I used to smoke cigarettes. I know, gross, right? Some of you may smoke. I encourage you to quit. Don’t vape, either. Seriously, I want you to be healthy and, well, smoking isn’t. But I won’t give you the former-smoker-now-turned-worst-non-smoker-ever routine. I’ll just talk about my motivation for quitting.
It was a monkey. A vice. And worse, it had a psychological hold over me, and I f@%$!king knew it. The language, I know…But it makes me upset. I was addicted to nicotine, and I didn’t think there was anything I could do about it. I was angry. Straight. Up. Angry.
My parents smoked. It was their generation that made it cool to begin with. They didn’t know the dangers. Hell, I still remember listening to old radio shows on cassette tape in Jr. High with commercial breaks announcing how “4 out of 5 doctors preferred Camel cigarettes over any other brand.” That’s what I smoked. Camels. You think advertising doesn’t affect young, impressionable minds?
Mind you, it isn’t what I started smoking. I started smoking whatever my mom smoked at the time, because when you’re a kid and want to rebel and smoke, you lift whatever you can from your mom when she isn’t looking. Not cool, really. Some kids nipped from the bourbon. I stole a cigarette here and there. I was fifteen.
Fast forward a few years and I was smoking Camels. Lights, like that mattered. I had smoked non-filters for a time, because I thought that was cool. Imagine firing up your dad’s Buick on a hot summer day, and letting it idle until it got nice and warmed up. Now imagine wrapping your lips around the tail-pipe and inhaling while your dad revs the engine until redline. That’s what smoking non-filter cigarettes is like. Just hot, nasty pain all the way down your throat into your lungs. Do not try this.
Smoking non-filters felt like the worst thing ever, but man I looked cool. Didn’t I??
I hated that I smoked. Hated it for my wife who desperately wanted me to quit. Hated that my kids would discover I was a smoker, even though I made every attempt to hide it from them so they wouldn’t be influenced to smoke. Hated that I stunk. Hated that I was spending hard earned money on something I knew might eventually kill me. Hated that I tried to muster the will power to quit, only to suffer anxiety attacks when I’d smoked my last cigarette and hadn’t purchased a new pack in, like, the last ten minutes. Real anxiety because if I wanted a cigarette right now, I’d have to drive to the store to get a pack. And that would take time.
A monkey. Clinging to my back like it had taken notes from that weird egg thing in Aliens. Sucking the life right out of me.
I hated all of those things about smoking, but hated most that I couldn’t choose. I had smoked long enough that the monkey was making decisions for me. I was no longer in control of my own life. It wasn’t free will. It wasn’t fate. It was destiny. I would keep doing the same thing, over and over and over until I was in the dirt. I was angry. I was thirty years old.
I had tried to quit before, but not like this. I was going to kill the addiction before it killed me. I knew I needed help. So I researched supplements to help with the cravings. I didn’t want gum. I don’t really chew gum. Not since I was a kid and would stuff a whole package of Big League Chew into my face until my cheeks were sore. Besides, wasn’t the gum just nicotine gum? Wasn’t I trying to get away from nicotine? I didn’t want gum. I didn’t want another vice to replace the one I had. I wanted to be free. So I researched all natural supplements, and found one online. It could have been a placebo, for all I know. I don’t even remember the brand or the ingredient. I just remember ordering it. Quietly. Alone.
I intercepted the package. Snuck it away so nobody knew I had it. I was still smoking. Still angry. So, so angry. I was on a mission. It was Day 0.
I smoked my last cigarette at 5:30am on a day in the first week of October. I know the date. I’ll never forget it. It was Day 1.
I started taking the supplements. Hoping. Praying. Willing.
On the weekend, my wife and I were out at a flea market in Pasadena, at the world famous Rose Bowl, just kicking around looking at cool stuff. We like old things. Vintage. Repurposed. Things that are given a new life. That’s what I had been looking for. A new life. It was Day 7.
I finally told her that I had quit smoking. I remember I was nervous, like I was confessing I had been cheating on her this whole time with some girl named Nic. I didn’t want her to make a big deal. I wasn’t convinced the monkey was gone. For a long time, I was still afraid. Would I fail? Would I fall under the spell and, during a moment of distress seek out a pack of smokes to make it all ok? Was I weak? Would I ever be strong enough? I had tried to quit before and failed, miserably. Would this time be different?
Today is Day 5,424.
Not my anniversary date, but just another day in my favor. The fear is gone. As evidenced by my earlier plea to get you to quit smoking, you’ll see that I’m now quite the anti-smoker.
Look, I’m not putting this all out there for pity or sympathy. Seriously, I didn’t quit for you. Or for my wife. Or for my kids. I tried all that, multiple times. It never worked. Ever. I had to decide to quit for me. And only me. Once that day came, it happened. Once I realized I committed to taking back my life for me, I had the strength to do it. Nicotine addiction is no joke, man. Smoking may cause cancer, make you stink and cost a lot of money, but more than anything it grabs ahold of your brain and squeezes. It makes you its bitch. Pardon the expression.
Ok, so…enough about that. The thought of the week? We all have a monkey on our back about something. A vice, maybe. Maybe going back to school or searching for a new job. Maybe you’re in a really bad way and you need to leave your situation. Like pronto. But that fear…That monkey. That, indescribable feeling like you’re powerless. You know what I’m talking about?
It just makes me so angry because….It’s bullshit. You aren’t powerless. There is a way. It isn’t going to be easy. You may not like that part of it, but you’ll just have to come to terms with it. The change you want is going to be difficult. Getting rid of that monkey is going to take work, creativity, perspiration, inspiration. It’s going to take guts.
It’s going to take anger and fear and maybe even a little luck. But you can do it, whatever it is. You aren’t powerless. You just don’t know it yet. You just don’t know how powerful and awesome you really are. There is a whole new you out there to discover.
Today is your Day 0.