Quitting is hard, isn’t it? I suppose I’ve had my fair share of quitting, though I think I may have been fired from more jobs that I quit. I’m a free spirit, I guess. I’m sure that’s also why I seem to pick up bad habits. One habit that was especially insidious was smoking.
Most people that smoke start early on in middle or high school. I believe I was fourteen when I tried my first cigarette. I could have all I wanted because I had a friend swipe them from his mom. There were also tobacco vending machines all over town. I’m guessing all of these machines were phased out in the States when I was eight or ten, but in Germany, it was another story. I lived there three years, and I was beginning to think that smoking was an Olympic sport. Nevertheless, I may have smoked all of twenty cigarettes from fourteen to eighteen.
I never got serious about smoking until I was eighteen. I thought smoking was ridiculous, but it just made me look so darn cool.
I mention this because five years ago today I quit smoking. I took Chantix for months before I even thought about seriously quitting. The Chantix helped, but the best aid for me was Gobstoppers. I would toss about fifteen in my mouth because it’s hard to smoke with a mouthful of candy. And you might choke.
The withdrawal was the worst. I was on edge. I felt like I was gonna die. Or kill. Either was fine with me. That was only the beginning. For months I had a cough that made my smoker’s hack seem like I was just clearing my throat. Did I mention the nightmares? I still have the occasional nightmare. You know the kind. The kind of dream where you start smoking…then you realize that you have to start over again. I worked long and hard to be smoke free. I don’t want to have to start the quit clock over.
I always kept a half empty pack of Marlboro Lights in my glovebox just in case I needed them. About a year after I quit I got in a fender bender. Without thinking, I reached into the glovebox, popped a heater into my mouth, and started fumbling for a lighter. Just before I lit up I realized I didn’t smoke. I put the cigarette up and got out of the pickup to assess the damage.
Five years without a cigarette is a pretty big feat. I can remember the impossibility of quitting. I can remember the dread when I ran out of cigarettes. I can remember the constant hacking. I can remember standing in the rain to get my fix. I can remember the time I smoked four packs of Reds in one day. I can remember the freedom I felt after being smoke free for six months. I can remember envisioning this landmark day. Then I almost forgot that today marks five years of not smelling like an ashtray.