Time to Quit

The time to quit smoking has come again (Zakta)

I remember my first time smoking a cigarette like it was yesterday.

It happened when I was in high school, somewhere around 15 years of age. My friends and I were up to our usual antics—wandering through suburbia on our way to “roll a house” with toilet paper we bought at Safeway. I can’t remember who our target was since it happened so long ago—I’m now 42, so you do the math—but I will never forget the question my friend John asked when he saw me eyeballing his pack of Merit cigarettes.

“You want one?”

He held out the pack with one butt conveniently poking out from the others and, like a moron, I took it and accepted a light, as well. And the rest, as they say, is history.

A smart man would have refused and gone on his merry way. As I said, though, I was only 15, so my brain obviously wasn’t developed enough with regard to decision-making… or should I say good decision-making. And I have been smoking ever since—sometimes a pack a day and sometimes more—for nearly three decades.

I did quit for six months at two different times, but always returned to my tar-ridden friends, usually out of boredom. Of course, I may have been destined for smoking from a young age, but please know I only blame myself for the poor choices I’ve made.

When I was a young boy, my mother was a smoker. She wasn’t a heavy tobacco user, by any means, but I have clear memories of her lighting up in our old station wagon, especially after leaving the pool in the summertime. My brother and sister would immediately complain about the smell, but I always enjoyed it. And I’m sure this experience planted the seed for what would later become my most destructive habit.

What used to make me look cool now just makes me look stupid (Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images)

What used to make me look cool now just makes me look stupid (Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images)

Fortunately, my mother managed to quit smoking “cold turkey” and quickly joined the ranks of non-smokers who preach and nag others to follow suit. She would always say, “You won’t quit until you want to quit.” And for a long time, I agreed. Then I realized something my mother obviously overlooked. What if you don’t necessarily want to quit, but know that you need to?

This is the question I now face as I consider a third attempt at quitting. The first time I tried to kick the habit, I employed all the tools available to me at the time, from nicotine patches and gum to self-help tapes and books. Nothing worked and the first time I smelled a cigarette again, I got right back into it. My second attempt was slightly more successful and lasted a bit longer—this time using Chantix, the new smoking cessation kid on the block at that time—but since it gave me migraine headaches and may have eventually killed me (much faster than cigarettes, I might add), I failed again and returned to the nicotine treats.

And I have been smoking ever since, this time accepting the fact I may never successfully quit and giving myself over to the hacking, phlegm-producing loveliness that all chronic smokers experience. Represent, addicted brothers and sisters!

Seriously, though, the time for a third attempt at non-smoking is steadily approaching, largely due to two factors: my son and recent advances in smoking cessation technology.

As the father of a 6-year-old boy—one who has repeatedly asked me to quit smoking because “it’s bad for me” and “I could die from it”—I can longer think of consequences like emphysema and lung cancer as being relevant to me alone. Every drag I take from a cigarette moves me one step closer to death—and one step further from life with my son. And believe me, I want to be around for as much of his life as possible, preferring to grow old rather than adhering to my usual justification for smoking: “We all have to die of something.”

This is true, of course, but it doesn’t mean I should speed up the process, either. Choosing to smoke is like playing Russian roulette over and over again. You never know when you’ve smoked the cigarette that will ultimately kill you, so why take chances? After all, smoking is nothing more than gradual suicide. And to paraphrase Brad Pitt’s character from one of my favorite films—Ocean’s Eleven—I’m only suicidal in the morning. Most other times I consider myself to be reasonably well-adjusted, which I’m sure some who know me well would dispute.

Here’s hoping they keep their mouths shut, though. And you know who you are.

Blu eCigs are the latest weapon in the battle to quit smoking (Blu eCigs/Lorillard Technologies Inc)

Blu eCigs are the latest weapon in the battle to quit smoking (Blu eCigs/Lorillard Technologies Inc)

As if staying alive for my son wasn’t enough, I’m also considering another attempt at quitting because of the advances made in the field of smoking cessation recently—most notably the surge of electronic cigarettes on the market. Nicotine gum and patches are no longer the cutting edge, which is fine by me since I often found myself smoking while using these ineffective tools. Electronic cigarettes, on the other hand, not only target withdrawal symptoms by offering several different levels of nicotine inserts; they also help with the ritual of smoking—the experience of having something in your hand and mouth that seems like a cigarette, but does far less damage. And at this point in my smoking career, the ritual is about the only reason I smoke anymore.

By now, I’m sure my body has developed some kind of immunity to nicotine, since the same thing seems to have happened with caffeine. I can drink coffee all day long and still get to sleep. It doesn’t even energize me all that much anymore. Sad, I know, but this is the unfortunate consequence of long-term addiction to any substance… not that this is anything new, of course.

So here’s my plan: weed out traditional cigarettes, bring in electronic smokes and eventually kick them both completely. It won’t be easy and the chances of me becoming even more of an ass will increase exponentially with each passing day, but I have to try. My son is worth it and if quitting means spending more time with him, then I don’t really have a choice. This will happen soon, but first I have one more important task to complete: convincing my family members to spring for a Blu starter pack, preferably in time for my birthday in a few months.

No one said quitting would be cheap!

Posted on February 26, 2014, in Life, Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 37 Comments.

  1. You can do this. I’m now 3 years free of cigarettes, and that’s the best I’ve ever done. I did use an ecigarette to quit and I honestly give it a whole lot of credit for weening me off nicotine. I like smoking and having something in my fingers, and having what looks and feels like smoke going in and out of me eventually satisfied me and I worked my way down the ranks of nicotine levels with vapor until I hit zero and realized I was okay. I know they say they aren’t safe, but when you read all the shitty chemicals that are combined with tobacco, and the side effects of chantix, I figured it was a means to a real end. And it was!! Good luck!!!

    • Congratulations on becoming a non-smoker, Alice!

      Three years is awesome, and I certainly hope to get there soon… or three years from now, I guess. Not making much sense tonight.

      Oddly enough, the system you described for quitting is the same one I planned to use. And they’re not just similar, either; they are EXACT matches. On this subject, we are of such a like mind that it’s almost scary… for you, mostly. LOL

      Thanks for the awesome comments and for sharing your story! And thanks for the encouragement, too!

      Trust me… you’ll probably notice the exact moment I quit from the drastic tone change in my posts. I’ll try to fend off the dark clouds before I sit down to write, though. Anything for my readers!

      Hope to see you here again soon, Alice!

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