absolute conviction that you are ready to quit. But think about this:  You wouldn't have found your way to EX if you didn't already have the "seed" growing in your brain.

You DO have to come here knowing that you want to learn how to quit.  STOP.  Read the next paragraph.


Well, actually, that's not true at all---you just have to come here to explore, to read, to keep coming back.  If you do, you may eventually be OPEN to what you read here.  And find that you've gained whatever it is that YOU need to actually quit.   Try to be willing to respond to the people that reach out to you. Iif you blog that you are considering, thinking about, dreading, worrying about actually quitting, people here WILL respond.  We WILL reach out to you and help you.   Newcomers to EX are wanted, noticed, encouraged and advised.  Nobody will force you or push you.  We will respond to where you are in your head at every step.  


It's really normal here if you can't (yet) see yourself having a satisfying, even HAPPY life without cigarettes.  I don't know any successful Quitter who came here who could already confidently and easily see their life without smoking.


What happens on this site for most people is that the "tiny seed" I mentioned above actually takes root and begins to grow.  You don't even have to WANT it to grow.  If you stay with us on this site and read and maybe blog, and make connections with people, that desire to quit smoking may just grow...

Here is an important truth to understand:

 YOUR NICOTINE ADDICTION IS NO STRONGER OR HARDER TO BEAT THAN ANYONE ELSE who has ever come here to EX and been successful. (Hate to say it this way,'re not special. Nicotine is a equal opportunity addiction.)

You CAN do this. When you are ready to stop leaning on cigarettes, lean on EX. We are real people, not a burning stick of dried leaves. We will give you the emotional support that you THINK you've been getting from cigarettes.

xxxooo, Sky