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4 NOT-SO-EASY-BUT-SO-WORTH-IT STEPS TO QUITTING THE TAR HABIT

I quit smoking. That's right, I quit smoking. Fifteen days ago as I write this.

Still in the counting-the-days-phase, but I haven't had a cigarette for two weeks and one day. Besides my lungs being a little clearer and my clothes a little tighter, there are some things about giving up the carcinogenic substances for which no one can prepare you. Oh, you hear folks' personal struggles and setbacks and even their successes, but there is no way to prepare for the demons of kicking the habit. However, here are a few pointers.

Step one: Insanity. First, it helps to be insane to begin smoking in the first place. Like many teenagers, I began smoking in junior high. I did, however, quit years later when I became pregnant with my first child and remained a nonsmoker for 23 years, until my last child moved out - hence the insanity in the first place. When there was no chance of her moving back in, I drove to the nearest Hess station and bought a pack of cigarettes. Insane!

Step two: Buddy system. Chose a partner with whom to quit. To quote my mother, "By God, if I have to be miserable, so does everyone else." I put her philosophy to work for me. Misery loves company and it definitely helps if someone else feels your pain right along side you.

I chose my husband as my partner. He had been smoking more than 30 years and he was, after all, my fall from grace when my children were no longer in judgment's peripheral.

Step three: Decision time. Deciding to quit smoking is a very personal issue. One must reach one's limits and each one of us has our own limitations. Once one's limits are reached, the decision to quit smoking is reached unequivocally.

Again, in my case only, my limit was my husband's inabilities to keep up with me sexually. He would just poop out in a cold sweat and gasp for air. I thought he was going to have a coronary. Something had to be done. We both agreed - it was time to give up the carcinogenic habit once and for all.

Step four: Assistance. Make an appointment with your family physician to get the most expensive quit-smoking aid on the market, take that script to be filled and once you get sticker shock from the pharmacist, it will be even more motivation to quit on your own. Believe me, it will. We did not choose to fill the $190 prescription. We chose to be strong.

Also to assist in doing this on your own, clear out the home of ashtrays, matches, lighters; anything that will stimulate the smoker's glands to life. Wash windows, picture frames (glass as well), furniture and all wooden surfaces to see just how much smoke accumulation there is within the home. Although this purging is not a necessary act to quitting, it sure does keep you busy and unavailable to think about reaching for that smoke.

Since I quit smoking 15 days ago, my house has never been cleaner. After the third day, I was much better. Yes, all this took place in three days.

Of course, there are things they don't tell you.

They didn't tell me of the nervous tension that could possibly create an immaculate home, a tension-filled house and distance between my spouse and me. I mean, isn't the reason we quit smoking in the first place was to be able to be closer?

My husband and I celebrated 11 years together last week. Funny, we didn't recognize it this year. Wonder why?

They didn't tell me my granddaughter would ask if we would consider taking up smoking again. When asked why, she said we were just too grumpy.

They didn't tell me I'd find myself walking around the waiting room of the tax preparer's office, checking out the faces of others hoping one of them might look like a smoker so I could try to bum a smoke.

They didn't tell me all the nice clothes bought during the after-Christmas sale may not fit anymore. I've been told it's temporary - by the skinny, nonsmoking nurse at the doctor's office.

And, all that dental work put off suddenly seems immediate because now you can smell your own breath. It's definitely time to take care of business.

Still, your home will smell heavenly. Your clothes will seem downy-fresh. Your teeth will be clean and bright. You eventually start to get a hold of your eating habits and your spouse will soon be your best lover once again.

We both crave a cigarette every night, but we're both so glad we quit the habit.

Darcy Maness lives in Spring Hill.

Fast facts

To quit smoking

For information about how to quit smoking go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site at cdc.gov/tobacco/quit_smoking or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669); TTY 1-800-332-8615.

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