Last month, I had my 13th anniversary of when I quit smoking. YAY! I am sort of still surprised that I have been at it successfully all this time. It hasn’t been an easy road. Those first few hours into days seemed to last forever..then the weeks into months..they were maddening. It was tough. Too tough most times. But, to break any type of habit it’s supposed to be hard.
I had started smoking at a real young age, about 10yr. My two older sisters were smokers at the time, they were about 14yr and 15yr, and I wanted to be just like them. Everything they were into, I was into. So, smoking was one of those things. It started with anytime they’d flick a butt off the front porch. I’d sneak after it. Pretend puffing away, till it became real inhaling. Then I went onto ‘borrowing’ cigarettes out of their packs when their backs were turned. How stupid of me! I ended up buying packs on my own soon around the time I was 11yr or 12yr. Cigarettes were super cheap then, too! I think my first pack cost $.89!! So, instead of spending my money buying the Fun-Dip for a few days, I’d grab a pack of Marlboro. I think I was buying a pack every month by then. But I never told anyone I had picked up the habit, cause I knew my parents would kill me. Literally. And my sisters would give me some ass backward lecture to not smoke. I ended up coming clean, much later. I think I might have been 18yr.
Fast forward to 13 yrs AGO… When I finally did quit for good. I did it cold turkey. Going cold turkey is the toughest way to quit. And, this method is not for everyone. Just worked out for me somehow. My husband and I were dating at the time, about three and a half years into our relationship. He absolutely hated the fact that I was a smoker. And he told me often; to the point of annoyance. I tried quitting for him at the beginning of our relationship, too, but all attempts were failures. I kept enabling myself to smoke in the end somehow. I did a lot of hiding the fact that I went back to smoking when I made those attempts to quit, too, but everyone found out in the end. There was only so much perfume or hand wipes to mask the smell of cigarettes. Each time, he told me he loved me no matter what, but he really wanted me to quit for health reasons. I did try to stop a few times for him, with all my might. But I just wasn’t ready to quit for someone else, I wanted to do it for myself cause I wanted to.
I thought smoking was sexy! Especially, French inhaling- exhaling from the mouth and inhaling up the nose.
And one day I did quit. I was starting to grow tired of cigarettes for some reason, but that happened to me occasionally. They’d lose their appeal for a while, then I was an all out obsessive smoker. Except one morning, in my tired of cigarettes phase, I woke up thinking how I should just quit while I am unimpressed. I was rolling with thoughts, like, how I didn’t want cigarettes or smoking to define who I was, or that it would kill me, or be the cause of a loved one’s death. It was so difficult to think that something, an object like a cigarette, became such a part of me and so hard to stop being around. Especially something so terrible for me. One of the biggest factors in my quitting was that I had a fear. Real, in my gut, fear. To die. To get sick. Or to hurt the people I loved with my smoking. It all manifested together. I guess being tired of cigarettes at that moment was a much better phase than I realized. Cause I tore up the pack of cigarettes, with 14 still in the pack!! Flushed them down the toilet, and walked away from the ideas, ideals, and desires.
In these 13 years, I thought of smoking a great deal; I am human after all. There are still temptations around me. There are days I am so stressed I think a cigarette would help. Or, while I am driving on a warm day with my windows down. The smell of someone’s lit cigarette wafts by me. I take in the warm, familiar scent..then cringe at how much I still like that smell. It’s a love hate feeling. But still, temptations are there, I just ignore them better by keeping mind of the implications of smoking. Some tactics I use is to think about all those sobering cigarette commercials with the people using voice boxes, or that are missing parts of their face, throat or worse cause of smoking. Those commercials are great at deterring you from picking up a cigarette. Also, I would think about the many times my husband would take me to the Museum of Science’s lung exhibit; which I think is powerful. Side by side are preserved lungs, a healthy one and one riddled with cancer/emphysema. So gross to see the tar and literal charring on the lungs. But a very powerful tool if you want to make a point.
As I sit here thinking about how long I smoked, I am floored. Fourteen years! I was just a baby when I started. What did I know about smoking at 10yr? NOTHING, except I saw it as socially acceptable and idealized it cause of my sisters. I was so naive; so so dumb. I wish I never smoked a day. That was 14 years of cigarettes–from Marlboro Red, Unfiltered Camel, Menthol, Beedi (Hindu/Indian cigarettes), Misty, American Spirit, and then my biggest love, Parli Lights. Oh, and a few dozen cigars along the way, too. Fourteen years of constant smoke breaks. It was 14 years of getting winded climbing two flights of stairs. Fourteen years of my nails, fingertips, and teeth stained. Fourteen years of hanging out with smokers. Fourteen years of a horrific cough with every cold. Fourteen years sneaking cigarettes in some fashion. Fourteen years of me looking like it was a good idea for someone else to start smoking (which I know I have pushed a few cigarettes on some from my childhood-so sorry!!). Fourteen years of smelling like cigarettes. Fourteen years of money spent on being stupid. Fourteen years of damage that I hope reversed itself by now, or causes no harm to me in the end. Oye. What a mess.
I am not writing this to be all pro quitting to harp on people’s backs about smoking. No lectures from me. You smoke, that is your prerogative completely. We all know the issues of smoking in this day and age; we are all informed. I wanted to share this, like most of my personal stories, because someone is out there struggling, or, thinking they cannot do another day. Just know, it is hard but you get through it. You have to fight for what you want in life. And it gets better!! With time, patience and persistence.
Here is to the rest of my life.