Day 2: Dealing with Failure and Setting Goals

How exactly should we measure success? How do we know if we’re making progress? What should we do when nobody cares?

As a person, and my wife could attest to this, I am exceptionally stubborn. Though I tend to view it positively – I see it as being driven and Read more

Danny’s War Against Smoking – Day 1: Know Your Enemy

Make no mistake about it. The enemy is within, the enemy is me.

As I wake up today, with a fresh yearning for that which poisons me, I realized something that is profoundly true: my own enemy is none other than myself. 

The moment I open my eyes and get up and be aware that I need to breathe, the desire to smoke is as powerful as the desire to quench a thirst. 

Sun Tzu, in the Art of War said, 

"If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle."

Thus begins another battle that I have been waging in this very long war. Today, is the day, that I need to come to terms with the enemy and know it's strengths and weaknesses. There is no doubt about it, the potency and the allure of smoking is as strong as the desire to drink water itself. As daunting as that statement may be, I now know its value in my battle. I now know how to defeat it. 

Triggers

  • The moment I wake up and I smell any kind of smoke, I feel the strong urge to smoke.
  • Certain auditory triggers include those which induce stress: a baby crying, a dog barking, people shouting, any type of cacophony that disturbs my state of mind is a trigger. I should be aware beforehand of these and list them all down. So that when I encounter them, I can immediately make myself aware that a trigger is changing my behavior and coaxing me to smoke.
  • Social occasions are a huge trigger. Being in a large gathering that includes a lot of waiting and socializing is very stressful, at least for me. Specially if the circumstances are quite stressful. This includes wakes, parties, family gatherings or just simple socializing. 
  • Smoking is a ritual in itself and as one becomes addicted to it for a long period of time, it becomes a part of our daily pattern. 

1. Waking up

2. Before breakfast

3. After breakfast

4. In the bathroom

5. Before working

6. During break while working

7. Before lunch

8. After lunch

9. Before going back to work

10. During break

11. After work relaxation

12. Before taking second bath

13. After second bath

14. Before dinner

15. After dinner

  • The regimen speaks for itself and is indicative of how it became a huge part of my life. While writing this, it has made me aware of how much I can smoke in a day too. My normal average is 15 to 20 sticks a day, Marlboro lights. 
  • I smoke more when I am around stressful people.
  • I smoke more when I have to talk to stressful people on the phone. 
  • I also smoke when I feel bad physically and emotionally. 

For now, this is enough. In writing this, I hope to get to know myself and in knowing myself, know how my enemy operates. 

I am Daniel, and I have been smoking for more than 10 years.

This is my life and my story.

 

 

 

Thanks, Dad!

When I was little, one of the most fun things I remember with Dad was standing on his feet while he walked around pretending to look for me. Also when I was growing up, my dad smoked a pipe. Most of the time he would go outside or in the garage, so it didn't seem like it impacted us kids much. He was a high school teacher, and back then (the olden days!), teachers could smoke in their offices! Hard to imagine, now, isn't it!

There was a spot at the end of the kitchen counter, near the back door, where he kept his pipes and tobacco. We never wondered about it, that's just the way it was.

At some point during high school, I did start to wonder about my Dad smoking. There was growing public awareness about the health risks. It was hard to ever say anything about it to Dad, because he was a fairly strict authority figure, and we knew better than to "talk back." But it wasn't just that. There was this feeling that Dad worked really hard for all of us, and he didn't have many rewards or things to enjoy just for himself (or time away from the four women in the house!), so it felt a little harsh to criticize one of the few simple things he got to enjoy.

At some point, though, my sisters and I came to the conclusion that our Dad's health was more important than any reservations we had about offending Dad. We decided to say something to him. We mustered up our nerve and told Dad that we thought he should try to stop smoking because we were concerned about his health. Dad didn't say much, probably just something like, "Oh? Hmmm." If he felt defensive or hurt, he didn't show it.

Then one day, my sisters and I came home from school, and noticed something looked different. There were no pipes on the kitchen counter, and the tobacco was gone. Wow! Dad never explained his reasons, never complained about how hard it was, he just never said anything about it. Several times, of course, my sisters and I said, "Good job, Dad!" and other encouraging things to let him know we were proud of him and glad he quit. But mostly no one needed to discuss it—because once Dad put his mind to something, he accomplished it. It was a done deal.

