Dark Clouds All Around Me
We had a Lincoln when I was a kid, a relic from the Forties. It smelled of cigarettes, my mother’s cologne, and my dad’s beer breath. I dreaded going for rides of any length because the combined odors and the motion of the car guaranteed that I would upchuck eventually. To this day, I hate the smell of beer breath and cologne. You’d think I’d hate the smell of cigarettes as well, except that I smoke.
Had I known, as a chronically carsick child, that I would one day grow up to smoke myself, I would have turned myself into the priests and had myself exorcised. At age fourteen I swiped a cigarette from one of my mothers’ packs. It was a Winston 100 and it tasted like crap. Because I had self-righteously railed against my parents’ smoking, I’d never paid much attention to the mechanics of it, so my first attempt at lighting up was an experiment in frustration. I even blew into the filter, thinking that’s how the smoke came out. Even when I managed to inhale a little, it wasn’t really inhaling—I just sucked some smoke into my mouth and poofed it right back out. It was horrible.
I was not instantly hooked, as some people claim. Oh, no—my career as a smoker required repetition and becoming inured to the smell, taste, and effects of sucking toxic waves of smoke into my pink and healthy lungs. Since graduating to regular smoking at age sixteen, I have been ingesting chemical components such as nicotine, cyanide, benzene, formaldehyde, methanol, acetylene, and ammonia. I am nearly fifty-two. That’s almost 36 years of these and other chemicals polluting my body on a daily basis, as well as stinking up my living spaces, cars, clothing, and furniture. The worst shame of it all is that my child was subjected to these fumes for years.
That child is now twenty-two and expecting my first grandchild. Being smarter than her mother, my daughter doesn’t smoke, and has already cautioned that no one will come near her baby who does smoke. The pressure is on.
I must find a way to quit these godawful things once and for all.
Over the years, I’ve heard various smokers say: "I LIKE smoking. It calms me down. I like the taste." Not I. I have never liked smoking. I smoke because I’m an addictive soul. Unlike drinking, which I LOVED, I have always hated cigarettes. Until booze became my enemy, we had some fun times and laughs, but I can never say that I have any good memories of smoking. What I have are memories of me burning holes in sofas, chairs, clothing, car upholstery. Leaving burn marks on kitchen counters and tile floors. Having to clean window blinds covered with a sticky, caramel colored residue from a winter of smoking indoors. Not to forget all those terrific times freezing my ass off outside buildings where smoking is banned, and getting dirty looks from passersby as they walk through the fog of my bad habit.
There are now, in addition to lung cancer, a plethora of diseases one can contract from long-term smoking. Cancers of the mouth, tongue, larynx, and skin are quite common. Breast cancers occur more often in smokers than non-smokers. How about bladder cancer? Because a smoker is inhaling these toxins into the lungs, they eventually get into the blood stream and are passed out through the urine. Because I’ve been smoking so long, I am now experiencing gum disease. I cough frequently. I have trouble breathing. My sinuses are chronically inflamed, and I’m more prone to colds, flu, and other viruses. Fun stuff, huh?
Then there is the monetary side to this. Setting aside what it has cost me in terms of lost wages from being ill, let’s just do some calculating as to what I have paid over the years for the privilege of being a social pariah and a smelly citizen:Averaging out the cost of a pack of cigarettes at 3.50 per day for 36 years, I come up with the staggering sum of $45,990. That’s a conservative guess as to the average price. If I continue to smoke now, with cigarettes up to $4.50 and $5.00 a pack where I live, that is $1825.00 per year. Quite literally, the home I have never been able to afford went up in smoke, along with my college tuition and a new car.
In the last few years, I have actually stopped smoking for short periods. The longest attempt at quitting got me to just over two months before I caved in and bought another pack. I’ve quit cold turkey. I’ve used Nicorette gum and other smoking cessation products. I’ve tried green tea and other natural remedies. I paid $300.00 for hypnosis sessions that were very relaxing, but didn’t take away the urges. I’ve tried drugs, and prayer, and self-affirmations. I’ve sworn off smoking more times than George W. Bush has lied. Yet, here I am—approaching grandmotherhood—and I’m still slave to this vile, reprehensible, costly, smelly, dangerous, disgusting habit.
People have queried me about how it is that I’ve been clean and sober for a number of years, yet I continue this destructive smoking thing. I have no answer. The closest I’ve gotten to an answer came from the hypnotherapist who suggested that this particular habit, like my overeating, is my oldest bad habit. Journaling about this produced some feelings of hopelessness and rage, which were typical feelings of mine from childhood and adolescence. Just scratching the surface of that period of my life brought forth a flood of things I’d buried and hidden and I couldn’t wait to stuff them all back into the box and shove it into the attic again. It’s the big clue, and I’m preparing to face it once again. So, I’m thinking therapy is down the road here shortly…
Whatever I have to do to stop, I’ll do. I’m looking into accupuncture next. I’m still chronicalling the journey as I go. I’ve got to save my own life, and be around long enough to watch my daughter become a mom, and my grandson become a major league baseball player with the Chicago Cubs.
Blogging about this has been tough. If you’ll excuse me now, I gotta go have a smoke.