Monday, March 26, 2007

Cigarettes & Coffee

"But it seemed so natural, darling That you and I are here Just talking over cigarettes and drinking coffee, ooh now"*

Growing up, my parents were heavy smokers. They smoked in the house, in the car, at friends and relatives houses (not my grandparents house though), before meals, after meals and in bed. You name it, they did it and I hated it. I hated the smell of it. I hated the stuffiness of it when we would be in the car driving somewhere. I hated the way the smoke would burn my eyes at the end of the day. I hated the overflowing ashtrays that seemed to be on every single surface. I hated everything about it. I always vowed I would never grow up to be a smoker. My brothers went so far as to break cigs in half, throw matches and lighters in the trash and put funny things you could get at the dollar store into the ends of the cigs to make them bang or catch on fire. They hated smoking too.

Then I got to High School. I knew people who smoked (not from HS, from youth group) but had no interest in it. No one ever asked me if I wanted too, or pressured me into it. But one day, in the midst of a particularly stressful time in my life... when my parents marriage was finally starting to fall apart and the yelling and fighting got to be too much, I decided on my own free will, to give it a try. I suppose looking back that it was better then turning to booze.. but it was the beginning of the end.

I started smoking when I was 17. Not even old enough to buy cigs legally.. but we had this one gas station in town that didn't ID if you looked old enough. I still get carded for beer at the supermarket, but at 17 I looked old enough for cigs. I think they are more strict now.. either that or younger people are nuts! But I'm rambling away from where I was going. I started out with a few of my mom's cigs. She was smoking Marlboro Light 100's. At the time I didn't know why she bothered, they were like smoking air. But I soon learned. I moved on to Camel's. Filtered, Unfiltered.. depended on how stressed out I was on any given day, or who I was bumming a smoke from. After that I moved to Marlboro's and when those got to be too expensive, I switched over to Basics. In that time I also smoked cloves and menthol's.

Smoking became a crutch, even though I didn't see that at the time. Every hard thing I did for the next almost 10 years, I had smoking to get me through. Every stressor, every fight, every bad day, every family mess, every boyfriend/husband/parent/sibling issue.. the list goes on and on. There wasn't a day that went by that I wanted to give it up. I did quit a few times, because I thought I wanted too... but I didn't really. I quit when Uncle Sam told me I had too... but as soon as I that car crashed that March morning I took it right back up.

6 years ago today I quit smoking. Gave up the one thing that had been a constant during my whole adult life. Friends had gone, my parents divorced, life had changed for the better and sometimes worse... but I still had my cigs. One day The Boy told me he was wheezing at work when he walked up the 3 flights of stairs to his office. He might have put on a few lbs that contributed to this, but he blamed the cigs and told me he wanted to quit. I wished him the best of luck, and offered all the support I could. But I kept smoking. I didn't want to quit. I should note that we never smoked in the house around our own kids. Even on the most bitter cold of days we hoofed it outside when we needed a fix. He lasted about 2 days. It was too hard for him to quit with me still smoking. Even though I never smoked around him, the scent was still on me. In my hair, on my clothes, permeating my skin. As the child of chain smokers, I didn't know that smoking had an odor until after I quit. I'm still appalled to this very day to think that I smelled so badly. Growing up with it, I was desensitized to the smell. I had no idea.

Because I loved him more than my smokes, I gave it up. We decided that we'd finish my carton and then quit together. We worked out a thing where we'd cut down on the number of cigs we smoked each day until the last few days when we were down to one in the morning and one before bed...and then quit cold turkey. It was the single most hardest thing I've ever had to do. I could deal with the not smoking after a meal.. or in the morning or before bed. Not having a cig with my coffee was hard.. but not as hard as the emotional withdrawal. I didn't know how to deal with stress. I wasn't sure what to do when I was mad, or upset, or had a family member on the phone that was ranting on and on forever. So I started yelling. For the first two or three weeks, The Boy yelled back. Because I knew that it was an adjustment period, as did he.. we were able to get through this period of yelling at each other for no reason. It was hard, I won't lie. I taught myself how to crochet to keep my hands busy. That helped.

What helped the most was printing a list of what happens to your body after you quit smoking. Celebrating every milestone like it was a huge deal. 1 day. 1 week. 1 month. 6 months. 1 year. My best friend gave me such a hard time about it. "Why do you make a big deal out of it?" he asked. Because in order to keep going, and not stop at the store and buy a pack on the way home, I had to make a big deal out of it. Knowing that it had been 3 years, and I would be throwing all that time away kept me from going back. It's the motivation I still need on the worst of days. The past few years had been easier. I didn't think about smoking much at all. This year has been harder. I won't lie. I think about it a lot. And on those hard days I go home and have a beer instead. Is it better? One beer won't cause the damage to your body that 5 or 6 smokes will. Then again, maybe this is just a lie I tell myself to keep me away from that store.

Because after all, who wants to throw away 6 years of hard work?

*Ottis Reeding- Cigarettes & Coffee

1 comment:

Sgt said...


I've never smoked, so I can't attest to how hard it must have been, but I know my grandparents smoked forever. When my grandfather tried to quit, it put such a stress on his heart they told him he was better off continuing.

While I don't really know you, I'm glad you both decided to quit. It ages you so much and the smokers are always the last to believe it. People used to think my Grandparents were in their 80s when they were in their 60s. Not to mention their insides dying off early as well.

Blegh! Don't go back to it! A little stress (or a lot in some cases) isn't worth taking years off your life.. and hey.. your kids won't have the "Yeah.. but you do it" defense if they ever try it!