Because it was a pipe and he only smoked once or twice a day, maybe it wasn't as hard for him to quit. Maybe a combination of both nature and nurture. But Dad was able to quit, with a few setbacks. He chewed a lot of gum.

Dad's decision and his determination to quit smoking have had a huge impact on my life, probably more than he could have realized, and more than I understood until I thought about it for this post. First of all, it demonstrated to his kids that he cared about us and our futures. I'm sure at some level he knew that his smoking would make it more likely that his kids would smoke. He grew up with his mom smoking. Maybe Dad realized that he wanted to break that cycle–that it was important and within his power to do so.

Secondly, by his actions, he modeled for us a lesson about taking care of oneself. He didn't tell us how to be healthy, he showed us by example—much more powerful than words. Through his actions he demonstrated self-respect, how much he valued life, how to be grateful for the gifts we have, and how we are responsible for our own well-being.

Finally, he showed us that we all have choices in life, and that we have the strength to accomplish our goals, and to follow through on our commitments to ourselves and others. The example he set for us impacted our lives way beyond his tossing out the pipe 25 years ago—the values he showed in that one act of kindness to self and others continue to ripple out through every area of our lives, in the decisions we make and our determination to see them through.

Not only that, but now he is a strong, fit, Grandpa to seven grandchildren…a whole new generation who get to see his example of a healthy person. We pray for many good years together still to come, and thankfully he has done everything he can to be here for his grandchildren. Now I get to have fun watching my kids stand on Grandpa's feet while he walks around trying to find them. Dad's actions will have an impact for generations.

There are so many good reasons to stop smoking. Keep trying. You can do it.

And…"Thanks, Dad."

Why My Husband Stopped Smoking

I meet my husband not long after his return from Korea. He was working with his Father in the family business. His Father owned a garage that repaired cars and build stock cars for racing. My husband was standing next to a stock car puffing on a pipe. He was wearing a white tee-shirt with the sleeves rolled up. He had on blue jeans that had the cuffs rolled up. I guess you could have said he looked like Fonzie on Happy Days. I was on my way back to the dorm after spending the afternoon studying with my girlfriend.

He saw me pass and turned around crossing his arms over his massive chest and holding onto his pipe in one hand. He strolled over to where I was walking and asked my name. I was very shy and was raised by my Mother alone after my Father died when I was 12. She sent me away to College and warned me about meeting strange men on the street. I was not sure if I wanted to answer him or just hurry on my way. I finally decided to stop and give him my name. I told him my name was Julie Miller. He had the biggest smile on his face which made me blush. I could feel my cheeks turning red.

During the next several weeks I saw him in the garage when I went by to my girlfriend's house. I had the impression that he knew what time I would pass and was always outside the garage with his pipe in his mouth pretending to work on a car engine. He would make sure he had a red grease rag in his back pocket so he could clean his hands and walk across the street to meet me. He started to walk with me to my girlfriend's house and leave me to study. We finally started to date and were married a year later.

I knew he smoked a pipe when we meet and even after we were married. He was very courteous and never smoked in the house or around our two children when they were very small. He would go out in the garage to work on his car and smoke his pipe. He enjoyed the pipe and a few times I made a comment on why he did not quit. He said that it was enjoyable and he liked the order. When his parents came for the holidays he and his Father would go in the garage to smoke cigars. Now this was one order I cannot stand and the smell would stay with him for days. I did complain about his cigar smoking and told him how bad it smelled. He would laugh and say I only smoke a cigar on special occasions and why should I stop now.

As the years pass he kept smoking his pipe. The children were growing up and my daughter would love to spend time with her father in the garage. She would say to me the garage smells so much like Dad. I had no idea what she was talking about. Then one time I found out what she was talking about. My husband had been gone for several months on deployment and my daughter kept asking when he would be home. One day I was looking for her we needed to leave. I could not find her so I went out in the garage where I knew she would be. She was there sitting on the floor next to the car she was working on with her father. She had taken one of his pipes and had it in her mouth with a piece of sand paper in her hand. Thank God she did not try to light this and smoke it. Now this is funny but when it happened I did not think so. She looked up at me and said "Mom look I am just like Dad". She adored the order of his pipe and the smell it left behind in the garage. When my husband returned, I made him lock all of his pipes and supplies in a cabinet in the garage. I did not want our daughter smoking on this pipe one day.

