I quit smoking five years ago today. On Saturday, January the eighth, 2005, at five in the afternoon on a Saturday, I stubbed out a small cigar in the dirt at a friend’s house, and began a journey the journey you now see before you. One thousand, one hundred, and nineteen days have gone by, and I must say this is one of my most important accomplishments.
I started smoking when I was fifteen, quit before I left high school, and didn’t start back until I got married to a smoker. Two years after I was divorced, I still couldn’t quit and I was very quickly running out of excuses to try. It’s amazing how many little lies you’ll tell yourself, and how long you’ll believe them. I’ll quit after this pack. I’ll quit after this week. I’ll quit after this (insert excuse). Then you’ll find excuses to go back to smoking. A bad day, a car wreck, a break up, a really great cup of coffee, or worst of all, that ever present support group of all smokers; the smoking friends. The people you take your smoke breaks with want you to keep smoking. They do not want you to quit. If you quit then that means they can too, only they do not want to quit. Well, they do, but they don’t have what it takes and they know it. Smokers are like crabs in a bucket. Anytime one tries to get out the others will try to drag him back down again.
I hated former smokers when I was smoking. I hated their smugness, their success, and the I-did- it- so- can- you attitude. I hated people asking me when I was going to quit. I hated those people who ran restaurants where I couldn’t smoke. I hated myself for hating all this, because I knew I had to quit. I hated the way I felt after smoking, and I hated the way I smelled, and I hated the self-loathing for being too weak to quit.
I tired quitting on my birthday and drank myself into buying a pack. I tried quitting at Thanksgiving and the two hour drive was perfect for a smoke. I tried quitting at New Year’s but drank myself into buying a pack, again, and the day after I was too hung over to quit. A week later I was staring down the calendar of having started 2005 as a smoker. It was really just truly pissing me off.
The day I quit wasn’t any different than the day before, except I quit.
I would be alone on Sunday, with no support group, no cigarette breaks, and no alcohol, so I thought I would be okay. I went to the gym and worked myself into a state of exhaustion, and that helped a lot. Still, by the time the twenty-four hour mark rolled around, I was dying. I found it very hard to get to sleep. I would quit on Tuesday. It would be easier on Tuesday. I drove past the store on my way to work, and that was painful. I would always stop there and buy a little cigar, and a twenty-ounce Pepsi. Man, that combination of caffeine and sugar just could not be beat. When I got to work it was even worse. My day was broken into manageable pieces by smoke breaks. That was my time to strategize and plan. The people I smoked with had seen this sort of thing before and they knew I would be back in a day, maybe two. I kinda hoped they were right.
I started an Excel program to denote the passing of time to mark my progress. After two days the program showed the number “2”. Two? TWO? TWO!!!!!!!!!!! Dammit, I had just spent the worse two days of my life fighting off the strongest habit this side of crack and all I get is a lousy TWO???? I decided to count the hours. There, that’s better! Forty-eight is a lot more than two. By seven that night it would be fifty hours. While I tried to sleep would net me six or seven more. If I could make it to Thursday night I would make it to one hundred. The weekend meant fifty more hours, and each and every one of them screamed for a smoke.
There’s one hundred sixty-eight hours in a week, and that’s only a day or so away from two hundred. Suddenly, I was telling people I quit smoking for a week. I still craved a cigarette, and I was still inhaling deeply anytime I walked past a smoker, but the downright I-would-kill-for-a-cigarette feeling began to loosen. After a week there were some fairly startling effects. My sense of taste began to get stronger. Sweet things tasted sweeter. The flavor of food was more intense. My sense of smell became sharper. Oddly, cigarette smoke began to smell bad. The smell of smokers began to annoy me. I wouldn’t ride in the same truck with a smoker.
My smoker friends, after week one, began to have this odd feeling of desertion. Some of them tempted me with cigarettes, and that just pissed me off. They treated it as a joke, and there I was suffering, bad. After ten days, the feelings of physical addiction were in its last stages. I was running harder and faster at the gym, and breathing better. After two weeks, I felt I had it beat. After three, I stopped sweating it so much, and my quitting became a non-issue.
My original goal was forty-two days. After forty-two days, I was going to go to a local bar that still allowed smoking and smoke a cigar, and drink a few beers. I bought the cigar, and while I was at work, I threw it away. I had this epiphany, and I realized to quit, to totally quit, I had to stop smoking, forever, and never smoke again. On January the Eighth, 2010, at five in the afternoon, that would be 43, 824 hours of no smoking.