Tales from the Past - When to Quit Smoking
This is another of my late mother's writings I found while cleaning the house, this time it is a story about a time when I convinced her to stop smoking. The sad irony of this entry is that not soon after this was written, due to her work, she returned back to smoking. The organisation that she was with was a high stress environment and she was a social smoker. Thus, whether second hand or first hand smoking, it can be seen that that environment was a contributor to her lung cancer and eventual death.
Remember, there is no work worth dying for. Doesn't matter if it is a good cause or not, if the environment demands too much of you, you need to prioritise yourself. It is not selfishness. It is self love.
If you suffer because of your work, you are not alone because everyone around you suffers too. And if that work kills you, everyone who loves you suffers a major loss.
I recently caught up with an old friend who I hadn’t seen for ages and as we chatted away, he took out his pack of cigarettes, lit one and offered it to me, as was his usual habit. I declined and said I had quit, whereupon he fell about laughing. “Yea right,” he chuckled, “Since when? This morning?” I thought about it and said – “Actually, for about five years now.”
He blinked at me. I had been a heavy smoker when we used to hang out and we had made all the usual feeble attempts at giving up and failing miserably. “Really?” He said disbelievingly. “Yea,” I said, “really.”
“How did you do it?” He asked.
Strangely enough, my quitting smoking had been completely unplanned and easier than I thought. What happened was – one day, I was leaving my parents’ house, and I never smoke there since my parents don’t approve, so I had lit up as soon as I turned out of the driveway. My son, Sean, then four years old, was in the car with me at the time – yes, all you holy shmoly people, I was smoking in front of my child but I don’t do that anymore ok, so don’t give me a hard time! Anyway, as I took my first hit of nicotine, Sean chirped up and said emphatically, “Smoking is bad for you.”
“Yes, very bad” I grunted, assuaging my guilt by trying to blow smoke out of the open window. Actually, I was glad he had been listening to me drumming that message into him. “Never smoke,” I added for good measure, as I happily puffed away.
“So when are you going to stop?” the little pipsqueak piped up.
“Soon, darling, soon,” I tried to fob him off.
“But when?” When five year olds stop hassling their mothers when they are doing something wrong, I thought. When do smokers give up? Every New Year’s Day, when we optimistically make our resolutions and break them before the day is out, or when my cigarettes run out, which never happens because smokers know that we have cigarettes stashed everywhere for emergency purposes.
But I was caught in my tracks. Suddenly I took a hard look at myself. Here was I, continually telling my son how bad smoking was, and telling him how he should never smoke, and there was I, puffing away. What kind of role model was that?
In that split second, I decided to give up. I pulled the car over, turned to him in the backseat, and said, “You know what, mama’s gonna give up right now.”
So I threw my half smoked cigarette out of the window (let’s not talk about being a lousy role model for throwing trash, ok? It’s biodegradable!), and that was that. I cleared my house, office and car of all my smokes and gave them away to my still smoking friends who were very happy to receive the spoils of my quitting.
So it’s been five years and counting, and yes, there have been moments of weakness where I’d almost kill for a cigarette but fortunately I haven’t succumbed. So, for me, giving up smoking was quite easy – it was as simple as making a decision and sticking by it. With a little help from my son.