July 21, 2009

Better tUesday: Of All My Scumbag Exes…

…the one I still miss, lo these many years later, is Mr. Camel Special Light. He was TERRIBLE for me---all my friends said so. I LOVED him, and yet he was actively working to harm me, and I wouldn’t leave him.

He slowed me down and made me puff and gasp on stairs, and he made my hair smell unforgivably bad. And yet he remains TO THIS DAY the most beloved all my abandoned former vices. In fact, if I was told with absolute surety that the planet would blow up tomorrow, destroying all life, and it absolutely could NOT be helped, I would choose to spend a portion of my final hours with him. I dream about smoking some nights, long luxurious lung-heating puffs of beautiful addictive drugness. MMMMMM!

So how did I quit? Over and over, that’s how.

Most people who successfully quit do it like that, over and over, setting the pack down and walking away, and failing, and going back, and then trying prescription drugs and acupuncture and gum and patches and hypnosis, walking away from cigs with help from various tools until they come to the time when it works and they are done smoking.

But if I loved him SO MUCH, was it worth it to ditch him?

Yes. Absolutely. I discovered there are things I love really a lot MORE. If you are trying to quit, make your own list – it may help you make THIS time the one true final time.

1) I love my husband more. Scott’s dad died of lung cancer after a lifetime of smoking. Scott never pressured me hard or got mad, but watching me smoke made his eyes sad, every time.

2) Running and hiking and swimming with my kids. As a smoker, I was always out of breath.

3) Working out. People who have never dedicated long term fitness routine think endorphins are a myth. I USED TO THINK THEY WERE A MYTH! But oh no, they are true and real and make the WHOLE sky all diamonds. The pleasure is very similar to nicotine, actually, a more intense long flying feel of pleasure while engaged in the activity, followed by lowered stress and being generally a more pleasant person to be around. Amusing coincidence: Sweating up some endorphins and puffing up some nicotine BOTH make you smell bad.

4) Food. REAL actual simple foods, like PEARs, taste AWESOME post-smoking. As a smoker, pears taste like…. Nothing. Chewy, watery nothing. Grease and salt were the things that registered on my numbed buds. And yes, I know people say they gain weight when they quit, but with the improved lung capacity I exercised more, and I found things did not have to be salty and greasy to taste good, so I actually lost weight.

5) MONEY. Good lord the stupid things are five bucks a pack! That’s more than a Fancy Latte! Thirty bucks a week, at a minimum, and that’s a dinner out, or a matinee movie for the whole family.

6) Not dying of lung cancer and not getting chunks of your throat taken out so you have to talk like a robot through a hole in your neck and not having to wheel a little oxygen tank around while you slowly drown via emphysema with lovely crisp ungettable air all around you. It is SO SUPER FUN to not smoke, instead. Try it – you will like it.

Anyway. If you are trying to be BETTER, this is one thing that will improve your life and heart health in almost every possible way, immediately.
It can be done.
You can do it.

Posted by joshilyn at July 21, 2009 1:58 PM

Of all the possible contributors to my mom's cancer, there was one big one: smoking. She suffered from lymphoma for 10 years until it spread to her lungs and killed her in a matter of weeks. "Official" cause of death: lung cancer. My dad continued to smoke until his second heart bypass when his second wife made him quit with her. I had a one-week fling with nicotine in high school and to this day want a smoke if I'm in a bar (even if it's a smoke-free bar).
Exercise endorphins are wooonderful. But I never seem to find them in a bar...I have to chase them running down the street.

Posted by: Lulu at July 21, 2009 2:29 PM

My dad died of congestive heart failure 2 years ago...the culprit was smoking. I quit smoking 9 years ago, right after his heart attack that sent him into CHF. I miss him every day. I don't miss smoking. I wish he had made a list of all the things he loved more than smoking, preferably in the 1960s, so he'd still be around, telling us jokes that never end and making the best meatballs ever.

