I don’t remember how I started, Im sure it was my way to claim some kind of independence as an early teen, thinking I looked cool, thinking I was making some kind of statement about how I felt about my parents (not good), thinking it helped me fit in to a crowd I was perhaps better off not having had fit in with.
I cant say I didn’t enjoy my habit. Throughout my twenties it was my best friend, my me time, my party accessory, my private consoler when times got tough (a break up, a break down, a 20 something period of angst or self created drama) It wasn’t until my mid thirties that I started to have disdain for the habit. The world had changed, smoking was no longer allowed in bars and restaurants…or anywhere for that matter. For a short time businesses scared of losing money built separate rooms, closed off from the people who didn’t want to cut short their lives or reek of the toxins being expelled from the unhealthy lungs of others. These rooms were, for lack of a better word, repulsive. They stank. Badly. They were enough to make a smoker want to quit (which is not, as every smoker knows, the same thing as being ready to do so).
By my late thirties (a good 20 years into my habit) smoking had begun to take a noticeable toll on me. I was always tired, my skin was not the healthiest of colors, my teeth were yellowing despite a rather committed regimen of whitening toothpaste and various bleaching trays/strips. I also started seeing the toll it took on my fellow smokers, my friends who were just as much in bondage as myself, the strangers outside in the dead of winter, anxiously trying to suck back on their cigarettes just enough to kill the craving before frost bite set in.
There was a commonality amongst smokers over the age of 40….we looked unhealthy, we smelled unhealthy, we sounded unhealthy (with our raspy voices and our speech often interrupted by unexpected bits of phlegm expulsion from our weary lungs). I don’t want to overgeneralize, but we were also out of shape (it is almost impossible to be a person who loves themselves enough to adhere to a consistent workout schedule and put efforts into eating well and living right and also be a smoker, it is simply inconsistent with a self-love state of mind)
Over the years I have managed to overcome many things, some quite naturally as the obsessive nature of youth fell away. I have kicked my addiction to love (being a hopeless romantic is not as pretty as it sounds), I have gotten past a pretty detrimental eating disorder (though I would think twice before leaving your cinnamon bun unattended with me in the room) and I have championed over other addictions that Im not quite ready to reveal to anyone but my therapist yet…smoking seemed to be my final frontier….
Heres the thing….the thing smokers don’t know, the thing I didn’t know until one day I just knew it…and it changed everything. We are who we decide to be. Yes quitting smoking is hard…but it is so much easier than thinking yourself so weak that you cannot end it. Whatever pleasure is derived from smoking, the bottom line, is it is an abusive relationship. It has you believing you are too weak to leave, it has you believing your life will not be the same without it. No one smokes anymore because they love smoking, they smoke because they fear what their lives will be without it. Smokers have decided they are smokers. They have decided that they cannot picture their lives without it. They believe that without cigarettes there will be nothing to comfort them, nothing to calm them, no joy in coffee, or wine for that matter….and whatever is there to do after sex? Some people wont quit smoking because they don’t want to gain weight, others because they don’t want to crave for a moment something they cant have…it seems cruel.
Lets “clear the smoke” so that we can see things clearly…yes, you might gain some weight , I did, I also lost it, and will continue to get even more fit now that I can run, now that I can breathe. Coffee and wine…will ALWAYS be good, actually better as you can relax while enjoying it rather than feel the anxiety of fitting a cigarette into the equation (for the record, I don’t know a worse smell than coffee/cigarette breath). Waking up becomes a delightful experience, no sore throat, no dreariness, a clarity of mind I did not have as a smoker, and an excitement to begin a day free of any addiction. I did not have to rummage to find my cigarettes, did not have to curse as I get into my car and start driving to realize their not in my purse. I am in control of me, and I am beaming…because I know, I am taking care of myself. There is no better feeling than knowing you are your own best friend, that to the best of your ability you are treating yourself kindly, you are honouring your health, you are actively participating in your own health and well being.
I boil it down to this….once upon a time I made a decision to smoke, I was uninformed, rebellious, full of the false immortality of youth. Today, I decide NOT to smoke (because I can) because Im an adult now, and I am informed, and I don’t want rebellion I want love, and I know Im not immortal, and I want to be, choose to be, healthy. I realized smoking was a selfish choice, that I owed it to my nephew, my sister, my friends, hell… my dog, to put out that cigarette…to not be the person whose risky behaviour could inadvertently bring sadness into the lives of those who love me. I don’t want my dreams cut short because I believed a lie that I could not choose otherwise. I cant in good faith hear stories of women fighting breast cancer, children with Lukemia, etc…and then be so unaffected, so ungrateful for my own health that I light a cigarette.
This is my journey, and these are my reasons and I do not judge anyone for their habits or addictions. I am frustrated by the ones I love who still do take to their cigarettes, I see their lives so ill affected by an inability to see how easily they could end their addiction just by believing that they can…but then….there I was, not long ago, inhaling like that nicotine was more precious than air….and I don’t know what changed, I don’t know why I suddenly understood, but I have never been more grateful, I have never felt so free, or proud. I pray daily all my loved ones do the same. I hope something I may have written here can help. Nothing good comes easy, quitting smoking is no exception, but my God, if we only knew the power we had, if we only tapped into it, we would see smoking for what it is, the biggest lie weve ever been sold (which is worse than “told” as we pay for the privilege of making ourselves sick). “If we did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.” -Thomas Edison