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I'm a ex-smoker. I used to smoke ...

Posted Jun 13 2009 12:00am 2 Comments
I'm a ex-smoker. I used to smoke like a dragon. I didn't smoke a cigarette...I consumed it in one swift inhalation, deftly extracting as much nicotine in the shortest time possible. I hated smoking and everything about it. I was addicted, of course, and fought to conquer that demon for 15 years. I finally did it 11 years ago when I went into labor with my first child. It took this life-changing event to give me the motivation to suffer through the horrible withdrawals and the weight-gain. I was determined to quit this time and it was, hands-down, the hardest thing I have ever done, but I was determined to become the "non-smoker" I knew myself to be. I count this act as one of my greatest accomplishments.

I quit smoking in 1995 and I think it was around 1991 that the hospital I was working in went non-smoking. This irritated to me no end that I had to interrupt my shift and go all seven flights downstairs to smoke a cigarette in this horrible plastic tent they had set up for the "smokers". I didn't have time to take smoking breaks, as I usually had 20 patients to deal with, so I started sneaking quick smokes in the bathroom. I felt like I was in high school again and highly deviant doing this, but I had to have my smoke fix or I could not cope. My every thought centered around when I was going to be able to get my next smoke. I was being controlled by my addiction--and I just hated it. In the 15 year span that I was a smoker, I think I tried to quit at least 20 times. I tried nicotine gum, acupuncture, hypnosis, cold-turkey, slow weaning, smoking cessation classes and the only time I was remotely successful--was the time I quit cold-turkey for one year, however, I was also taking narcotic pain pills during this period and I'm certain I was successful in this instance because of the substitution.

As more and more public buildings went non-smoking I felt I was given good incentive to finally quit. Then, I became pregnant with my first child. Now, I had to quit. I would not bring a child into a smoking environment. I would want to be with my baby at all times and I will not have my addiction controlling my mind and telling me I have to leave my baby to go outside and smoke. It was imperative I quit! During my pregnancy, I regret that I couldn't quit completely. I cut back substantially, but still had those few smokes a day. My GYN was an older guy and he didn't put much pressure on me to totally quit. I was so ashamed I could not do this for my baby. The biggest blow came when I was driving through my usual drive thru to pick up a pack of smokes, and my usual sales guy leaned in to give me my change and he finally noticed my protuberant belly and said, "Hey, I didn't know you were pregnant!" I was teaching at the time and I hated the message I was sending to my young students when they saw their pregnant instructor taking a smoke.

So, I had my last cigarette the first five minutes of my labor. My son, miraculously, was nearly nine pounds. So, much for that low birth weight thing. I had an uneventful labor and he was very healthy and I wanted to give my son an additional birthday present---I was going to give him a non-smoking mother hell-bent on being healthy and creating a healthy home for my family. My poor husband. The first two weeks of my son's life, I was a quivering quaking mess. My breasts were leaking all over the place. My son was a non-stop marathon nurser, so I lived on the couch. I had hemorrhoids and I thought of cigarettes in between figuring out what to do with this new baby. I cried a lot. I slept very little. My life was turned upside down with this new baby and I had lost my only coping mechanism. Yet, I refused to have the first cigarette. Come hell or high water I would not smoke, so help me God!!! For a good two weeks I had a combination post-partum depression and nicotine withdrawal thing going on. Then, I started to feel better. My baby needed me, so I really didn't have time to think about smoking. It was actually a very good time to quit. Smoking cessation experts recommend that when you quit--you shake up your routine, so that you don't have all the same associations you had with smoking. If having a baby isn't shaking up your routine, I don't know what is! If you always used to sit down after dinner and have a smoke--try something new. Go out for a walk after dinner instead. You have to rewire the brain and develop new associations. I knew if I was to successfully quit, my brain was going to require a complete re-wiring overhaul! This was just the thing. I had to become a non-smoker. I had to do non-smoker things.

It has been 11 years since my last cigarette and I truly am the non-smoker I've always wanted to be. I live the lifestyle I've always admired. I eat well and live an active athletic life. My son has a hard time envisioning his mother as a smoker. I don't hide the fact that I was a smoker. I've told him about my struggles with smoking, in hopes that he will never know them.