Posted by: Trish at July 21, 2009 2:55 PM

My grandfather died of lung cancer. At 89. He smoked for 50+ years and quit when the surgeon general came down firmly in the "bad idea" camp. I don't know if he would've gotten sick earlier if he hadn't quit, or if he would've lived longer if he'd never smoked, but he's an impressive example of how even VERY long-term habits can be broken.

My parents were social smokers and quit for financial, not health reasons in the early '60s (pre- Surgeon General). My dad figured out their budget before they got married and discovered that they couldn't support two cigarette habits - so they quit. I dunno if they were less addicted than some or why they didn't have too much trouble, but, aside from the occasional cigar or pipe for my dad for a few years afterwards, it wasn't something they looked back to much.

Congrats to everyone who has kicked the habit and good luck to everyone who wants to! So many excellent reasons to stop.

Still not convinced about endorphins, though.

Posted by: Diane (TT) at July 21, 2009 3:06 PM

My dad died of lung cancer at 39 and yet my sister and I both started smoking. My sister still smokes at 56 even though her husband died of chronic lung and heart disease from smoking. The addiction, she is a powerful one.

I quit 14 years ago but every once in awhile I'll smell cigarette smoke and have the yearning. Will I succumb - never never please God never.

Posted by: pam at July 21, 2009 5:51 PM

I grew up with two smoking parents. I applaud all the former smokers, and support all the ones who hope to finally be former smokers.

Now please, how do you get those endorphins? You're the second writer to mention them this week, and I think I'm getting ripped off during my excercise somehow. (Maybe I forgot to pay the endorphin bill...)

Posted by: JulieB at July 21, 2009 9:31 PM

My dad smoked in college, but quit a four pack a day habit. He stopped cold turkey (we're a stubborn bunch), and carried around an open pack for a week before Mom realized that he'd quit.

Dad's best friend died of lung cancer and COPD when he was just over 60. The friend's mother died because of cigarettes, and he still couldn't quit. He stayed at home throughout the long illness, and refused to quit even then. He'd take off his oxygen and shuffle out to the garage to suck down a cigarette. His death was ugly and undignified and heartbreaking.

His daughter smokes, and won't quit.

Posted by: Sandi at July 21, 2009 9:31 PM

My siblings and I noted recently that all of our older family relatives are in two camps - one doing great at age 70/80, traveling, enjoying life, and the other doing not so great at 70/80, attached to oxygen, in and out of hospitals, or already gone. And the difference is one camp didn't smoke, and the other did. That's all the proof I need.

Posted by: Sharon at July 21, 2009 9:34 PM

My mother died of ovarian cancer (which spread), and her sister, my Aunt Judy, died three months later of breast cancer. A paternal aunt died of brain cancer. All that I have seen of cancer has demonstrated that it is a slow, painful, and frustrating way to die. I was twelve when I heard my mother say through tears, "The doctors say that the rest of my body is perfectly healthy! Why does it keep coming back?" You would think that memory would be enough to keep me from ever starting, but it wasn't.

There is no "only one" cigarette for me. There is smoking daily or not smoking at all. That "just one" smoke has gotten me started again so many times.

For me it helps to know that a big part of the "high" I got from that first drag of the day was the carbon monoxide, decreasing the flow of oxygen to my brain. And all day while I smoked, I was suffocating my brain as surely as having a pillow over my face.

I have already decided that, like the character in the comedy "All of Me," if If IF I still want one when I am over 80 years old AND on my deathbed, THEN I can have one.


Posted by: JMIxx at July 21, 2009 10:32 PM

My daughter was in a car accident. When I found myself slipping outside to have a smoke while she was in getting x-rays...it just hit me upside the head. I tossed the cigarette I was smoking and haven't gone back.

Her accident could on some level have saved my own life. A year later I was diagnosed with Emphysema. The doctor said with the damage I had sustained, another year of smoking would of have some serious adverse effects.

