Most of us celebrate an anniversary of some sort. Of course, anniversaries marking milestone years of nuptial bliss are the most noted.
Most anniversaries mark some moment associated with love – first date, marriage proposal, 10th year of marriage to the same person and on and on.
I also have a milestone anniversary to celebrate on May 20, the day I quit smoking, two years ago.
With February designated American Heart Month, I thought I might share how my love affair with cigarettes began, how it ended after 45 years and how I’m feeling nearly two years after the breakup.
As a junior in high school, I was crazy about one of the senior “bad boys.” He smoked menthol cigarettes and had me try one when we were together. I wanted him to like me so…
It wasn’t love at first sight with that cigarette. My dad hated smoking. His father died from it.
I coughed and coughed with that first inhalation. I tried it again another day and even threw up. So, I had to work at developing the addiction.
But once it got hold of me, I became smitten, obsessive. Like many, I couldn’t wait to have one, then two, then three and as many as four one right after another to “calm my nerves.”
Nothing seemed to complement a cocktail, steak or dessert better than a cigarette.
By my freshman year in college, I was up to a pack a day and by my senior year, sometimes that pack was unfiltered Camels.
My one rule was, unless I was drinking alcohol, I would never smoke more than one pack a day. Mind you, I was a polite smoker, always stepping outside behind my workplace and hiding the habit. About 10 years ago, my former boss was an ex-smoker and hounded me every time took a “smoke break.” I stopped smoking at work probably six years ago, but made up for it in the morning and evening at home. Remember, the nicotine tobacco is highly addictive.
When I moved into my house nine years ago, I didn’t want to smoke it up, so I confined my addiction to an unheated side porch. Throughout those cigarette-filled years, I frequently came down with pneumonia and bronchitis. A couple of times, these two ailments landed me in the hospital for longer than an overnight stay.
During the winter of 2016, I found myself having a cigarette despite what my lungs were telling me. I’d inhale, hack, inhale, hack, until I started hearing my physician’s voice say, “You’re killing yourself.”
Determined not to spend the $5 a day I couldn’t afford anymore on the darned things, I decided to quit for good.
I asked my pastor to say a blessing for me to help me with the process. He chose a fairly long blessing that honed in on breaking addictions. Thanks, Fr. Grell.
I went home that Sunday night, May 20, and quit cold turkey. And for the next one year and nine months
I haven’t had a cigarette nor been tempted to buy a pack, which is a good choice economically and healthwise, considering these startling facts from BeTobaccoFreeGov.
- More than 16 million people already have at least one disease from smoking.
- More than 20 million Americans have died because of smoking since 1964, including approximately 2.5 million deaths due to exposure to secondhand smoke.
- 8.6 million people live with a serious illness caused by smoking.
- On average, smokers die 13 to 14 years earlier than nonsmokers.
- Nearly 9 out of 10 lung cancers are caused by smoking. Smokers today are much more likely to develop lung cancer than smokers were in 1964.
- Smoking increases a person’s risk of getting tuberculosis and dying from it.
If you’d like to quit, but don’t think the cold turkey method is for you, explore alternatives with your physician.
I can only testify that in the past two years, my bouts with bronchitis and pneumonia have come to an end. My energy level throughout the day is higher and I fall asleep faster at night.
My clothes and belongings do not reek of cigarette smell anymore and I’m not constantly taking showers and washing my hair to get the smell off of me. My teeth are whiter and it takes the dental hygienist much less time to clean them on my bi-annual visits.
Best of all, I no longer have to listen to non-smokers lecture me on the harms of smoking when I’m out and about just trying to enjoy life. Because if most smokers are like I was, the last thing we want is a lecture. Lectures just make people like me want to light up.
Believe it or not, every smoker knows how harmful it is to give up this love life. Cigarettes are there when others aren’t. When life is crummy, cigarettes are friends, right?
And yet, a true friend never wishes you harm let alone leads you to an early grave.
Consider making Feb. 8 your first-day anniversary without cigarettes. You may find yourself falling in love with life again.