Both of my parents had to work hard and thankfully for me, I was able to spend as much of my first 14 years with my grandmother, Pat Walker. She was the quintessential “pillar” of the community. She knew everyone. I can still picture her sitting in her chair, watching television, drinking a soda, and routinely knocking out hundreds of levels in Tetris like a champion. She was most likely also smoking cigarettes.
I went through high school without ever having tried a single cigarette. A lot of my friends chewed tobacco, and I had done that 2-3 times, throwing up violently after each attempt.
For some reason, I decided that I would chew tobacco right around my high school graduation. It almost feels like I did it, because I wasn’t doing it to be cool now. I don’t remember thinking that this was as harsh an action to my grandmother’s memory as smoking would have been, in fact I don’t remember thinking at all.
I moved on to Penn State. Early college was filled with an occasional class, and hours of Counterstrike, aol chatting, and conversations over Natural Light and the occasional Yuengling. These events usually were accompanied by a pinch of Skoal. I know for a fact that the first thing I did while watching the second tower fall on 9/11 was reach for my tin. Frat parties involved hiding a pinch from girls to get a tobacco fix and not seem disgusting. My nickname, which I’ve always hated inside, Dippy. You get where that comes from.
I would say that girls probably factored in to the transition to smoking. A good percentage of the female population thought dipping was disgusting, and you were’t always smoking if you smoked. Around my junior year, I also had gum surgery to repair damaged gums from “brushing too hard.” To say the dentist misdiagnosed that one would be an understatement that I don’t need a medical degree to call out. Constant tobacco use was grinding my lower gums. I couldn’t drive, watch tv, do homework, play video games, or digest a meal without a pinch.
After the surgery, I couldn’t dip for a while. I decided to quit, because I knew this was bad for me. Around this time I smoked cigarettes for the first time. I had never even learned how to inhale before, and I would just suck on it or puff it like a cigar. I remember two of my friends teaching me how to inhale, as I smoked Marlboro Red’s or Cowboy Killers, which for some reason didn’t scare me enough as a nickname.
In the next few years I slowed down on the dipping and became, gasp, a smoker. It was probably 2-3 years ago when I started to identify myself as that horrible word, although in reality it was probably true since I was about 24. I quit for a year and a half in 2008, but after a month of lozenges and nicotine gum, I found my way back to chewing tobacco.
Cigarettes took over my life. I hid them, poorly, from my family. I made up rules that I thought meant that I was in control. No smoking while I worked at the high school, don’t buy a pack of cigarettes during the week, don’t smoke in my car, don’t smoke outside my parents house, don’t smoke while walking to or from class when I went back to Penn State.
All of these rules were broken, but hey, “I could stop whenever I wanted!” My storyline of a smoker basically consists of 3 parts. Act one, I will never smoke a cigarette. Act two, I’ll smoke what I want because I can just quit whenever, and I’m young! Finally, act three, what happened? I would do anything to quit. Next week is the perfect time to do it!
The dirty little secret that almost everyone doesn’t talk about with cigarettes is that you fucking love them. A perfectly timed smoke is awesome. The side of it that doesn’t come through here is that you slowly realize that you’re killing yourself. Every puff you take hurts a little bit. When you get fired up and quit for 8 days again, the first cigarette back sucks.
It’s like getting back together with that girl that you don’t want to, but it’s there, and you’re drunk, frustrated, stressed, bored, etc, etc. It’s never like that first fling. I can never replicate those days when I would smoke 4-5 cigarettes a weekend and love it. You need them more, and hate them more at the same time.
Cigarettes have reeked havoc on me and I know it. My lungs, aren’t strong anymore. I cough all day, and have been told that I wheeze at night when I’m sleeping. My snoring is fairly horrific, or so I’m told, and especially after a day of heavy smoking. I smell all the time, and can’t buy white or light colored pillow covers because the tobacco stains actually come out on the sheets. My cloths smell and I carry cologne all the time.
Through all of this, as I’m typing, the main thought in my head is how much I want a cigarette. I actually stared at Skoal, which I haven’t done consistently since I “tried to quit smoking” for 1.5 years in 2008-9, and thought about buying it today. This is because I stopped yesterday. I’ve announced on Facebook that I’m quitting 2 times now. Both times it brought lots of praise and support, and both times I was smoking within a month.
It has to be different now. According to a few studies on MS and smoking, smokers are more likely to move from relapsing-remitting MS to secondary progressive MS. Smoking while being diagnosed with MS is like smoking when you are in remission from cancer. Every doctor I’ve seen has said the number one thing I need to do is quit smoking.
It’s only been 28 hours, but this feels like it will last for 28 years plus. I just can’t smoke. I am not going to smoke for 1 day. That day is tomorrow. Then, I won’t smoke for another day, and another, and another, and another…. I have plenty a reason to move on from this devilish infatuation.
What I realized and what made me start this blog, was that I wanted to live. I want to live for real. I’m 31 years old, and while I may have already damaged myself from tobacco use, I can say with certainty that I will live longer if I stop smoking now.
I want to see as many sunrises over the Pacific that I can, I want to have that feeling in my stomach from kissing a girl that you are getting to know, and falling for. I want to drive down the Pacific Coast Highway with my moon roof open on a sunny day as much as possible. I want to see my little sisters grow up, graduate, and find their places in the world. I want to be in a position to help my parents when they get older, and not a position where they have to help me. I want to own a house, a truck, a dog, and maybe even a boat. I want to travel, I want to see the damn world like I haven’t yet. I want to wake up in the morning and not cough. I want to sleep next to someone all night and not have them have that look in their eye that screams “something’s wrong with your breathing.”
I don’t want to help my MS advance. I don’t want to breath through a tube. I don’t want to pay any more goddamn money to Philip Morris. I don’t want to set a horrible example for my younger family members. I don’t want to forget that one of the best gifts my grandmother had ever given me, was a strong desire to not even be curious about tobacco growing up. I don’t want to be a statistic.
I’m quitting fucking smoking. It’s going to suck. It’s going to be one of the hardest things that I’ve ever done, even though, if I had just never smoked, I would have never wanted to.
I don’t need messages of sympathy or congrats or you can do this, because I’m not doing this to impress anyone anymore. I’m doing this for me. I’m not smoking cigarettes, and I’m not using tobacco. I’ll do this for Matthew Walker, and probably Pat Walker too.
Matt, 1 day tobacco free.