On 19 January 2018 at 17:10 Central Daylight Time, I declared to the world (or at least to my little part of the world on twitter dot com and to my wife, the lovely Dawn (who lives in England)) that I would not be smoking another cigarette. Ever. I had just finished smoking and had five fags (calm down, bitches) left in the pack at that point. Since then I have smoked 45 cigarettes. If you are (or ever were) a smoker of cigarettes, you won’t find this surprising. I shouldn’t either, but as the one doing the quitting, I do. A little anyway. As I write at the outset of this post, it is 14:27 CDT on 28 January 2018. I last smoked a cigarette about an hour ago.
I have quit once before (at the beginning of 2009), but that was much easier in comparison because I had a specific time frame. I was on a mission, if you will. Some dude contracted by a life insurance company was scheduled to show up at my place on Monday morning to draw a blood sample to check it for, among other things, nicotine. So after about 32 years, I quit cold turkey. Had my last cigarette at midnight that Thursday evening. It takes about 72 hours for nicotine to not show up in your system via a ‘finger prick’ blood sample. I knew that was the plan, so that is what I prepped for. It worked. And after those ~84 hours, I realized I would no longer need that old friend, the nicotine ‘fix.’ And so I didn’t smoke cigarettes again. And after a few days, I settled into a routine whereby I’d sit on my porch (‘Florida room’, LOL) every afternoon and smoke one of the many fine cigars I had collected over the years.
This all went well for five months. I had become a non-smoker. Well, a former smoker, which is a different thing. I wasn’t one of those annoying scolds who complained to everyone who ever smoked a cigarette. Dawn does not smoke, so I wasn’t around it all the time anyway. I just didn’t have that little master in my pocket constantly, as it seemed I had for my whole life up until then. I wasn’t even a little bothered.
And now a brief break for Story Time with Rex (CAUTION: Graphic natural violence; a bird was harmed with extreme prejudice):
One day on that porch, I saw a small bird of prey land on a dove or some other target (which probably had an olive branch in its feet for added effect) and eat it one peck at a time. I had no reliable way to guess at the elapsed time, but I figure the predator was at the ‘table’ for maybe 15 to 20 minutes. I sat facing the Atlantic Ocean, though there was a brick wall at the bottom of the back garden to keep drunks driving down the adjacent A1A from crashing through the sparse palms and ending up in my bedroom. I kept my chair pointed at the screen door, which is how I managed to see activity on the ground from a chair in the ‘Florida room.’ These screened-in porches are characterized in part by having opaque lower panels (up to about 30” off the deck) and screen above that. The door had no such opaque panel. Oh, and my eldest child happened to call as I was smoking my Churchill that day. She lived in Orlando then, which is about an hour north as the Ford flies from where we were in Satellite Beach. So it was that my daughter had a running narrative in real time of a bird being eaten by another bird. I dared not move lest I scare the predator off its prey. I was Marlin Perkins watching Darwinian survival in my backyard and narrating it over the phone. Would that I had had a video camera on me. It was pretty cool for everyone involved (except that little dove or whatever the doomed victim was). The hawk couldn’t finish its meal, but it carried the leftovers home when it left. I had not realized birds of prey take ‘doggie bags.’
Back to the tale of the journey to liberation from my former master. By the way, if you think this ‘master/slave’ analogy is too strong or too un-PC, you have never been addicted to nicotine. Congratulations. I salute you. Honestly.
At the end of May that year, we had decided to move to Alabama and to a house in my hometown that I had purchased while I was on active duty. Without going into detail, suffice to say we wouldn’t have elected to change location from the Atlantic coast (the ‘Space Coast’) to Alabama unless there were other motivating factors. Not that there’s anything wrong with South Alabama, not at all. But that part of Florida is beautiful. We lived right on the beach, after all! We liked it there.
My brother agreed to help us move house, so we flew him down to help us pack and to drive the rental truck up to Alabama. After we had the truck, we realized it wasn’t going to be big enough and I arranged to rent a trailer to gain sufficient additional space for all of our (ok, ‘my’) crap. On the way to get the trailer, bro said ‘Buy me a pack of smokes, dude.’ Since I wasn’t paying him to help me, I certainly had no reason or right to refuse. And since I was now a former smoker, it wasn’t going to bother me. I climbed back into the cab after buying the packet of Marlboros, and he lit up. A few minutes later, I figured ‘What the hell? One can’t hurt. I’m squared away now.’ He didn’t mind, so I lit one myself. Wrong answer. That was maybe 29 May 2009. I never stopped again. Until now.