Several years pass and he continued to smoke his pipe. On one of his deployments he had forgotten to purchase his pipe tobacco before leaving. On his return he stopped at a remote store out in the middle of nowhere and bought a bag of pipe tobacco. He was driving home and light up his pipe to smoke it. He said that the pipe tobacco he had purchased must have been sitting in this store for 10 years. After taking a few puffs of his pipe he was so angry he threw the pipe, lighter, and tobacco out the window of the car.

On his arrival at home my daughter had a present she had prepared waiting for him. She would not tell me what it was. She handed him this present and he opened it. She had purchased him a new pipe with money she had earned collecting coke bottle and taking them back for the deposit. He was so touched and surprised. He swore when he threw his favorite pipe out the window on the drive home he would never smoke again. The pipe our daughter gave to him was never lit and he kept it all of his life. He said he could not get rid of the pipe and put it with the other ones that people had given him.

After this day my husband never smoked a pipe or a cigar again. I have never been a smoker but from what I heard it normally is not that hard to quit. For my husband he smoked a pipe and this was something he said he enjoyed. For him to quite like he did was amazing to me. I had been after him for years to give up this pipe. His clothes smelled of the order when he smoked and I did not think it was good for our children to be around him when he smoked. The day he stopped smoking was once to celebrate. I decided that we would all go out to eat this evening to celebrate his return and the decision he made to stop smoking a pipe or cigars again.

We had many happy years of marriage and he lived a long life. He was 81 when he died and it was not from cancer smoking his pipe. I am thankful that he gave up his pipe so many years back and never smoked again. After my husband stopped smoking he was out in the garage one day and found a package of pipe tobacco he had forgotten was there. He opened the bag and started to laugh. I had no idea what was so funny. He said look Julie this is why I quit smoking. He brought the sack of tobacco over to show me. He said to smell this. When I did you could smell the stale order it had. He then explained to me this was the same smell as the tobacco he purchased so many years back. This tobacco was more than 15 years old. Now looking back I can say that I am happy he forgot to purchase his tobacco before leaving. If he had of purchased it I think he would never of given up smoking his pipe.

Kicking My Habit

I started smoking when I was fifteen, in the back of my high school with my friends. We would take a break from gym class and sneak out the back door. We would steal the cigs from our parents, who were also heavy smokers back then. It was the era, the thing to do. You could smoke on the train, on elevators, on airplanes, and no one would say a word because everyone was a smoker. Now, you can't even walk down the street with a cigarette. And not because you would get fined, but because you're embarrassed that you are one of the few people still smoking. Dirty looks are cast in your direction, and then there are the inevitable people crossing the street to get away from the smoke. You would think that you had some kind of disease or crazy look on your face. 

I smoked for about twenty five years, (not heavy,  but that's not the point). A pack of cigarettes lasted me two and a half days. Not bad, but not good. I quit a couple of times over the years for whatever reason. Being pregnant was one of them. But as soon as the baby was born, I was right back to smoking. It helped me cope with being a new mother, or at least that is what I told myself. It gave me three and a half minutes to myself without having to hear a crying baby. It kept me sane. I justified it to myself. It kept me from gaining weight, I reminded myself. I liked smoking and I was going to keep doing it because nobody was going to tell me what to do.

It's only been three months, but I stopped. It wasn't hard for me to quit smoking this time. I just did it cold turkey. It probably helped that I wasn't a heavy smoker. But I felt awful that my children were looking at me through the sliding doors as I tried to hide from them what I was doing. I would hate to be the reason that they started smoking, because they saw me doing it all the time instead of spending time with them. I hated kissing them with my cigarette breath, and it was hard not to kiss them because they are so cute and I just love them so much. I felt guilty that I couldn't run with them while they rode their bikes up and down the street, because I was out of breath. I wore my hair up all the time because I didn't want them to smell the smoke on me. I changed my clothes constantly.

