Dying for a Smoke

ANNE

I’ve written about how I’m so lucky / grateful to not be an addict. However, quitting smoking was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, so I guess that makes me … an addict? Is having a Swisher Sweet cigar once a month a slippery slope? This is something I started in the last year or so.  I don’t inhale. But I must get enough nicotine to give me that instant stress reduction effect. I go down to the river with a beer or a flask of tea and smoke one little cigar and watch the water go by. Is that really so bad? Can’t I just enjoy one vice, once in a while?

I tried everything to quit. Setting a quit date. Cutting down. Smoking myself sick so I’d never want one again–until the next day. The patch, the pills (which caused frightening hallucinations), chewing on cinnamon sticks. Willpower. Phone counseling through my insurance plan. Not smoking til after I’d worked out for two hours. Never smoking in public. Never smoking until after work. Meditation.

I quit over and over. I’d quite for six months then cave in. Once I quit for FOUR YEARS! And then I started again after Dr. Wonderful broke our engagement. I was so sick the next day, after smoking one cigarette, that all I could do way lie on the couch and moan. But I started and kept on smoking for another 10 years.

In the end it was a silly thing that got me to quit. I read somewhere that the average age of women who get lung cancer is 42. So I’d had that in my mind for years—that I had to quit by the time I was 42. And I did. But as with the depression that I battled for decades, I think it was all the things combined, plus this final silly thought, that made it stick. That was 14 years ago.

Meditation helped, too. After all, it involves inhaling and exhaling, just like smoking. I still found myself tearing off the nicotine patch so I could have “just one” cigarette, then slapping the patch back on and yelling to myself out loud, “No—NO!!”

I know I can never pick up a cigarette again, not even to have one drag. I know this I went to Jamaica with a friend 15 years ago. She had quit smoking years earlier. But I was smoking, and she picked up one of mine, just to have a few drags—we were on vacation, after all! She smoked all week and has been smoking ever since. My sister smokes. Yes, the one with cancer. Yes, she knows that smoking can be a contributing factor to colon cancer. She tries and tries to quit. Now there are e-cigs, and she says they’re ok up to a point and then she Just Has to Have a Real Cigarette. I don’t blame her. Like I wrote above, they’re an instant stress reliever. Until you think about lung cancer and heart attacks; that’ll raise your stress level.

There has been no smoking allowed in Minnesota prisons for over 20 years. This is good; Vince’s lungs will get a chance to regenerate. But will he light up again the minute he’s out? He didn’t fight to quit, like I did; he was forced. And he wonders why he was so moody the first few weeks he was inside!

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