Sunday, October 16, 2011
No Smoking: A Journey From Addiction
“Do you have a cigarette?”
“No, I don’t smoke.”
I don’t smoke...not anymore. I haven’t been asked for a cigarette in years, and so haven’t reflected on the subject in a very long time. I began to reflect now, as I walked passed a man gripped in the throws of a craving for a cigarette. Was I the first person he asked? With not much foot traffic in this particular area, it seemed likely he would be at the mercy of his craving for some time. Then...I was very glad to be able to proclaim that I wasn’t a smoker. No, “glad” doesn't quite cover it....more like elated, because it had not always been so.
I started out like many, very young, and through experimentation. In my youth, there was very little anyone could tell me...because I knew it all. Well, I knew everything except that those few puffs on the stolen cigarette of my best friend’s mother would make me a smoker at thirteen years old...and have me smoking for the next twelve years. I’d tried to quit many times, but it was never for very long...and I don’t think I was really serious about the effort. I didn’t get serious until after my aunt past away from cancer. She was a long time smoker. The road to becoming a ex-smoker wasn’t an easy one...and it wasn’t like anything I had ever read or heard about from others that shared how they did it.
Quitting smoking isn’t an easy thing to do for most. Sure, there are some people that quit cold-turkey and never look back...but the majority of people struggle with kicking the habit. Smoking is physically and mentally addictive. I applaud everyone reading this that is an ex-smoker...and implore any smoker reading this to do all you can to stop.
The next part of this story will be viewed very differently depending on your particular personal beliefs...but this is my story, and I’m sticking to it. One day I became so distraught at my inability to stop...and still struggling with grief from the passing of my aunt, I knelt in prayer with complete sincerity in my heart. My only request was to be able to stop smoking. I stopped trying to quit after that figuring that if it was meant to be, then it would be...and I would finally get a palatable taste of divine intervention. I expected to wake up one day soon with no desire or craving to smoke and to be cured of my addiction in a snap. It didn’t happen...and I kept lighting up. I don’t know why I had the impression that miracles happen quickly...or exactly like you think they should, but the reality of my miracle will always be something to remember. Two weeks after my prayer, at the age of twenty-five...I caught chicken pox.
To say I caught chicken pox is an understatement. My body morphed itself into something out of a horror film and I became something that barely passed for a humanoid. The reactions of everyone that saw me was not unlike the reactions of anyone seeing the Elephant Man unexpectedly for the first time. As bad as I looked, that wasn’t the worst of it...because I had more pox on the inside of me than I did on the outside. I developed pneumonia...severely, and had to be hospitalized for a while. Smoking was no longer an issue for me, replaced by breathing. Every breath, no matter how small, was absolutely agonizing. I have no comparison reference because I have never felt pain quite like that before. The pain was never ending as long as I breathed...and found myself trying to hold my breath to avoid the agony. The matrimony of life and pain was my simple reality.
By the time this unique experience was behind me and I was back to normal operations, it had been almost two months since I had a smoke. The physical addiction was gone, even though the mental addiction lingered...but without the support of my body, it had no chance to reclaim me. I was done...free from the servitude of a habit that held absolutely no benefit for me.
As I look around, I see the changing times as smoking is less welcomed in the workplace and eateries and the rising cost of the habit borders on obscene. Health is becoming an issue of increasing awareness that more are taking seriously. We live in a country where most choices are free and we are free to make bad ones. I’m not one to wish failure on a business or anyone earning a living...but unless they can find a better use for tobacco, I hope the industry collapses like a wrong move in a Jenga game.