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How I quit smoking

© December 2008 Anthony Lawrence

Oh, my, aren't we focused this week? I've been all over the map here, talking about just about everything except what this site is usually about. Oh, well..

I hate to see young people smoking. Well, I hate seeing anyone smoking but the less time you've been doing it the easier it is to quit, so young people bother me the most. I want them to get free of that awful habit before it hooks them harder.

I started smoking around age thirteen. That was 1961 or so. I quit in 1995 - that's more than thirty years of stupidity.

I "quit" hundreds of times, maybe thousands. I'd get disgusted with myself, crush the pack I had and throw it away. An hour later I'd be in a store buying a new pack even while part of my brain was screaming "No, no, no!". It was like someone else had control of me. I hated it. The next day I'd quit again. Sometimes I'd quit multiple times in the same day. I'd dig crushed and broken cigarettes out of the trash where'd I'd thrown them and look for pieces long enough to smoke. I'd pull cigarettes out of the ashtray that I'd half smoked and crushed in anger. I hated it.

I'd lie on the couch sometimes and feel my lungs aching. I was sure I had cancer, and that just made me smoke more. I'd get bronchitis at least once a year and be racked by violent coughing for days on end - but I'd be back smoking the minute that cough backed off just a bit. I hated it, but I kept smoking.

I tried fake cigarettes, tapering off, cold turkey. Once I went a whole year only smoking one a day. That was great, I thought, but soon after I was back up to a pack a day again. I hated it.

In the summer of 1995, we were at our weekend vacation spot. It was a trailer campground where most of us had our trailers parked permanently. A lot of us had wooden decks. If someone moved their trailer or bought a new one, of course the deck had to be moved. We'd do that by hand - just get enough men around it, pick it up and take it wherever it needed to go. The decks usually weren't very large or heavy so this was fairly easy.

This day we needed to move a deck that was both large and heavy. It was a very large, two section, double planked, pressure treated deck. Double planks, closely spaced cross beams: this was a piece of Construction, for sure. Ten of us gathered to do the move. There were two sections, and one was sitting considerably down-hill from the other, so we decided to move that one first.

For some idiotic reason, I took the downhill corner. I say idiotic because while I was certainly not the smallest man in the group, I was also far from the largest. But I don't think any of us realized just how incredibly heavy that piece of deck was.

I lift weights pretty regularly. I know what it feels like to lift 300 pounds off the ground, and I even know what 400 pounds feels like. When I straightened my legs, my hands and arms told me that my share of the load was a bit heavier than that, and neither my muscles, my tendons, or my joints were happy about it. Worse, it would not be sufficient merely to pick this thing up; we had to walk with it, and part of that walk was going to be backwards for those of us on this side of the deck.

When you misestimate this sort of thing, it's very dangerous to give up. Everybody lifting was probably at or near the limits of their strength, so if one person suddenly gave out, all of us would probably get dragged down. I remember thinking that, and I would have liked to suggest that we put it down and get more help, but it was too heavy: I couldn't talk.

But the worst was yet to come. We didn't have far to walk, a few yards, and once it was leveled out, the load lessened a little bit and I was fairly certain that my fingers were not going to come out of their sockets. But as we started to lower it into place, I realized that I was standing in the deepest part of the deepest trench that had been dug to let this behemoth be level. I couldn't step up without taking all the weight on one foot, and I was not at all sure I could do that. Worse, the other people, who were in the narrower part, were already starting to let down the load because they were able to step up more easily.

I yelled. Other people say I squealed, and I don't doubt it. I could see this multi-ton monster crushing my feet or even my legs and I didn't see any way to avoid it. I was scared, which might have generated enough adrenalin for me to make the step, or maybe the pure terror in my voice caused the other men to pull up harder. I don't know, but somehow we got that section down without chopping off my toes.

I stood there, legs quivering, very drained. I expected my heart to be racing, but it wasn't. In fact, it was beating very, very slowly, so slowly that I was sure I must be dying. I think I sat down and felt better fairly quickly, but here's the odd thing:

I never smoked again after that day. Not once. Not a puff, not a drag. Never bought another pack, never wanted to.

I dreamed about smoking after that. I'd be angry with myself when I woke up because I'd think the dream was real, but it never was. I really can't tell you why that made me quit for good, but it did.

So that's how it was. Instant quit, very little withdrawal, no backsliding. Done and done, thanks to an impossibly heavy deck.

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More Articles by © Anthony Lawrence

Sun Dec 7 19:40:27 2008: 4880   BigDumbDinosaur

Back when I was in my teens there was a lot of subtle peer pressure to smoke. It was the "cool" thing to do and it was thought the best looking girls would be attracted to you if you had cigarette in hand like Clark Gable.

What convinced me otherwise was this very good-looking chick named Carole who asked me to the Turnabout Dance when I was a sophomore (that dance was one where the girls asked the guys, hence the name). I wasn't a smoker at the time -- hadn't yet succumbed to the peer pressure -- yet one of the hottest babes in the school had asked me out! I quickly realized that, no, you didn't have to smoke to attract the girls, a thought that was later reinforced when she told me she thought smoking was a disgusting habit.

Having never smoked, I have not had any of the health issues that smokers often face, not have I spend vast quantities of money to purchase the weed. Although I'm in my sixties and am grappling with a bleeding disorder that nearly did me in about a year ago, I still have quite a bit of energy and I don't get winded like some of my friends who smoked for years. For that, I have Carole to thank.

Stopping the habit is difficult. Nicotine is addictive. The desire to fit in is also addictive, and if the crowd with which you like to hang is populated with smokers, you will have your work cut out for you. But, as Tony demonstrated by quitting some 13 years ago, it can be done. So, as the advertising slogan goes, just do it!


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