Before I started working on this (writing this, not becoming an erstwhile smoker of cigarettes), it had been maybe an hour since I’d finished my last cigarette. I suppose it seems a little early in the process to declare success, and it is. Of course it is. But I know I won’t ever smoke another cigarette. It’s been 42 hours and a bit (more by the time this posts on Misfits), which might not sound like much. And to be fair, it isn’t. But I’m not going to waste all that smoke-free time by smoking now. Besides, in a couple days I’ll be alright to have a cigar. I love cigars. I don’t imagine I will ever give those up.
When I sent that first tweet back on 19 January, I only intended to get my commitment out in public so I’d be accountable. Just another trick I tried to use to hold myself to this thing. Quitting smoking is much harder than starting smoking. And it’s even harder quitting the second time. I cannot explain this, but I can attest to it.
And then something I hadn’t expected happened: Dozens of people responded with advice, encouragement, and tales of their own experiences with quitting. I wasn’t looking for support, but I was amazed at the outpouring of it. The original tweet itself garnered over 20 replies, and there were many other interactions besides. It never occurred to me that twitter could be a source of support for such a self-help effort, but I am very grateful for all the folks who chimed in. It has truly made this easier (or at least helped ensure I stayed with it more than I might have on my own). I’m not a guy who likes to admit I can’t do a difficult thing on my own, but not many habits are as strong a mistress as nicotine. I am not overselling this: She is a bitch of the first order.
Amazing, I tell you:
My sincere and humble thanks to each and every one of you who helped me through this. It means more than you can possibly know. You lot truly rock.
And last but in no way least, I must also mention again my wonderful daughter. I haven’t told anyone close to me and with whom I interact regularly in meatspace that I am quitting. I wanted to be accountable, but not to people I couldn’t ignore. Which of course means family. As I have said, I told Dawn, and she assured me she knows I can do this. After all, she has actually observed me quit smoking once before. But I also know she is my best friend, and I knew she wouldn’t ever show any disappointment had I failed. Because she is wonderful and supports me in whatever I do. Not that she’s anyone’s fool or a patsy; she loves me and she knows this endeavor is not an easy one. But I love her and had no intention of letting her down, even knowing she would never tell me I had done so.
But back to my first born and the apple of my eye. As I said, I didn’t tell her I was quitting. But she found out. Maybe she saw it on twitter or something. In any case, she came round the other night (Thursday, in point of fact) just to have a chat. I have an old e-cig kit which I bought several years ago for reasons I can’t really define. I think I just hoped it would help me smoke fewer cigarettes, and then I thought maybe it could help me actually quit. Someday. But as I was working through this process, I actually started using it a bit as a substitute or a ‘fidget’ device. It is aging out now and has begun failing and giving me trouble. My daughter noticed this and insisted on buying me a new one. Like many retired veterans, I am not exactly wealthy. And in any case, I would have kept at it to make the old one work for me. I am a cheap bastard, even when I’m flush.
It was quite late and all the nearby ‘vape shops’ were closed. So we went to a local 24-hour convenience store and she bought me a new battery and quite a few refill cartridges (refilters?). As we were walking back to the car, this wonderful human being said to me: “You know I wouldn’t have bought you cigarettes, right? I don’t want you to die.” I should note: She was once a smoker herself.
My resolve was set in stone from that very moment. It took a couple more days, but I am there.
If you read this or even skimmed it, I thank you. Unlike most things I write, I actually hope you did read it. I write mostly for the giggles and am not too bothered if people read my stuff. I certainly don’t think much about whether people like it; it’s just bullshit anyway. But this is something I needed to get out. Thank you for your attention.
Say, anybody got a smoke?
P.S. Evelyn says ‘That sign off was not funny, grandpapa.’
P.P.S. Evelyn is my seventh grandchild. She is my boy’s first child. The eldest has six of her own, and every one of them is a piece of my old, cold heart. Truly.
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.