I started smoking when I was 16. I had a group of friends, and we would all hang out right after school and have a smoke together before we left on our respective busses back home. As the oldest (I was a year ahead) of most of my friends, and because my last class of the day was a study class (seniors with good grades were allowed this luxury), it fell upon me to walk into town during the last class, buy smokes for everyone, and walk back. My first cigarette, however, was my dad’s. I found a forgotten unopened pack of marlboro lights in the back of his car one day, and quietly slipped it in my pocket to satisfy my curiosity at my convenience. That first cigarette was hilarious; I opened the window in my bedroom and leaned waaaaay out, and smoked that puppy as best as I could. It was nasty, but it kept giving me these really cool head rushes. When I was done, I turned around, took one step, and fell flat on my face, totally passed out. I woke up a few minutes later, and thought “cooool…..” I had a fascination with altered sensation from then on.
I quit smoking about 3 years ago. I say about, because I’m not sure of the exact date. I know it was around thanksgiving, but I don’t remember which year, believe it or not. That’s because for most people, quitting smoking is something that they plan, it’s a great event, a chance to wrestle control of their lives from the grip of those tiny, innocuous-seeming paper wrapped leaves. But in my case…I had no say in the matter. Of course, if I did have a say in the matter, or should I say my *brain* had a say in the matter, then I would’ve been all for it. If the part of me that was my addiction had a say however…no chance. Here’s how it happened:
Thanksgiving, 2004? 2005? We’re at the inlaws, everyone’s making merry, my birthday is coming up which usually puts me in a good mood too, and I’m sick. Not that big a surprise however, since I usually would get pretty sick around this time of year. Bronchitis, pneumonia, and the flu where the usual culprits. I remember the first time I got this kinda sick…it was in 1991 (now how do I remember *that* particular year? ) I remember doing everything in my power to continue smoking through the whole thing, and I managed. Yay me. I ended up at the doctor for sure that time. Anyway, it was looking like either the big B or P. The inlaws were feeding me lots of irish cream and coffee to soothe my throat, and that was good. But I really just wanted a cigarette. However, every time I stepped outside to light up, I would light the cigarette, go to take a drag, and nothing happened. No air. Panic!!!! My lungs just Would. Not. Work. I suspect it would be kind of the same feeling you’d get if you walked into one of those vaccuum chambers, shut the door, sucked every last big of air out of their (and you of course did not explode in the process), and then tried to take a breath. Again, PANIC!!! The more likely situation was that the muscles that make my lungs work said “Sorry pal, we’re not workin under these conditions any more. Period. So hit the road.” Ok, I thought, that’s reasonable, I mean I am pretty sick. And since every time I tried to smoke this happens, I’ll just give it a rest for a day. I mean…I AM sick and all.
Except it didn’t stop the next day. Or the day after that. I started getting better, but every time I thought I might be able to smoke again, the answer was a very loud NO. The magic three days went by (the amount of time it generally takes for all the nicotine to leave your system) and still no luck. Physically, my addiction is pretty gone by now, but the pyschological is 1000 times stronger, as all smokers who’ve tried to quit know. But my lungs were persistent. They were firm in their conviction. They were DONE. A week goes by, then two, and I still just can’t smoke. It’s getting to the point where I don’t so much mind anymore, since I feel so much better (more so than just the recovery from illness), I have more money in my pocket, and I”m starting to smell what smokers smell like and I don’t like it.
It was nearly a year before my lungs let me take a drag, and only barely at that. By that time it was pointless…it tasted bad, and I ended up just puffing on them once every six months or so at certain parties. The mere thought of a deep drag of nicotine smoke still makes my lungs do a cautionary seize, and that combined with a habit I”ve developed of taking a deep breath …a DEEP breath…every time I think of smoking, makes it pretty much a done deal. Those deep breaths feel glorious.