Smokers: the butt of the joke.

I’ve never been one for making New Years Resolutions. I find them helpful, at least in theory, but I think too many people use them half-heartedly. To quit smoking. To lose weight. Exercise. Save money. You catch my drift. All excellent ideas in theory, but once placed in the realm of reality they fizzle out like a campfire in the rain. A resolution requires a whole lot of dedication. TOTAL dedication, in fact, in order for it to succeed. I don’t care what you think, I know. Half-assed attempts are doomed to fail.

I read this cartoon first thing this morning and have reprinted it below. The last panel gets cut off due to spacial constraints – click and you will see it in full. It is worth clicking.

As a former smoker – 10 years, a pack a day – let me tell you, if I hadn’t damn well WANTED to quit when I had, I’d still be smoking today. Why? B/c I enjoyed it. I Liked Smoking. The ritual of smoking. The custom. The timing. I liked it ALL. I had an infinite array of excuses for when and why and where to smoke. Most of them self-prescribed. Many of them social. and all very fun. Meet a friend outside. Stop & smoke. Finish a sandwich. Light up. Drive someplace. Pass the time. Go out drinking. Smoke, smoke, SMOKE!

Unfortunately I never liked the add-ons you get with smoking. The expense. The stench. The staining. The little burnt holes in my [YOU NAME IT]. I was a prisoner to my addiction. Smoking is a vile disgusting habit, let no one persuade you otherwise. Back in the day it was at least a cheaper vice, but nowadays it’s unbelievably expensive. And you will be poorer for it in oh so many ways. Your health, for instance. Yes, you can convince yourself it’s *only smoking*, no big deal, but have you ever known someone with emphysema? My father-in-law has it and it is BAD. He still smokes. He will likely be one of those patients smoking outside a hospital out of their neck hole. If cancer doesn’t claim him first.

Use all the breath mints and perfume you want, you will still smell like an ashtray. This may account for why smokers gravitate toward each other. Not just for commonality, sociality and safety, but for the most practical reason. Would YOU want to kiss that if you didn’t already reek yourself? BLLEECH. Not me. I am forever thankful that I quit smoking when I did, b/c my husband would never have gone out with me had I not. John abhors smoking. Understandable. since he’s had to deal with second-hand smoke since before birth. And lost his mother to cancer while still a child.

He points it out to me, wherever we go. Parents or grandparents smoking with their children. Walking down the street, playing in the park, doing everyday things with their kids WHILE SMOKING. And yes, it does look weird seeing a mom push her kid on the swing while puffing away. I guess I just hadn’t thought much about it. The worst is when we’re driving and John spots a parent in the car next to us smoking with their child/ren. And even worse is when the parent/s is smoking in the car, the kids are not seat-belted AND all the windows are rolled up. I call that the 3-way whammy. If there was any way for him to direct dial Health & Human Services, I think John would have them in his Top 5. This man literally dreams of legislation making second-hand smoke at home a crime.

Everywhere across the US (save in the Big Tobacco South) smokers are no longer tolerated. They ARE the modern day pariahs. The drug-addled junkies at the Methadone clinic up the street are treated with more respect. Smokers have been banned from pretty much everywhere – except casinos. And BOY isn’t that a treat? Even given my big win weeks ago – we still all know gambling’s for chumps. SURE YOU CAN SMOKE! Just step inside, light up and hand over your wallet, schmucko. So where are the smokers, circa 2008? Why, they’re huddled outside, in every type of weather, shivering or sweating, looking hurried and harried, puffing away. It’s pathetic. And I should know, b/c that used to be me.

And now? Well I am a person who understands the plight of smokers, who has walked the line, but now I am a mother. B/c of that, my perspective on many things has changed. I watched John’s cousin smoking at our wedding years ago. It still bothers me. Not the smoking itself, but the fact that she was pregnant at the time. I guess for me, it’s one thing to ruin your own body – it’s your’s after all, but it’s really unjust to do it to someone else. I am really frank w/ my own children (no surprise there). I tell them that I used to smoke. I describe what an awful addiction it is, what it does to your body in the short term, what it can do to your body in the longer term. I tell them that one day it will be their choice to make. I am not naively waiting for their school or the government to tell them the facts. I know one day, some stupid kid is going to offer them a cigarette. Then it will be up to them.

I look at life differently now than when I was 15. Back then, I didn’t understand the bigger picture. I thought I did, and yes, I had a good foundation to build on.  But now that I am an adult, I see life for what it really is. A series of choices, trials and triumphs, shaping us into who we are. I view my body, not as I did at 15 (something to work for ME), but as a vessel I inhabit for a too-short time. Once my body falls apart, that’s it. I don’t have another, and I am done. My spirit, my soul – the part of me that is real – will no longer have a place to reside, and I will pass away. Hopefully to a far better place. Until then, I have to do my best to take care of this weary shell. b/c it’s the only one I’ve got.

My best advice to those who want to quit smoking? Quit. Just DO IT. If you do not WANT to smoke, you do not have to. No one wants you to except those in your life who still smoke, and the Tobacco companies. They are the only ones benefiting from your continued addiction. Quitting will not be easy. Nothing worth anything ever is. But it will make you stronger. Physically, psychologically, spiritually. Quitting is no fun. You will get headaches. You will feel sick. You will not feel like yourself. Good. You will know you are breaking your addiction. When I quit 10 years ago, I made a pact with God. I said God, I do not want to smoke. If you are real and you really do care about me, then damn well help me b/c I can’t do this myself. I threw out my cigarettes, I threw away my lighters, ashtrays, everything. And I stopped smoking. I avoided my friends who chain-smoked. I stopped going out late & drinking for a period of time. I knew I couldn’t do it otherwise. But it wasn’t forever. My real friends were proud of me. They understood. And a few of them tried and successful quit smoking as well. I didn’t give up going out, and I certainly didn’t give up drinking forever, but while I was still in transition, it helped eliminate additional temptation.

I quit, and I did it cold turkey. You do not have to chew gum or do the patch. You don’t need hypnosis. You don’t need to buy anything. What you do need is focus and determination. You have to want to stop smoking more than anything, or at the very least more than you want to keep smoking, and you have to remain totally committed to that decision. You have to be aware of what will bring you down – people, places, situations – and avoid them until the terrible urgency has passed. After that, you will be okay. But you have to stay strong. A year after I quit smoking I would watch a movie and see people smoking and think WOW, wouldn’t that be AWESOME right now? But I never gave in. I knew if I did – if I had just one cigarette – it would be the end of me. I’d be back where I’d started, and I didn’t want that for myself. 10 years later, I am free. It was worth it. I was worth it. And you are too.