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May 17, 1999…


That’s the date I stopped smoking.  I’ve got the date programmed into my calendar as an anniversary upon which I am due a great deal of honor and respect.  And every year on May 17, 1999, I give myself a pat on the back and sing my own praises to anyone and everyone who will listen.




Because, as many people know all too well, it’s darned hard to stop smoking!  Studies show that most people will try to stop and fail at least three times before they are successful, and, honestly, I think that statistic is far too low.


I smoked for 18 years.  And during the course of those 18 years, I managed to increase the amount that I smoked until I was puffing through four packs a day!  Every day, by the end of the day, my lungs ached and my head was throbbing.  But, still, I puffed away.


I smoked through three pregnancies.  I was convinced I’d never be able to quit so I tried to cut back.  Didn’t work.  In the hospital after giving birth, I was one of those people who would sneak into the bathroom, turn on the exhaust fan, and surreptitiously feed my addiction.  ‘Course, that was in the later years.  After giving birth to my first child in 1991, it was still ok to smoke in a visitors lounge on the maternity floor.


I remember once, when I was pregnant with my son (he’s kid number three), I was walking to the park with my neighbor and our children, and someone who was driving by actually made a comment about the fact that I was pregnant and smoking.  That comment made me angry… and ashamed.  That person was obviously never a smoker; not a real smoker anyway.  A real smoker can’t just quit because it’s what’s right for the baby.  It’s just not that darned easy!  And, remember, I grew up in an era where women smoked while pregnant and no one batted an eyelash.  When I was a kid, just about every adult I knew smoked.  I held out until I was 17, but once I started, it was downhill from there.


People just don’t realize that smokers don’t jump out of bed every morning and sing the praises of nicotine.  Of course, smokers, for the most part, aren’t as bothered by the effects of smoking as non-smokers are either.  Until I became a non-smoker, I had forgotten how bad smokers smelled.  Blech!  Now, I’m reminded every time my kids come home from their father’s house how bad the odor really is.  When they get home from somewhere where there is smoking, their hair and clothes smell so bad I tell them, to shower and change right away.


My mother had a dream once that cigarettes were $20 a pack and she was still smoking three packs a day.  I’m reminded of her dream every time I glance at the cigarette prices at the store.  Forty dollars a carton?!  Holy smokes!  For some weed in a tube?  Are they nuts?  My sister and her husband have taken to rolling their own, and even that ain’t cheap!  Ah, but the law of supply and demand means that, as the number of smokers decreases, the price of smokes is going to keep going up.


I used to have a little program on my computer that kept me informed of the number of cigarettes I haven’t smoked and how much money I’ve saved.  I’ve bought a new computer since then, and the company that developed that handy little program has since gone out of business but I can still enter my information into an online calculator like and get my stats.  ‘Course the savings aren’t adjusted for inflation (it’s based on the cost of a pack of cigarettes at the time I quit), but it appears that I’ve saved $27, 678.80.  A discussion on where in the world all that money went is for another time, but I do know that, if I were still a smoker, burning through four, or more, packs a day, I’d be spending upwards of $120 a week to kill myself.  Thank you Phillip Morris.  Also, according to this quit smoking counter, I’ve been a non-smoker for 474 weeks, 3days, 10 hours, 58 minutes, and 48, 49, 50… seconds.  Even better, I’ve added 181 weeks, 1 day, 14 hours, and 41 minutes to my life.


Still, even as a former smoker, I’m different from that person who made the comment about my pregnant-and-smoking condition years ago.  I’ve never condemned anyone for smoking and I never will.  Sure, I hate it when my ex, or anyone else, smokes around my kids, and when I have to be around cigarette smoke for too long, I don’t feel well, but what kind of hypocrite would I be if I condemned everyone else for doing exactly what I subjected them to for so many years.  And I know that, even though that person who condemned me back in 1997 obviously thought her comment was either productive or welcomed (it was, of course, neither), it didn’t stop me from feeling powerless against my addiction.  You can’t shame someone into quitting, but you sure can be supportive when they decide to take the plunge.  And if you can’t be supportive, just keep your big mouth shut.


The good news?  Quitting smoking was far easier than I had imagined!  Don’t get me wrong, it was tough, but nowhere near the pure hell that I thought it would be.  All those times I tried to quit cold-turkey and failed; those times when it was pure hell, are now overshadowed by my success.  I’ve been a non-smoker now for… well… 474 weeks, 3days, 10 hours, 58 minutes, and 48, 49, 50… seconds, and I’ve managed to stay that way through the most hellacious divorce known to woman, the stress of single motherhood, and two daughters in their teen years.  If I can do it, anyone can!



I don’t have all the answers either.


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