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Cigarettes Vs. Me

Updated on May 15, 2014

Cigarettes Vs. Me

As a kid, I had grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, and a father who smoked. I remember, in school, learning about the health risks associated with smoking and the damage it causes to the body. I hated the fact that the people I loved so much were sucking the poison from those cancer sticks. But, I grew older and things changed...

My 18th birthday had finally arrived and I was excited to finally be considered a legal adult. I didn't waste any time. I started doing the things that I couldn't do before, body piercings, lottery tickets, and...cigarettes.

That day, on my 18th birthday, I walked into the gas station and asked the woman behind the counter for a pack of cigarettes. She asked, "what kind?" and I replied, "I don't know, I've never done this before. I'm 18 today and I just wanna buy a pack because I can. What kind do people usually buy?" The woman laughed and said, "Well, I sell a lot of Marlboro Lights" I smiled and said "I'll take those then."

I purchased the cigarettes and got back into my car. As I sat there staring at them, I thought "Now what am I going to do with these? I don't smoke" and at that point I figured, "Well, I bought 'em, I might as well smoke 'em" I was alone after all, so at least nobody was there to laugh at me if I couldn't handle it. I lit my first cigarette and attempted to breathe in deep...I coughed and hacked and felt like I was going to die! That should've been my red flag to stop right there and throw them away...BUT, I didn't. I decided to tough it out and finish that first one...then, I lit another...and another. Soon, I had the hang of it and I determined that I rather liked this whole cigarette smoking thing. I had a friend who smoked too and she eventually introduced me to Marlboro Menthol's. Before I knew it, I was addicted, smoking a pack a day.

As smokers do, I began to hear the lectures coming from every direction. People were always urging me to quit smoking, warning me of what would happen if I didn't. I let it go in one ear and out the other. I knew all the risks, the dangers, and the damage smoking can cause, but in my mind that stuff wouldn't effect me until I was well into my 70's or 80's and I felt strongly that I wouldn't mind facing all of that when I'm old, after all I'm not trying to live forever and we all have to die of something.

Well, apparently I prefer to learn some lessons the hard way because I couldn't have been more wrong. As time went on and I continued to smoke a pack a day, smoking began to get the best of me. Every time I caught the common cold, it would last for weeks and eventually develop into a sinus infection and bronchitis, this happened EVERY time. Then, it got to the point that I developed a smoker's cough. The cough became more and more persistent and, eventually, it became a regular thing for me to cough so hard that I would vomit...But, I just kept smoking.

This went on for a of couple years until suddenly I started to experience stabbing chest pains. I would feel these pains come and go, randomly stabbing in my chest all over around my lungs. I kept smoking and soon the pain got worse, it became more persistent and the pain was excruciating. I went to the doctor and discovered that the lining of my lungs was inflamed. I was only 26 years old and had only been smoking for 8 years, so the doctor assumed it was some type of bacterial infection and put me on an anti-biotic. The anti-biotic didn't work. I was given a steroid and at that point the doctor began to suspect that I was experiencing the early onset of COPD.

At the tender age of 26, I was already facing lung disease. Of course I was urged to quit smoking and the doctor ordered some tests to try to confirm a diagnosis of COPD. But nothing significant was found in the test results and with that, the doctor told me that I am probably in the very early stages of COPD which is why it isn't showing up in the tests yet. The good news is that, more than likely, I have the opportunity to reverse the damage smoking has caused so far. I have the option to put a stop to the lung disease that I will most definitely have, if I don't already. But, if I don't quit smoking, the doctor assured me that I probably wouldn't live to see the age of 50. So, I quit smoking.

I struggled and I missed smoking so much. I started to go into denial, telling myself that the doctor was wrong, that the inflammation in my lungs was a one time thing and it wasn't anything to do with smoking. Five months after quitting, I decided to start smoking again as a temporary thing. I smoked a half a pack a day for five days. All of the sudden, it was back, the excruciating chest pain and this time it was unbearable. I went back to the doctor, knowing it was the inflammation and that I needed a steroid to get better. Perhaps we weren't quite sure before, but this time there was no denying it, the doctor and I are positive now that smoking is killing me sooner than later and I have got to stay strong and be committed to quiting for good.

I was devastated and very upset. I had no idea that I would be facing these issues so early on in life. I enjoyed smoking, I depended on smoking and I didn't want to quit...But, I have a family and when you're faced with a matter of life or death and you are in the lucky position of control, you do what you need to do. So, I quit smoking...For good.


The Message

Now, I'm not into giving lectures to smokers, telling them they need to quit and why. They won't listen because they already know that they need to quit and they know exactly why. I am simply sharing my true life experience in the battle of cigarettes vs me.

If my story happens to push a smoker to quit, or if it makes another young person realise that smoking doesn't necessarily wait until old age to take it's toll, or if by reading this, someone decides they'd rather make the choice to quit smoking now because they WANT to and not later because they HAVE to...Then, that's great! :)

However, I really just want to deliver my message from the lesson I've learned as a result of all of this. Smoking and it's health risks never bothered me because I was always confident that I wouldn't mind dealing with these health issues, falling ill, and knocking on death's door when I'm in my 80's, or 90's, or even 100's. But, I have learned that regardless of age, you will always have reason to live. I can't imagine it would be any easier to leave my grandchildren or great grandchildren behind later, than it would be to leave my children behind now. Not to mention the pain and suffering that these health issues bring about, I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy and I can honestly say that I wouldn't want to feel that same pain and suffering later either...and I'm only in the very beginning stages of it. I'm thankful to have been afflicted with these issues now, while I can still fix and reverse the damage, before facing it down the road when it's too late.

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