I started smoking when I was 13 years old. This was in the early 1980’s before smoking and smokers became taboo. My dad smoked. A lot of people did. It started as a way to look older, be more cool, and just rebel against my parents and other adult authority figures by doing something they told me I couldn’t. Yeah, mostly that last part. I never wanted to do anything someone told me to do. I am still kind of that way.
It started gradually, stealing the occasional cigarette from my Dad, sneaking off for a couple of puffs, then butting it out and saving the rest for later. One cigarette might last 3 or 4 smoking excursions. Then it evolved to buying a package of cigarettes with my BFF and splitting them. Yes, back then a kid could walk into the store and buy a package of cigarettes and nobody blinked an eye. I have never had to show ID to get smokes. Then that of course evolved to buying my own package of cigarettes. And the habit grew from one short stubby cigarette every few days to a couple of packs of king-sized smokes every day.
Around about 2002 I quit smoking. I did it for my health. Mostly because I had arthritis really bad and everything I read said the first thing I needed to do to help in my recovery and maintenance was to quit smoking. I was in such pain and so immobile that I was ready to do anything I needed to do. So I quit smoking, hell I gave up anything tomato based at one time because I thought it might help. I was desperate.
Quitting was the most difficult thing I ever had to do. I gained another whole person in weight. My metabolism seemed to completely die, so even while I exercised and snacked on carrot sticks I continued to gain weight, I might as well have sat on the couch eating potato chips all day. Still I stuck with it, telling myself that my metabolism would bounce back some day and I would be able to lose the weight. It did about a year or so later and I did lose about half the weight I had gained. I stayed roughly that size until recently when I’ve started putting weight on again.
When I think of myself and smoking I tell people that I was a hard core smoker. And by that I mean I have never met another person in the world who really seemed to enjoy smoking as much as I did. I just loved it! First thing in the morning, last thing at night, sometimes in the middle of the night when I would wake up from a dream, after every meal, with every cup of coffee, on those frosty wintry days, on those warm summer evenings, watching the sun rise, watching the sun set, with an ice cold beer, with a nice glass of red wine, during a stressful work day, while writing something new … I mean ANY time was smoke time and I absolutely loved them all!
Despite all that I quit smoking and stayed quit … for seven years. In the fall of 2009 I started again. I was in the States with my soon to be husband (now ex). Everybody smoked there it seemed. Cigarettes were so cheap there it seemed ($2 something a pack!). Smoking and smokers weren’t taboo, you could still smoke in some public places like restaurants and bars (crazy!). And their cigarettes didn’t even taste like cigarettes, they were like fake cigarettes, so un-cigarette-like that it was like not even really smoking. It would be easy to blame my relapse on being in the States, living with a man who smoked, but honestly I was on my way to relapse before I got there. I had shared cigarettes with people a couple of times that I’d gone out earlier that year. I would be drawn to the smoking area of any party or occasion. The only reason I might not have gotten back into it full time if I’d stayed in Canada might have been because I couldn’t afford them. But I dunno, I might have shifted resources and budgeted myself so I could have some.
I quit smoking for the second time on September 18, 2013. I did it the same way I did the first time, with nicotine gum. I chewed nicotine gum for over a year (I know, you are probably not supposed to chew it that long). I tried weaning myself off the gum a few times but I couldn’t do it. I managed during that whole first year and a bit to not gain a whole other person, but perhaps only 5 or 10 pounds. Since I have chucked the nicotine gum I have gained over 20 pounds at last weighing and likely more. I didn’t quit smoking this time because I was in a lot of pain and pretty much stuck in bed with arthritis. I quit because my boyfriend did and I wanted him to stay quit and I knew from personal experience that being with a smoker after you quit is not good. Plus, I didn’t want to be that kind of role model to my nieces and nephew. Also smoking is still very expensive and I still do not have a lot of financial wiggle room. All good reasons. Good enough to keep me quit.
For now …
I tell my family and friends that if I am still alive and well at 80 years old, and if smoking hasn’t been completely banned, I am going to smoke again. I will have an end of the day cigarette with a glass of wine. A complete guilty pleasure treat. Maybe I will change my mind by then, but for now it helps to know it isn’t forever, just for a few more years.
And finally I have found someone who loves to smoke as much as me. I’ve been rewatching Friends on Netflix. I am Chandler Bing!