Smoking Addiction and its Genesis
Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.
As a child growing up I never liked the smell of cigarettes at all. Well, that’s not entirely true. Something about the smell of a first lit cigarette I found remotely appealing but I could never understand why even to this day. What I didn’t realize was just how addictive cigarette smoking is and that was my ultimate struggle.
Both my Mother and Father were smokers and looking back I’m not certain that that was the real cause for me becoming involve with smoking in the first place but rather peer pressure and the desire to feel like an adult.
From what I can recall from an early age going forward was that my Father was the chain-smoking type particularly during the consumption of alcoholic beverages. My Mother, on the other hand, was the coffee type of smoker who enjoyed a good cup of java with her cigarette, but I don’t recall her being an excessive smoker.
Fortunately for my Mother she quit smoking in a cold turkey manner when she learned that she was pregnant with my little sister. I don’t know if my Mother smoked during her pregnancy with my brother or myself, but I highly doubt it as her restraint was very evident with her pregnancy with my sister. To this day, I still marvel at her resolve. However, my Father continued to smoke and never gave me the sense that he was even remotely interested in quitting.
[aesop_chapter title=”My First Hit” subtitle=”The Monkey on my Back” bgtype=”img” full=”on” img=”http://arnoldwatson.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Smoking-645__1322430523.jpg”]
I can recall the first time I actually took a real “hit” from the cigarette and it about knocked me to the ground! I chocked, gaged, and felt like I wanted to throw up. What amazes me in hindsight is that that didn’t signal me to stop.
By the time I reached the age of 12, I was stealing cigarettes from my Father when he was asleep. He made it simply too easy for me to get my sticky little hands on them as he would leave them on the coffee table in the living room or in the “junk drawer” in the kitchen making it effortless to obtain. I don’t think it was intentional on his part, but it certainly was on my part. Another way I got my hands on them was in the lobby of restaurants. The old-fashioned cigarette machines with pull select levers that were never supervised. This made it all too easy to purchase cigarettes. I can recall buying them for as little as .75 cents back then.
But backing up for a moment to explain how I got to the point of stealing my Father’s cigarettes in the first place. I had a neighbor who I basically grew up with who was interested in smoking because everyone in his house-smoked including his Mother, Father, and both sisters. He and I decided to start experimenting with smoking because well, we were both curious about why other people did it. Back then in the late 70’s thru the 80’s it was common to see people smoking in movies and on TV. Of course, this had to be cool right? What kid do you know that doesn’t want to look cool and grown at the same time right? Cigarettes have this kind of appeal for young impressionable minds like my friend and I had at the time. We had no idea how addictive these things would ultimately be in the years to come.
By the time I was about the age of 16, I was a full-time smoker. Before that I really only played around with them with my neighbor aforementioned. By this time, I was smoking about ½ a pack a day or so. My friends smoked, my Father smoked, and I felt like I was doing a very manly thing. I thought I looked cool as I would look at myself in the mirror to see just how cool and or tough I looked with a cigarette “hanging” loosely from my lips (kind of like James Dean style). The common notion at school was that smoking meant that you were a rebel, a “bad ass” and not to be messed with. I just never knew how I would develop an addiction to these things.
My Father always told me “these things are like a monkey on your back” and “once you get started it’s hard to quit”. I always dismissed his wisdom for two main reasons. First, he seemed to always enjoy smoking. I never ever witnessed my Father look like he hated putting that Winston cigarette to his mouth and fire it up. He seemed to really be blissed-out. Secondly, kids always feel like their parents are always out to apprehend their joyful experiences as if to deny you of something reserved for adults only. But there was something I could not comprehend in his effort and I would learn that so vividly as my smoking addiction grew on.
[aesop_chapter title=”My Future” bgtype=”img” full=”on” img=”http://arnoldwatson.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Smoking-645__1322430523.jpg”]
Mr. Brady and My Future
Mr. Brady was a man my family and I would often visit on our way home from the church. He lived alone and was only a few miles from the church we attended. I don’t know much about the man and his background, but I knew his wife died years earlier and had at least one offspring, a daughter I believe.
For years as I recall he always had a cheerful upbeat disposition and a fond eye for my Mother to which I think my Father recognized but never made a fuss of it. He would always offer us kids candy, which we gladly accepted with a smile and gratitude.
