- Personal Health Information & Self-Help
Who is in charge you or your cigarette? - How I quit smoking
I used to buy two or three packs of cigarettes every day. I smoked in elevators, in cars with the windows up and in airplanes when it was still legal. I would have a cigarette going in two or three ashtrays at once. I would re-inhale almost every puff. I would breathe a puff of smoke out slowly and breathe it back in through my nose for a second pass through my lungs. The last two knuckles on my forefinger and second finger on my right hand were stained an ugly yellowish-brown.
If I was in a bar I could have a cigarette in each hand and one burning in the ashtray on the table. I made it even worse for the people around me when I would smoke pipes and cigars while I was trying to quit cigarettes.
Until recently, my mother chain-smoked cigarettes. My father was a typical fat cigar-smoking traveling salesman. He would go through a box of fifty cigars almost every day. He would hand out one or two cigars to just about every customer or prospect that he came in contact with. He would use them as a conversation starter. He also used them as a tool for buying time while he was thinking of an answer to a tough question. He had a ritual of taking a cigar out, looking it over, rolling it in his fingers, smelling it, taking the wrapper off, smelling it again, lighting it with a flair; and then taking several prodigious puffs to get it fired up. By then he would usually have whatever answer he was looking for.
It was not unusual for someone at school or church to mention as I passed by, "Your father smokes cigars. Doesn't he?" They could smell the cigar smoke on my clothes and on me.
I remember having empty Dutch Master cigar boxes all over the house. Anything that was worth keeping was kept in a cigar box.
When I was around fifteen years old some of my friends smoked because they thought it was cool. I had a couple of puffs now and then, but it didn't stick. In high school I was a long-distance runner. I also played football and basketball. Smoking just wasn't an issue.
Where I got into trouble was in college and then in Vietnam. You know the college thing -- sitting around eating pizza in a local hangout and watching everyone else smoke. You bum a cigarette and the rest is history. Drinking beer requires the attendant ubiquitous cigarette. The same thing happened in Vietnam. We would sit around the barracks at night drinking beer, playing poker and smoking cigarettes.
By the time I got home from Vietnam I was a confirmed smoker. I went back to college and finished my pharmacy degree. Whenever I was in a situation where I couldn't smoke, I wouldn't. But I would make up for it later that night. I always ended up at the end of the day with my full quota of smokes.
After my first son was born, I quit smoking for about a year. I didn't want to subject him to all of the crud in the cigarette smoke. I did all right until my brother-in-law came home from Vietnam also. He would come over to my house just about every night. He had a lot of things to get out of his system. He had been the door gunner on a helicopter. We would drink beer and talk about his experiences, etc. After a couple of weeks of that I bummed a cigarette. You know what that led to!
As a pharmacist I would see people every day with lung cancer, emphysema and all sorts of smoking related illnesses. It just didn't register that I was susceptible also.
I admit that I am a control freak. I don't like surprises. Everything has to be done at the right time and at the right place. The socks have to match the shirt. The belt and the shoes must match. You get the idea. I even tried hypnosis to quit smoking. The doctor said he couldn't put me under because I wouldn't relinquish control to him.
A patient of mine, who knew that I was a control freak, because she was one also, asked me why I smoked. She mentioned that she considered it to be a control issue, that the cigarettes were controlling me, not the other way around.
That did it! I looked at that little cigarette in my hand. I realized for the first time who was in charge. That damned little cigarette that wasn't any bigger than my "pinkie" finger was running my life and ruining my health. I tore up the pack that was in my pocket, just as I had done several times before. Only, this time, I knew it was for good. All the other times that I had tried to quit I had tried to quit for other people. This time I was quitting for me. I was not going to let that little sucker run my life any more!
About twelve hours later, I realized that this was it. I struggled a little once in a while when I would walk through someone else's puff of smoke. I realized that I missed smoking, but I was not going to let it take over again. That was twenty-five years ago. The smell of cigarettes actually makes me sick now. I even choke when someone smokes next to me outdoors. I don't complain, because I used to do that to other people.
If you are a smoker, who do you think is in charge, you or your cigarette?
I hope the answer to that question helps you as much as it did me. Realizing that that little cigarette was running my life helped me to end my eight-year quest to quit smoking.
I want you to be in charge!
Bob Diamond R.Ph