I consider myself to be a fairly successful quitter of the things. In my 48 years, I’ve managed to quit bad relationships, self-destructive behavior, credit card debt (mostly) and junk food.
I’ve quit crap jobs, crappier friendships and — periodically — drinking. Heck, I would have even quit my own child after three straight months of colic and no sleep, but that’s illegal here in Canada.
But smoking? Oh, smoking is a black-hearted bastard.
Now, I’ve quit smoking too. Hundreds of times, in fact. I’ve quit for two days, two weeks, two months; I even quit once for two years. I didn’t touch a cigarette for the duration of my pregnancy, and I stayed strong during the postpartum period as well. Until… well, see above re: quitting my own child.
The Modern-Day Pariah
My 16-year-old son has no concept of a day and age where smokers weren’t treated as lepers. But when I grew up, smoking wasn’t frowned upon. Sheesh, it was a necessary rite of passage! Something you aspired to! I know for a fact that my mom was hacking a butt when she went into labor with me (anyone who’s watched Mad Men will understand). Heck, my entire family smoked, including my older brother and sister. Today, I’m the only one left who still smokes regularly.
If you have never been a hard-core smoker, you will never understand the power that a cigarette addiction can have over an otherwise fairly educated and rational human being.If you have never been a hard-core smoker, you will never understand the power that a cigarette addiction can have over an otherwise fairly educated and rational human being.
Here in Canada, despite oppressive measures to curb smoking, a full 21 percent of the population — six million Canadians — still smoke. And, as with most addictions, Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health reports, “People with certain psychiatric disorders are more likely to use tobacco. A U.S. survey of people who received psychiatric outpatient services reported that rates of smoking were 88 percent for people with schizophrenia, 70 percent for those with mania and 49 percent for those with depression. Another study found that 85 percent of people seeking treatment for alcohol dependence also smoked.
How do these stats relate to my story? Well, I hail from a healthy long line of folk prone to all of the above. And, as is the case with the miracle of genetics (roll that dice) someone’s going to inherit those same proclivities. In my family, it happened to be me.
Never Quit Quitting
I have smoked for nearly 35 years. And smoking has always been my friend. My crutch. A prop for my “rebel rebel” personality. Smoking nurses me through hard times, and parties alongside me through good. Smoking helps my anxiety when it flares and hangs out with me during my most depressed moments. It allows me a break when I can’t go on and gives me strength when I absolutely must. It helps me think and provides something to focus on when all rational thoughts leave me.
Tell me now: How do you quit that!!??
You just do. You do because it’s killing you. You do because you want to live to see your son grow up. You do because you’re a control freak who can’t bear the fact that this is the one thing you can’t control. You do because you actually want to grow old.
So, I did.
On October 1, 2015, I quit again. It wasn’t so bad. Having tried every smoking cessation product/tool under the sun, this time I bought a vape. It worked. It was amazing. I didn’t smoke during stressful times. I didn’t smoke when I was down. I didn’t smoke when I drank. I tallied up days. Then weeks. Then a month! It was EASY!
Until it wasn’t. And on Day 41, I cracked. Bet you didn’t see that coming.
Actually, you probably did. I was the one who didn’t see it coming.
Tomorrow’s Another Day
Quitting smoking is the ultimate personal journey, requiring constant self-evaluation. I can never stop thinking about it. And it can never be “easy.” Like the recovering alcoholic who says they can never have “just one drink,” I can never have “just one ciggy.”
I almost didn’t write this piece because I was so ashamed at cracking. But then I thought, screw that, cracking is part of the quitting process and I don’t care what “addiction” you’re trying to kick.
So, as I write this on a Sunday morning, tomorrow I will wake up having “quit again.” And I will continue to quit until it sticks. And what I hope all of you will do is this: Every time you walk by a “filthy smoker” on the street (because here in Canada, that’s the only place you’re allowed to smoke these days!), and every time you sneer and wave your hands at your noses in disgust, consider that that person might just be struggling to quit. In fact, they might have just cracked today.
And will be quitting, once again, tomorrow.