10 Years, 3 Months, 21 Days

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This was written for The Red Dress Club‘s memoir writing project, Remembe(red).
I really appreciate comments and feedback.
Concrit is always welcome, and thanks for taking the time!

Write about the first (or second) memory that
comes to mind when you see this:

Word limit: 600 My count: 545

I will always be an ex-smoker.

I'm one of the “lucky” ones; quitting wasn't a challenge for me. I didn't know I was quitting at the time, because I was admitted to the hospital for six weeks and I was so busy trying not to die, it didn't even occur to me to be miserable about quitting.

I had smoked a pack (or more) a day for about 7 years; an inexorable part of my life. Wake up, have a smoke. Get in the car, grab a cigarette. Break at work, I could get in 2 cigarettes in a 10 minute break.

It had its low points, of course… huddling under an awning in the rain, trying to stay dry so I could get my fix. The coughing. Paying $4 or more per pack. The cherry that flew off my cigarette while driving on the freeway, falling down my back and burning my flesh and the car seat. The yellow-stained fingernails. The smell of stale tobacco and smoke following me everywhere I went, the minty gum and perfume fooling no one.

But, oh, a smoke and a cup of coffee. Sitting with my girlfriends on a café patio, drinking cup after cup of over-sweet mocha java, chatting, laughing and chain smoking. My friend Kristy and I used to buy trashy Cosmo magazines and we'd lay on her bedroom floor smoking Capri 120s and reading the articles, taking the embarrassing sex quizzes out loud.

Smoking was great. It gave me something in common with people I'd meet at the bar, an automatic community of people wherever I went. We would look into buildings from outside, feeling smug, superior and cooler than the non-smokers inside.

I'm not one of those obnoxiously proud ex-smokers; I don't cough delicately when someone comes back in the room from a smoke break. I don't harass friends into quitting. I'm proud and happy when they do, but it's not my call if they smoke or don't.

Because if I had my choice, I'd still smoke.

Seriously.

I. Still. Miss. It. Every. Single. Day.

And I hate that it still has that power over me. Almost a third of my life has passed since I was a smoker, but I still crave it sometimes. Sitting at that same café with the same girlfriends, even though none of us smoke anymore. Watching a dark European film where everyone apparently chain smokes still gets me. A fresh doughnut and a cup of coffee makes me miss the rhythmic tapping into the ashtray.

I wish I'd never started, because if I'd never taken that first drag, I wouldn't know what I was “missing out” on, wouldn't still be missing those things.

When I drive down the street and see someone smoking on the sidewalk, the first thought that goes through my head is “People still do that?” and yet, I think I'd probably still be one of them if I'd never gotten sick. I worry about explaining this to Max; don't start, kiddo, because trust me and your dad. Being an ex-smoker is tougher than dealing with turning your buddies down now. Better to be un-cool for a minute today than to be stuck with these cravings forever.

But I can't worry about that today. Today, I'll concentrate on my journey as an ex-smoker. And look forward to having 10 years, 3 months, 22 days under my belt.

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15 Comments

  1. How fabulous would it be if every kid of the current generation not smoking would take these words to heart and not start? Personally, I grew up around smokers (not just immediate family) and I actually tried it and hated it. I can only imagine how hard quitting can be, but the even bigger challenge is not starting back up. It's like any other addiction.

  2. I think a lot of people smoke to be part of a community as you said. It's like an instant friendship. Also, there is such a romance to it…a horrible heart wrenching romance. Lol. I really like how you wrote this. Good for you for staying strong.

  3. I love your perspective and wish more people could understand how being judgemental and nasty won't help people quit. When I personally encounter people judging smokers I see a side of their personality I don't like.

    Quitting drinking has been extremely difficult and quitting smoking will be no easier I'm sure. I hope one day to be able to track my nonsmoking days as well!

  4. what an honest way to look at it, to know that you still want that vice every day…..but also knowing that it's not good for you, that it leads to bad stuff.

    As for telling our kids, I don't know what we can do beyond just telling them the truth, like this post..letting them know we're human and we made decisions that weren't the brighest ones…they don't have to follow in those footsteps.
    It's up to them to decide if they will…right?
    Great job!

  5. Congratulations on quitting, and for not pretending how hard it is to stay a non-smoker.
    I really liked this point of view.
    Came from TRDC

  6. I loved this very real point of view. i too am an ex-smoker but find it hard not to have one occasionally when I am around a smoker. I really do "like' it. Such a hard thing to get out of your life completely.

  7. I wish my son could get this. I'm not a smoker, so I can get a part of this. I've been around enough to know how hard it is, and how easy it is to start again .. and always wanting to. Good for you, and I hope you remain smoke free – it's a health thing for me.

  8. I hear you. I missed smoking for a long time after I quit. Now, though, I really don't care. It's been over 13 years.

    I loved the paragraph about the low points of smoking. I'd forgotten about how your hands get stained and always smell, no matter what you do. Great imagery!

  9. I'm sorry that you had to be hospitalized but I am glad that it helped to to quit. I know the allure of smoking but I'm so glad I never made it a real habit. Congrats to you on over a decade of being a "non-smoker"! 🙂

  10. I quit smoking in my late teens, on a bet (I wanted that free lunch). While I've had a single cigarette in the 12 years in between and I realized why I didn't want to take it up again. But honestly, when I'm stressed, I do automatically think about how good a Djarum Back or a Marlboro Red out be.

    Psychologically, it's tough to let go. I miss the camaraderie of it/

  11. I spent nearly 18 months playing on-line games 60+ hrs/week. This was after I quit my job and before I had my first child. It was quite an addiction and very hard to stop. I continued until he was 3 months old.

    Would I do it again? Yes. Do I miss it? Absolutely. Would I go back? Only if every other thing I loved in my life ended first. The addiction crowded out the other things and people I loved, but man it was fun.

    –Beth

  12. Thanks for your honesty. A collapsed lung, surgery, and prolonged hospital stay brought my mom's 25 year habit to an abrupt end. It's been 25 years since she stopped and she kissers it every single day as well. After she stopped, she liked to sit next to the smoking section so that she could smell the smoke.

    Cigarettes are far more addictive than society tends to let on. Yes, we all know the dangers, but rarely do people openly admit how addicted they are.

    Great job!

  13. Oh it's so so true.
    The first hint of spring and I instantly crave a cigarette.
    I'm glad I quit for my health and my child but man I miss sitting out on the deck with a coffee and a girlfriend chatting.

  14. wow, I LOVED this! as an ex-smoker who will always feel nostalgic about smoking, I relate to every word. Well said.

  15. This is so honest. I think it makes you stronger that you have to deal with it everyday and still don't do it.

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