Reprinted from "Tobacco" issue of Visions Journal, 2007, 3 (4), pp. 14-15
I started smoking at nine years of age. I still remember my sister and I getting caught smoking these non-filtered cigarettes in our back alley in Toronto. The neighbour reported us to our mother.
My mother proceeded to punish us by having us each smoke a big old White Owl cigar. She made the mistake of telling us that if we smoked a whole cigar, we would be allowed to smoke whatever we want and do it in the house. She made us inhale each puff, and my sister turned green after the first two puffs. I, however, finished mine. And, being a smart aleck young buck, I then took my sister’s and smoked hers too. “Well,” I said, “I guess I’m allowed to smoke now, eh?”
That was the beginning of my smoking. Thank you, Mom.
Back then cigarettes were only 37 cents a package and easy to get. You could just walk into a store and say you were getting them for your parents or an adult, if asked. In most cases, no one asked.
I smoked for 33 years. Four years ago I quit. In the beginning, one package lasted me one to two weeks; in the end, I was smoking three packs and a quarter ounce of pot—also thanks to Mom—every day. (Yes, she introduced me to my first joint—better to do it at home than out in the big, bad world!) So, I was smoking a lot before I decided to quit—a decision I didn’t think I would ever make, because I was so into smoking.
You don’t realize how much smoking controls your life until your friends stop inviting you out with them because you always make up excuses to leave or for arriving late. But I had to figure out how many cigarettes or joints I needed to smoke before going, and then how long I could actually stand being there before I started to fidget if they didn’t allow smoking. Then I’d leave and, usually, not return. Or, if I did, I’d smell like a butt or like pot.
When out for dinner, I always sat in the smoking section, even if friends didn’t want to. If they didn’t sit with me, well, too bad. I’d eat dinner by myself in the smoking section.
In the last couple years that I smoked, after walking for a block or two, I would have to stop and catch my breath. It felt like my breath was being sucked out of me. I couldn’t run any more, because it felt like my chest was going to explode. That’s when I felt it was time for me to take back control.
Oh yeah, I had tried to quit before. Three times. Two of those times, I became so irritable that I had even non-smoking friends actually throw cartons of cigarettes at me, telling me not to stop. Another time I tried acupuncture, without any luck.
So, I needed a plan.
I started to tell myself this was it. Even though I was still smoking, I started saying to myself: I am a non-smoker. I repeated that phrase over and over, every day, even when I was smoking. I told myself to enjoy each smoke I was having. So that, along with the repeated phrase, was the beginning of having a more positive attitude towards quitting. I was loving-a-negative-habit-free.
I then went to a health food store and asked for something that would prevent me from ripping people’s arms off and slapping them with the soggy end when I finally decided to stop smoking. The gentleman there suggested strawberry-flavoured Nordic Naturals DHA.1 He suggested it to ladies with PMS (premenstrual syndrome). I thought, well, if it worked for them, it had to work for me.
That night I went home and smoked the last six cigarettes I had. I woke up the next morning, started repeating to myself, I am a non smoker, and took two of those DHA gel caps. Then I took two at lunch and two before bed and did this for two months—and never ripped anyone’s arms off.
I have been free from cigarettes for almost four years now. I have saved a lot of money… Well, not ‘saved,’ because I’ve invested in computers and software and spend a lot of time online—where you can find a lot of support sites for people trying to quit smoking.
My friends know I will never be a militant non-smoker, like a lot of people are when they quit. But I am here for my friends, if they wish to quit. Quitting is a choice you have to make. As I say to everyone, “If you’re thinking about quitting, quit thinking and just do it. There are so many safe products out there to assist people in quitting, and so many groups out there to support you. Just reach out and butt out and stop thinking about it.”
About the author
Ron lives in Vancouver and helps others live smoke-free. He will soon be involved with hosting an internet music–poetry show (through Blog Radio) and doing stand-up comedy. Contact Ron at email@example.com
- DHA is docosahexaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty thought to be essential for proper brain function in adults. Fish oil is a primary source.