Saturday, July 5, 2008

When it comes to smoking, it’s time I come clean



After years of talking about it, I’m finally doing it.  The night before last, right before bed I went outside for my “last smoke of the day” and I have no idea why, but a little voice inside of me said “This is the last time I’ll do this.  I’m done.”   It’s been 48 hours, and after 25 years of smoking (and never going more than a couple hours without one), I just went 48 hours smoke-free.

Actually, something has happened earlier this week that's given me the courage to finally speak up about it, and real hope where I didn't believe hope existed before.

The Personal Facts

  • I've been a smoker since late 1979, at the age of 17.  I've always smoked a pack (20 cigs) a day, sometimes more, never less.  (I did switch to a light cigarette years ago & never went back to anything heavier, but still--a pack a day.)
  • I'm obsessed about the smell, and wash my hands and chew on mints after each & every one.  Every winter my hands crack and bleed from the excessive washing.
  • I avoid smoking around other people, & I don't smoke before I get on the bus (so I won't smell of tobacco on my way to or from my job).
  • I've never smoked in my car or my apartment.  Not once. 
  • As long as I can remember, I've always felt the same way about smoking; ashamed that I engage in such a dirty & dangerous habit, but absolute panic at the thought of quitting.

    It seems that at least once a month, someone in my life (both recently met or whom I've been acquainted with for awhile) will discover I'm a smoker & say "Doug, you smoke??  Omigod I can't believe it--you're not the type!"   I'm never sure what that means, but nonetheless, I've always felt that way about myself too.



    The vegetable drawer in my  refrigerator is where I store my 'secret stash' of Basic Lights


    For years, I blamed others (besides myself) for the habit.  My mom & dad were both smokers, but in the 60's & 70's, it was such a different time; the dangers were known, but it just wasn't looked down on like it is today.   They never blew it in our faces, but didn't rush outside to have one either.  Emptying ashtrays (or even 'picking up their smokes' for them at the grocery store) was just a way of life.



    My best friend Dan, at our farmhouse


    My best friend Dan (who from the age of 16 was already a fairly heavy smoker) would occasionally offer me one.  No pressure, none of that crap.  Sometimes I took one when we were running around, sometimes not.  They never seemed to affect me.  And when Dan wasn't around, I didn't think about 'em.

    I honestly will never forget the day it actually started.  Friday, June 08, 1979.  I worked weekends at my first 'after-school job', The Old Southern Pancake & Steak House.  When business was slow, the staff would all gather in the back of the restaurant & eat pancakes and tell jokes.  And on that fateful night, when one of the waitresses (Brenda) offered me a cigarette, I said sure & was happily puffing away when she said:  "How come you don't inhale?" 

    I had no idea what she meant--I thought you just twirled it around in your mouth for a bit & then blew it out.   After that first inhale, I got really dizzy and nearly retched.  One week later I bought my first pack.



    Me, around 20 years old.  Idiot!

    When I went to my parents & admitted I was smoking, my mom wearily said "Well, we knew one of you kids would pick up the habit..."   God, how I wish they had kicked my ass instead!


    A Couple Quirky Apache-Facts

    • In all the years I've been smoking, I only tried quitting once--in April 1988.  I was preparing to move to Pittsburgh that summer to go to school, & didn't want anyone knowing I was once a smoker.   I didn't last 2 days.
    • I've only dated one girl who smoked, Charlotte C. in the early 80s;  and a few years ago, I was with my last girlfriend for nearly two months before she discovered my 'secret'.  (Needless to say, she was not impressed or amused...)


    But last week while watching 'foreign tv' on YouTube, I came across a couple interesting commercials about something called "e-smoking".  

    The device originated in China just last year--it had a phenomenal success rate, and it's yet to make a ripple in America, but I suspect it's going to be huge here.  Normally I'm very cynical about such things, and would've shrugged my shoulders and said "Bah, another gimmick"... but I just have a gut feeling about this.  I’ve been reading account after account (on various smokers message boards) from smokers who were surprising themselves by losing the desire for real cigarettes.  

    I was more curious than hopeful; I thought I might be able to cut 4 or 5 cigarettes from my daily habit of 20+.  I received it this past Monday, 5 days ago.  And since then, I haven't smoked more than 5 or 6 cigarettes in the last several days.  And I’ve now gone two days without a single cigarette.  I can’t believe it.



    Yikes!  Trying to avoid this early grave...

    FYI, here's how to tell the difference between a non-smoker and a smoker.  Tell a 'non' this, & you hear "that's nice" or "well, you're just trading one addiction for another".  Tell a smoker, and you’ll get "OMIGOD, REALLY?  REALLY??!"

    The after-effects (all beneficial) have been pretty quick, it seems.  I am constantly surprised at:  1) how much better I seem to be breathing 2) how much less I am coughing 3) how clean my hands and clothes smell 4) how much I am NOT thinking of real cigarettes.

    And in particular, for the first time since I was a teenager, how much guilt I am suddenly not carrying.  This device is pretty remarkable; it's more satisfying than I even dared hope.

    I'm still not sure what's going to happen next; to be honest, I wasn't planning to quit smoking altogether, just cut down some.  But (for the first time ever) a life without fire and smoke... it doesn't seem so far-fetched.


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