Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Heads or Tails #102 - note(s on quitting smoking)

Today's Heads or Tails topic is "note," and I will resist the temptation to re-tell my Sound of Music Story and instead speak directly to our gracious HoT host, Barb, concerning a subject about which she's recently blogged: Trying to quit smoking.

As it happens, I am a noted expert on the subject... mainly because I quit myself.

Hundreds of times, in fact.

Sometimes I quit multiple times in a single day.

I didn't start out to be a nicotine addict. When I was in high school, all the cool kids (except the really serious jocks) smoked. Even some of the serious jocks would light up after a few illicit beers. And the wide receivers might smoke marijuana.

I was too young to be a Curmudgeon in those days. But I was an iconoclast -- a rebel truly without a cause. And without any James Dean cool whatsoever. So, naturally, I wanted to make sport of the people who smoked. So I started off with cigars. Large, cheap, stinky (as opposed to aromatic) cigars. For a fancy party I'd get a nicer cigar.

No one saw any hip, ironic humor in my antics, by the way. Other kids just thought I was weird.

I switched to cigarettes in college. They were cheaper -- 50¢ in the college bookstore for a pack of Kents, I remember. I soon graduated to Marlboros. Between cigarettes and coffee I could keep myself going for 36 or even 48 hours on occasion, something that came in handy during midterms and finals and, for that matter, every Thursday night when we put out the school paper. I'd work the typesetter.

My habit would vary. Half-a-pack a day seemed optimal, or so I thought, but my usage crept up to a couple of packs a day and my chest would start to hurt. Then I'd cut back to a half-pack... and work up again. And so through undergrad and law school.

Long Suffering Spouse married me anyway, though she disapproved of my habit. Her father was pleased that I still enjoyed cigars -- and I did -- especially because he could no longer have them himself. He managed to obtain some Cubans for me on a trip and lived vicariously through my enjoyment of them.

But Older Daughter came along and Long Suffering Spouse became more adamant against smoking in the house.

In those days I could still smoke in my office. I remember one interior office I had -- just like every office I've had since -- stacks of books and papers at odd angles, files I was working on, files I should be working on, cases I needed to read, cases I wanted to read. Perched atop one of these piles would be a heavy ashtray and an always smoldering butt.

It's a wonder I never caused a fire, but I didn't.

By the time, our second child came along, Long Suffering Spouse was after me to quit and I'd had my first cancer scare (a very large, but happily benign polyp) and, frankly, I was ready to quit.

We had a secretary in the office in those days who smoked Newport Menthols. I never much cared for menthols -- but I would purchase cigarettes for her while I was running to or from court. Of course, I believed that the only way to make a subway train come, in those days, was to light up a smoke. We couldn't smoke on the train at that time, but we were still permitted to puff on the platform. So I would deduct 'carrying charges' from the secretary's smokes. Sometimes she hardly got any at all. (Yes, I was buying most of these packs. Please. I'm cheap, but I'm not evil.)

This was when I was at the height of my quitting frenzy. See, I was no longer buying cigarettes for me... that meant I'd quit, right?

Well, eventually, it worked like this: One day, I didn't smoke. And then I didn't smoke the next day after that. And then came another day when I didn't either.

It's not that the urge has ever left me. Just writing this makes me long for a smoke right now. Sometimes, when I wake up at night, I realize I'd been dreaming of a smoke.

But I've resisted now for more than 20 years... and I've fallen off the wagon for maybe -- maybe -- two cigarettes or three in all that time. Part of it, I suppose, is willpower. Of course, the fact that smokes now cost a heck of a lot more than 50¢ a pack also helps....


Karen said...

Kudos to you. Just think of the money you save!

i beati said...

wow I'ved noted your progress sandy

Calico Crazy said...

Fantastic! Congrats on 20 years of saving - life & money.

Bobbie said...

Congrats! I have to quit too. The price is just insane, and I want to get healthy. Thank you for sharing your story. I know I can do it...I'm just stubborn lol.

Barb said...

I almost cried when you said this post was directed at me. ME!

Thank you for sharing your story. I think most smokers start similarly. Unaware that that quitting (if they ever wanted to) would be so hard.

I was one of those kids across the street from the school every morning. If you don't fit in anywhere else, you know you'll always be welcome there. I have to admit, I never bought a cigar.

I remember 45 cents a pack.. and buying them from machines. Those machines were everywhere. Can you believe I actually SAW one not too long ago??? It was a working one even.

You still want a smoke after 20 years? Crap.. I was hoping that would go away soon.

I think I need to make a post now. You'll be able to read the rest of what I would have commented on over there sometime soon.

Unknown said...

Loved reading your story! At some point smoking becomes a monstrously unhealthy habit (when half a pack turns into a couple packs a day) and quitting seems like an impossible idea. You clearly went about it the best way- taking one day at a time and just resisting your urges to give in and light up.

Healthy Monday is an organization that promotes making small changes at the start of each new work to instill healthy habits into our lifestyles. One of their programs, Quit and Stay Quit Monday shares similar ideals with your own advice about quitting. With the program, quitters are encouraged to use Monday as a tool for recommitting to your quit in the face of temptations, urges and even setbacks.

You might want to check out the website: www.healthymonday.org for more information on healthy living.

Congratulations on your 20 years of success!

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Well done on quitting ...I never had a need to take it up.