I'm getting healthier by the day through breathing therapy. Even with the Emphysema I've never felt better having quit smoking. The irony is, I still have days I would give anything for a cigarette. Yes, even as life threatening as it would be for me.

Here in NY the price of a pack of cigarettes is close to $7. I don't see how anyone can afford to smoke anymore. (Hugs)Indigo

Posted by: Indigo at July 22, 2009 9:53 AM

Your list is a great idea! I too quit smoking (after 22 years/2 packs a day) - 4 years and 8 months ago. I still have some very strong cravings, but I know that if I ever picked one up I would be smoking 2 packs a day again by tomorrow. My mom didn't quit smoking until she was diagnosed a year ago with metastatic lung cancer. She died within 4 months after undergoing surgery to remove a brain tumor and weeks of radiation that did nothing to shrink the lung tumors. It was the most devastating experience I could imagine and why I will never smoke again in spite of the intense desire (and dreams - I still dream about smoking). My mom passed just 7 months after my father-in-law, also of cancer. My husband secretly smokes, but of course all of us in the family who don't smoke can tell that he does. I tread lightly but pray every day that he will quit for good. And about those endorphins...I guess maybe you have to exercise to find them, huh? And maybe that would help with the 30 pounds I've put on since quitting. Hmmm...I'll have to think about that.

Posted by: Kathy at July 22, 2009 10:44 AM

After smoking a pack-and-a-half a day for almost 30 years, I quit cold turkey three months ago. Because I never, never want to hear the words "You've got lung cancer."

Is it hard? Yeah. Is it worth it? Yeah.

Posted by: RockyCat at July 22, 2009 11:15 AM

smoking is the reason I was widowed at the age of 46. I wish he had loved me and this life more than that damned tobacco but he didn't. It was an ugly painful thing that we both went through. If you love somebody, don't EVER put them through that because you liked to smoke! He had quit 18 months before diagnosis. some insensitive BOOB told me, "It's only the ones who stop who get Cancer!" I have blocked their identity from my mind or they'd be dead now, too. It was horrible. It still hurts today. He should still be here, irritating everyone and kissing the dogs. and me.

Posted by: Peggy in Tulsa at July 22, 2009 12:32 PM

Wow. You're timing is really good. I am in my 1st week of stopping for the eleven thousandth time. Things that seem to be working right now are 1. Financial 2. Running every day, yoga 3 times a week. Its amazing how much easier it is to run 5 miles when I'm not smoking before and after 3. Imagining how disgusting it is to watch someone smoke through a hole in their throat. Have you seen this? Sexy, really. 4. Playing a game with myself called "How Bad Do You Really Want It?" where I ask myself what would I do for a cigarette right now? Either I don't want one bad enough to do anything really gross, or I want one bad enough to dive into a fetid dumpster full of month old trash. If I want one that bad, then I think, how pathetic is that? Do you really want to be this person?

But nothing works for ever and I am in the part where it would be really easy to give up (again). Thanks for the reminder why I'm doing this.

Posted by: megan at July 22, 2009 5:40 PM

My daughter e-mailed a link to this discussion, a sure sign that she loves me and is concerned about my continued smoking. I'm one of those who has quit so many times that I've lost count. One of the biggest problems I find is that when I quit, I feel like I've lost my best friend. Cigarettes are my "comfort food," a psychological release from the stresses of life. THat's the part I've never been able to overcome: I can beat the "addiction," but I can beat the psychological bear.

Every time I've quit, I've gained 10 pounds. Years ago, each time I'd start smoking again, I'd lose the 10. Well, that doesn't happen anymore, now that I'm 53. . . . I'm on Weight Watchers now, so as soon as I lose the 25 pounds I've been carrying too long, I'm going to tackle the other addiction.

Keep me in your prayers -- and my daughter, as well. She wants a grandmother to be around a long time for your children -- as do I.

Posted by: Susan in Slapout at July 22, 2009 7:03 PM