Friday, September 24, 2010

Butting Out

I'm a reformed smoker; I quit smoking 19 years ago this week. I'd love to say it was the most difficult thing I've ever done, and I'm so proud of myself, but honestly? it wasn't nearly as hard to quit as I thought it would be, and I feel a little ashamed of myself whenever people congratulate me.

I started smoking, like most idiots do, because I was young and stupid and I thought it would make me look older and smarter. I persisted under that illusion for 15 years, and believe me, I was a dedicated smoker. It punctuated my day, gave me a reason to take a break or to transition from one activity to another. I met fellow smokers outside at parties, I had something to do when waiting for something or someone, and it was how you knew that dinner was over.

I don't think there has been any other activity that has undergone such a mainstream turnaround in such a short time as smoking. When I was younger,cigarettes were everywhere, and completely acceptable. I remember, as a kid, tellers smoking in banks and cashiers at grocery stores smoking while they worked. You could smoke in the movies and on planes. They only stopped students from smoking during lectures the year before I went to university. Clients could smoke while they were getting their hair done; I was allowed to smoke while doing my job as a receptionist. My mom had a smoking room when she was in hospital for back surgery in the early 70's. And by the mid-80's that was all on the way out, and by the beginning of the 90's, it was done; you couldn't smoke anywhere in public anymore.

And at that point, I was getting tired of smoking. I was tired of spending the money, of finding a place to have a cigarette, of the smell on my clothes and constant ragging from my friends and co-workers. And I was dating the Mister, and he never smoked and if there's one thing I really did stick to when I smoked it was that I never smoked in someone's house who didn't smoke themselves. So I was spending more and more time at his place, and smoking was becoming more and more inconvenient. And my neice, Widget, was born the year before, and every time I lit a cigarette in her presence I felt irresponsible and guilty. And I'd had enough.

I told myself I was "not buying any cigarettes today". And after I did one day, I figured I could do another one. And after that, I could do one more. And by the third day, I didn't want to go through all the shouting in my head if I caved and bought some. So I didn't. And by the end of the week, I decided that if I could do that, I could do it indefinitely. And by the end of two weeks, I realized that I had quit smoking.

My mom and dad quit smoking shortly after I did; they had smoked a lot longer than me, and it was a lot tougher for them, and I'm proud that they stuck with it. I'm glad they did too....I haven't seen that anyone who smokes past their 50s is better off for it.

So when people ask me how I did it, I'd love to be able to brag and say I overcame a horrendous addition with my formidable willpower. But really, I just..... stopped. Just like that.

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