I remember the day as clearly now as I did when it first happened. I was 15 years old, walking down a suburban street on my way to toilet paper a house with friends, when my buddy Jon turned to me and offered me something that would change my life forever: a cigarette.
There wasn’t any real peer pressure to accept his offer, but being the rebellious teen, I did. My first smoke was a Merit and, from what I recall, it was good enough for me to bum a second cigarette, then a third.
The next day, I purchased my first pack. And the rest, as they say, is history.
For nearly three decades, I smoked cigarettes like they were going out of style. At my worst, I smoked two packs of Marlboro Lights a day. Sure, there was occasional hacking and the frequent coughing up of nasty goo, but I persisted. I smoked in the car, in the house and in groups exiled outdoors by employers or non-smokers. There were daily trips to the store for more packs and I even took up buying cartons to make things a little cheaper.
In other words, I was a smoker in every possible sense. And I was proud of it, too, especially when all the holier-than-thou non-smokers started preaching about the dangers of tobacco. I lived in North Carolina, for goodness sake. Smoking tobacco helped support our state economy, so what I was really doing was “giving back” to my local community, right?
No matter what my excuse was for smoking—and for continuing to smoke—the sad fact is that I smoked because I was weak. Sure, I started to be cool, to fit in with friends and to rebel against the so-called establishment, but it didn’t take long for smoking to become little more than a bad habit. There was the oral fixation, the constant need to do something with my hands, the physical reliance on nicotine and all the other addictive shit cigarette manufacturers added to their products. I was hooked and kept on being hooked for 28 years.
Today—with luck—my smoking journey will end.
It won’t be easy, of course. There’s likely as much nicotine coursing through my veins as blood by now. And I have attempted to quit twice before, but neither attempt lasted more than six months. I tried nicotine patches, but found myself smoking while wearing them. Then there was Chantix, the smoking cessation medicine that replaced cigarettes with migraine headaches and nearly killed me. I suppose I could try nicotine gum, lozenges or even electronic cigarettes, but let’s face it. Those things provide nothing but a crutch, and I need to quit for real this time.
I hate to admit it, but my mother was right: cold turkey is the only way to quit effectively. She always said that when I was ready to quit—and when I finally convinced myself I was ready—then I would quit and never return. Well, it seems that time is now. I’m tired of having breathing problems and needing an inhaler to catch my breath. I’m tired of freezing my ass off in the winter by being forced to smoke outside. And most of all, I’m tired of bringing death closer and closer with every puff.
Today, I am a non-smoker. And here’s hoping my third attempt at quitting will be my last.