I was ecstatic with the passing of the bill or whatever it is to ban smoking from all public venues. No more smoking in Ohio bars or restaurants!! As an ex-smoker, I have a terrible time being around any kind of smoke. It aggravates my sinuses and will cause me problems for two days after any length of time in a smoky bar. I really am not big on the bar scene, but I live in a largely blue-collar neighborhood and many of my friends either smoke, or are oddly tolerant of smokers. The ban will officially go into effect on Dec. 7th.

It was my girlfriends birthday last night and she wanted to go to this bar which is a known smokers haven. I was dreading it, but I didn't want to be the snobby athlete deadbeat that starts getting cranky at 9 PM and overcome by smoke and wants to leave. But, I did want to be there for my friend. Actually, they highly encouraged me to drive separately cause they know I have a tendency to want to leave early. Also, they get really irritated that I will do a long run on the day of or the morning after a night out. One of my more verbose girlfriends asked me, "Can't you just skip the run for a weekend?" It's part of my new lifestyle and I enjoy it and it helps keep me healthy. I'm not a big drinker any more either. I usually stop at two beers. Remember, the smoking bone is connected to the drinking bone and since I have broken the smoking bone, I don't feel much to amuse the drinking bone.

So, last night a few of my girlfriends went out to dinner which I immensely enjoy. Then the bar. Instantly, the cigarettes get fired up. Even my former running partner, who has been chronically injured, has picked up a smoking habit. Some smokers are very adept at diverting their smoke stream but Jodi isn't....her smoke was going right up my nose. It's almost like subtle misdirected resentment that I'm still running and she isn't. The more they drank...the more they smoked. I was trying so hard to not sulk, but my eyes were starting to sinuses were starting to revolt. The DJ was playing some pretty bad music. My crowd of friends wasn't getting a good vibe from this place, so at 11 PM they wanted to go to another bar in the neighborhood, a reputed dive bar that plays pretty good dance music. So, since I drove separately..this was my chance to escape. They encouraged me to stop in the next place for awhile, but as soon as I got in my car and was breathing clean air again, I just couldn't fathom entering another smoke hell. I went home.

I walked in a bar last week to have a beer with a few running club friends after one of our club functions. I hadn't been in this bar for about 25 years. I had memories of this place being a little more classy in the day, but now it was an official dive with nicked wood booths and the perpetual cloud of smoke. The thick haze of smoke was totally out of proportion to the few patrons in the bar. I asked the bar owner, "Is it always this smoky on such a slow night?" It was clearly snotty, but I couldn't help myself. I asked him if he was going to comply with the smoking ban that was to take effect on December 7th. He brushed me off and said, "No, they have no way of enforcing that!" This really aggravated me and I asked him if he could point the way to another bar, that might not be so smoky. He didn't want to answer this, but I glared at him until I got an answer. He muttered under his breath that there was a Mexican restaurant a block up with a bar side. We left. When will these bar owners realize that there are droves of non-smokers out there that might want to patronize there bars, socialize with friends, and have a few drinks if they don't have to subject themselves to smoking hazards? Non-smokers are in the vast majority!! The smokers will still come to the bars--but they will have to go outside to get their smoke fix, but then they'll be back in drinking and spending money. In defiance to this bar owner that plans not to comply with the smoking ban--I may just look into a second job enforcing the smoking ban. His bar will be first on my list!!

We went to the Mexican Restaurant with the bar. It was well ventilated and only a few smokers. We sat at the bar and at one point I asked the chatty Mexican bar owner if he planned on enforcing the smoking ban. Absolutely, he said. He has already lived through these particular pains down in Florida where they have begun to institute similar bans. Yeah, the bar owners may get away with it for a time, but as soon as people start to complain, they'll be given stiff fines and have their liquor licences pulled until they comply. I was very glad to hear this.
Comments (2)
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What a great story. One that should be passed on! Inspirational and yet, told in such a way that appears easy. I wish!



Ed Green

What a great story. One that should be passed on! Inspirational and yet, told in such a way that appears easy. I wish!

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