Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Today I was reading a friend's facebook status. He was posting about the recent death of a friend's father from lung cancer. The friend was giving away stuff after and gave him some packs of his dad's cigarettes. As he put it, dripping with nicotine and irony, he was smoking a dead man's cigarettes. Addicts are funny that way. I probably would have done it, and felt creepy about it, but done it anyway. Because addicts will do just about anything for that addiction. We will justify whatever we need to do or say to get it. It's been nine years. Nine years. And I don't want a cigarette when I used to want to cut off a body part to get one. But now it makes me curl my lip and turn away. I hate them. Hate the smell, hate being around them. It's not as bad when I'm outside with the smokers but generally the smell just nauseates me. How did I get this way? From a die hard pack a day smoker with a heck of an addiction to someone who loathes the sight of them... Self hypnosis, I think. I had long and difficult realizations about how much cigarettes, the evil monkey, controlled my life and told me what to do and when to do it. It was one of the hardest things I ever did in my life, quitting for good. But when I made the decision, I was able to stay with it and be done. Finally. Because I quit like four or five times before, but it had not been a permanent thing. It's a mind set shift. My final quit went like this...I was pregnant so I HAD to quit. I did it every time I was pregnant but I knew this time that this was my last pregnancy so I may as well quit for good. I had a pain in my chest every time I inhaled and I knew this was only going to get worse. And even though I was pregnant and didn't want to be forced to quit, I knew inside that it was time. And that if I went back after I had the baby, it would be totally stupid. Get it done now. I gave myself about two weeks to quit and I tried the whole... okay all the cigarettes are gone but it just did not work. I became neurotic as hell and went out and bought more. Even though I was only smoking one or two a day at the end, just the safety net of knowing I could get to them seemed to calm me. So, I tried to get through one day without them, just set a goal of one day. I kept about five cigarettes in my bedside drawer. Just in case I was losing my mind. I counted the hours away from them. Told myself I could make it one hour, then one day, then one week. I forgot about them, eventually. I had been telling myself in my head every negative thing in the world that they had done for me. I smiled at the thought of going on an airplane and not thinking about them the whole time. Flying all the way to Australia without a nicotine fit. Not having to step outside in the snow and cold to smoke. The thought of my hair smelling sweet again. Waking up in the morning and not coughing for ten minutes. Not having to leave the party and the conversation I was enjoying. Finishing my thoughts without the monkey nagging at me. Being able to smell fresh cookies baking and the subtle scent of flowers in the next room. I thought to myself, what am I giving up but prison? I am giving up monkey jail. I am taking back my life, my freedom, the person I am, not the person I am with cigarettes. I no longer need them to feel less shy, less awkward, more cool. It was me there all the time, not them. I found those cigarettes in the drawer some years later and I laughed and tossed them out. Because I no longer needed them, no longer wanted them. That quit was nine years ago. I have zero desire to have a cigarette. No temptation. And I realized that what I really found in all of this was ME. This is why I don't drink really. Because I enjoy being my authentic self. Because I am fun, I am lively, I am enough. But somehow I did not know I was enough when I was a kid and I used cigarettes to ease the awkwardness, to fit in, to have something to do with my hands and to mask the confidence I did not have. I had always quit before with the pregnancy and a temporary promise. To quit... until I was done carrying the baby. I could do anything on a temporary basis. As soon as it was only me, I went right back to the monkey. I had to find a way to change me. To find me. To convince me that I was worth saving all on my own. I would never let anyone boss me around like cigarettes did. When I realized that, I was free. I know it is over for good now. I love that. But I also know that others have to find their own path. At first, I tried to share this miracle secret. It worked for me, it will work for you. Hmmm, probably not so much. People have to find their own path to everything important and personal. If this story helps someone, I do hope it does but I realize now that my method was not the ultimate cure for anyone but me. I wish luck out there for anyone that is going through this right now.


Jules said...

Hi I held you're words for a moment, "you never let anyone boss you around like cigarettes did". I see how I am Marlboros bitch, I want so much to imagine existing without them, I dont want to smell bad, but really I want those tiny blood vessels that carry fresh blood to my bodies joints to be able to do just that. I don't want to be the reason or cause of my misery. I want so much to find this path you tread so many years ago and I want to be rid of the desire to pollute my vessel for a fix. Thank you for writing this. Where are you I see no posts in 2015?

BowlingTrophyWife said...

Struggling with that same issue right now and it stymies me - we grew up with a three pack a day smoker. Mom started in her late twenties and smoked her last cigarette on the day she died, December 31st, 2007. The last time I saw her was a visit to her apartment, three weeks earlier and it was all I could do to stay with her without losing my mind. On oxygen, wearing a pacemaker, nearly blind - she was up to four packs a day. When we went in to try to sort through the apartment four days later, everything reeked. We packed up her things and put them in storage - my brother was living in Guam, I was in St. Louis and it would be nearly three years before those belongings saw the light of day. In 2010 when the door was raised on our storage unit, the odor was unbelievable - pillows, furniture, comforters - everything. That's the power of this damned addiction. I know full well what it does to the human body - watched Mom's decline over a period of 15 years, first into COPD, then full blown emphysema, early to late stage heart disease, oxygen tanks, heart attacks, congestive heart failure and the insertion of a pace-maker. Nothing even brought her close to quitting - not the vicious arguments with our father, during our lifetime, not being pregnant and raising two children, not the pets who died of cancer (I'll always believe our dogs to have been horribly affected, dying relatively early) - and for whatever horrible reason(s) it wasn't the smoking that killed her. For a long time, I thought i'd dodged the bullet of that particular addiction. At thirty, following a harrowing divorce, I took up nicotine for a few years, then quit for ten - simply cutting it out cold turkey and believing wholeheartedly that I was done. Like you, I detest the odor of cigarette smoke, loathe waking every morning with breath that reeks like the bottom of a parrot's cage. I handled a lot of stress without using alcohol, drugs or cigarettes and in my line of work as a 911 dispatcher and report editor, began to feel a bit smug about my ability to perform competently and with the necessary detachment to write about horrific events day after day. I don't know what the actual catalyst was that had me reaching for cigarettes again but it began with Mom's last descent into physical/mental illness in 2005 and her suicide in 2007. It literally seemed to occur overnight - and I was soon back up to two packs a day. While I have always had little sympathy in the past for those who blamed their addictions on a partner, it didn't help that my then domestic relationship was with a three-pack a day user; so much for smugness. I ditched the partner two and a half years ago but haven't been able to let go of the cigarettes. I'm down to a pack a week - actually quit entirely for two months until last month - I don't want to go into the details. I'm at the point where I realize that I"m merely looking for excuses - a hangnail would have me lighting up. I also don't want to cop to the "addiction runs in my family" and abuse factor, either - addiction runs rampant - I've a sibling 38 years sober from cocaine and alcohol. At the age of 55, I'm tired of pointing backwards at 'that' cause or 'that' event and looking for reason(s) to hurt myself and as I said at the start, I'm stymied, this 'need' despite all the intellectual understanding in the world and years of therapy - this need to continue to damage myself. I've dodged other bullets - for 55 years old, I've no real physical complaints and my blood pressure, heart rate and etc are terrific but I know the "Gods" probably won't beam down on me for much longer. I applaud your letting go of it and take to heart the idea of allowing the substance to control my actions- Tonight, I had my last one. I do not intend to kid myself by grandly announcing that I've quit for good - I merely have to get through this night.