Visually he was a rough around the edges kind of man as he always had a rough beard, dress slacks, house slippers topped off with a white “wife beater” to finish things off. But what really caught my attention was his extremely rough voice that was most evident when he would laugh. It just struck me as awkward and I could not understand why it was so unique.
Looking around his home (as curious children often do) I noticed his dining room table. It was not adorned with a formal tableware setting but rather a concoction on medication bottles, as I had never seen so many. In my defense, I was too young to understand these cues.
Mr. Brady was a very, very heavy smoker as well as an alcoholic. The moment you approached his front door with it not having been opened you could smell the stench of cigarette tar. Walking into his home was like entering a giant ashtray…literally. He had ashtrays full of cigarette butts all over the house…full.
His hands were brownish-yellow; his teeth (what was left of them) were darkly stained by tar from smoking. What I didn’t know was these were the reasons for his very distinctive voice and laugh.
Mr. Brady was dying from mouth, throat and lung cancer. As the years passed by during our visits, I could see that with each visit he was looking sicklier than the last. One day we got word that he had been hospitalized and was in very grave condition. So we went to visit him.
Walking into his hospital room was a frightening experience for a kid all of 10 years of age. The best I could recall was he was lying on the bed with a tube down his throat and unconscious. I could see the scar on the side of his face at the jaw level where they had removed some of his jaw. Honestly my memory with specifics is fuzzy at best. I was looking at a dead man.
Needless to say he died a very short time afterwards. I remember how upset my Father was as he had known Mr. Brady for many years and were good friends.
In hindsight this event of Mr. Brady’s death had no affect on my Father’s smoking habit from what I could recall. If it did it was not successful, as he remained a smoker the rest of his life. As for me, it upset me too but as the years passed and I became a smoker, I never thought that anything like that would happen to me and that I could / would quit anytime I was ready. But I never forgot about Mr. Brady and his horrible experience.
What I didn’t realize at that time going forward was that if I didn’t dismis my smoking addiction I could very well end up in a like manner.
[aesop_chapter title=”Addict” bgtype=”img” full=”on” img=”http://arnoldwatson.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Smoking-645__1322430523.jpg”]
My Addiction Realized
I finally realized how addicted I was to cigarettes only after 26 years of smoking. For the last 8 years or so of those 26 I wanted to quit but I could not muster up the courage to quit cold turkey. I simply felt the my smoking addiction was greater than my will and indeed it was. This is why I marvel at my Mother and how she quit cold turkey and never went back to them. How in the world does one do that and be successful the first time around? I don’t know how she did it to this very day.
I’m a junkie; an addict; a chronic smoker and I felt hopeless. I tried a few times over the years to quit and managed a few days at best. I couldn’t shake the urge and withdrawals to smoking addiction. It didn’t help that my associates at work smoked too and that just fueled my weakness further. I could not see an escape and my wife was starting to get on my case about smoking as well. I loved the feeling of the smoke going into my lungs; the smell a newly lit cigarette; the pleasure of a fresh cup of coffee while puffing on a cigarette. I was smoking 1-1/2 packs a day by this point. I knew I needed to quit but how?
In 2008 I was laid off from my job of 16 years. Long story short, it was probably the best thing that could have happened to me if for only one reason, I discovered by accident a way to quit smoking.
With all the free time on my hands I had too many depressing things challenging me in thought. I felt I had reached rock bottom and felt less than a man because I had lost my job and that was tied to being the head of the house. I felt like less than zero really. I needed something to get my mind off of lamenting over the matter. I turned to my bicycle.
I cleaned up a road bike that I have been dragging around with me for over twenty years and began to ride it. What I noticed immediately was I felt better about myself as if a heavy weight had been lifted from my shoulder. It was the stress level that was diminishing over time. Oddly I was still smoking and at the level mentioned before. This was not going to work if I were to continue to improve as a cyclist.
After awhile I realized that I had to put cigarettes out of my life as it was preventing me from improving my speed and cardio fitness. I simply was not able to breathe deeply as needed to help with the growth I anticipated. My smoking addiction had to cease and it was time to make that a past issue.
After 26 years of smoking I finally find my way out and a new beginning that did not include cigarettes in my life. Although I used smoking cession aids, I am grateful for having done so. I am 2 years smoke free and very athletic to boot.
Cycling changed my life in such a profound way and I suspect that it will continue to reward me as per my efforts.