Ten years ago today, I smoked my last cigarette.
I realize you probably don’t care, but I’m going to write about it anyway because going an entire decade without sucking on a lung dart is a pretty big deal to me. Keep in mind, I was not a “casual” smoker or “social” smoker – I was addicted to the point of being obsessed. My entire day was built around filtered menthol cigarettes.
Smoking was my first official act of any given morning.
The alarm would go off, I’d cough profusely, reach for my glasses, then reach for my lighter, then reach for a cigarette, then light it and take a drag, then cough profusely again, then take another drag.
After I finished my first one I’d have another with my starter cup of coffee, then a third one with my second cup of Joe.
My fourth was smoked when I took the dog out, and what’s interesting here is that for years I didn’t even have a dog. Still, I took him out anyway because I needed to get some fresh air while I burned one.
I’d even smoke in the shower – I kid you not. I mean, how sad is that?
Basically when I shower I wash my hair, rinse, lather my body, rinse, then use a wash rag to give my bits and pieces the ol’ dust and shine. This is not a long process and I think most people could’ve made it through without a cancer stick.
Still, there was a period in my life when – after the hair wash and rinse – I’d peek my head out from behind the shower curtain, dry my hand, and fire up a smoke that I would furiously puff on before the hot water started to run out.
It sounds ridiculous, but it’s no less true.
And going to movies was a real chore. The whole time I was watching “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers” I was hoping he’d just go ahead and kill everybody so I could leave the theater and light up.
Damn, that was a long 88 minutes.
By the time I reached the end of a day I’d gone through at least two packs of cigarettes and would’ve smoked more except doing so proved to be difficult while I slept.
When you build your world around gaspers the coughing gets worse and you develop yellow teeth and yellow fingers. But as glamorous as all that sounds, at some point (hopefully) you realize smoking is not a good decision.
I reached this point in June of 2010.
Mary had begged and pleaded with me to quit and I kept saying I’d try, but I wasn’t trying nearly hard enough. Despite the fact that I would get out of breath walking from the couch to the kitchen and wheezed like Muttley the cartoon dog, I kept smoking like I was getting paid for it.
Then – on June 10 – it came to a screeching halt.
While reading about the adverse effects of smoking I came upon a photo of dogs and monkeys being forced to inhale cigarette smoke during laboratory tests.
I had tried a nicotine patch before (it gave me vivid nightmares), nicotine gum (it was merely a shot to my cigarette chaser), and stop-smoking pills (a side effect was cranking up my depression level to 11), but the desire to smoke never truly ceased.
I even considered hypnosis, but was afraid I’d wind up like those sleeper agents from the movie “Telefon” who are activated by a code phrase and then start blowing up shit.
When I saw that photo of animals being abused, though, I decided to never put a cigarette in my mouth again.
Anyone who knows me knows that overall I prefer critters to humans (not you, though – you’re terrific), and seeing this kind of cruelty was a real “scared straight” moment for me. I couldn’t and wouldn’t support an industry that supported this.
I called Mary and said, “If I ever smoke another cigarette, hit me over the head with a 9-iron.”
Turns out, she never had to whack me, because I have yet to fall off the wagon – and I see no scenario where it might happen.
I find the smell of wafting cigarette smoke extremely unpleasant, and when it’s on people’s clothes it gives off the scent of a wet goat that stuck its butt in an ashtray.
To know that I once smelled like this is embarrassing.
Now, this is not intended to shame anyone; I tried to quit many times before I was finally shocked into going cold turkey. Depending on who you are there are varying degrees of difficulty, and you have to make a commitment and find a quitting plan that works for you.
But 10 years later I don’t cough unless I’m sick, I don’t wheeze at all, I have real dogs to walk, and I can walk for miles because my lungs don’t hate me anymore.
If I can quit, anyone can do it.
And be honest – you don’t want to smell like a wet goat that stuck its butt in an ashtray, do you?