But my children are saving my life. If it weren't for them, I would probably still be smoking. Thank goodness for my small blessings.

Wake Up And Have A Cough-ee!

I am currently recovering from the flu virus from hell, which has really knocked me out. I still have a terrible, hacking cough and continue to wheeze a bit (although it is getting a little less each day). It makes me so glad I no longer smoke, or it would no doubt be worse and take a lot longer to get rid of. It does sound like the typical smoker's cough, as if  I am on about sixty Gauloises per day! I am well used to the sound of the smoker's cough (I had a partner who was a very heavy smoker, and his coughing and his snoring were both loud enough to register on the Richter scale!)

The typical smoker's cough is a persistent one and is usually worse upon waking up, due to the build-up of phlegm in the lungs, while improves over the course of the day. The reason for the coughing is that the airways are lined with cilia, tiny hair-like cells which catch toxins in the air and move them back up towards the mouth. Smoking paralyses these cilia so they can't work properly, and instead of being caught in transit, the toxins are able to enter the lungs, where they can settle and cause inflammation. Then this in turn leads to the coughing, as the lungs attempt to clear themselves of these substances. During the night the cilia cells begin to repair themselves, as they are not at this time being exposed to the toxins in the smoke. So since their job is to catch and remove the accumulated toxins, this results in an increase in coughing on waking up in the morning.

Constant smoking of cigarettes also causes a build-up of tar in the lungs, which fills the alveoli (air-sacs) and would literally cause the smoker to drown, which is why they cough, to clear it. So a flu virus combined with being a smoker usually means a cough like a dog's bark, and very painful! It often does really hurt my chest when I cough, so I can only imagine the pain heavy smokers are in.

Apparently you are much more likely to catch colds and flu, if you smoke, as it weakens your immune system, and stops the Vitamin C (the anti-infective vitamin) in your diet from being absorbed. It will also take much longer to recover from a bug. That also applies if you are in an environment where you are passively smoking as it is affecting you the same way. I am asthmatic and had very weak, wheezy lungs when I was younger, although they do not seem to be so bad now. I am trying to keep them as clean and healthy as I can  from now on, so I avoid passive smoking as well (That is a lot easier now that smoking has been banned in public places in Britain).

I mentioned above that my former partner snored like a train, and I gather that smoking also contributes to snoring (he saw a medical specialist about it, who told him the smoking was making his snoring worse!) So that is another health problem that can be solved, or reduced, by quitting smoking.

 

 

Hope you got something out of reading this blog, and I appreciate your votes and comments.

 

Picture courtesy of www.picturesof.net

Better To Be Choking Than Keep Smoking!

I am pretty sure that all the smokers remember their first time – their first cigarette, that is! I think I speak for everyone when I say that the first time you smoke, you find it really disgusting, it makes you choke and cough and splutter, and you feel very nauseous ! So why do so many continue with it? That is indeed the question.

Speaking for myself, it definitely made me feel quite ill when I had my first cigarette at the age of 14. I was on a school trip to France, on an exchange visit staying with a French family, who had a girl of around my age. The French at that time were a nation of very heavy smokers (and I don't think very much has changed there!) They also smoked extremely strong cigarettes like Gauloises, which are really disgusting in their smell (even more so than normal cigarettes, I mean). The family I was staying with were all moderate smokers, and their daughter was smoked quite heavily, despite being only about 15. I had never smoked at the time and thought I never would, but I was out with Claire, my French friend, one day and some of her friends, and someone offered me a cigarette. This had happened a few times before, and I had always refused, but this time I accepted, just out of curiosity really. It was horrible: I was coughing and spluttering for ages and felt sick and faint. I couldn't understand why anyone would do that for pleasure, and it put me off, for a few years at least!

As I have described in a previous blog, I then stupidly started smoking for real, as you might say, at the age of 20, and really only because I was working with a lot of human chimneys, so I came under their corrupting influence!! At first I still coughed a lot and didn't enjoy it, it took a long time for those physical reactions to go away.

I am fairly certain that is the case with everyone: that the initial response to inhaling a lot of burning toxic chemicals, all the coughing, choking and nausea, is the natural one, the one everyone should have, but we ignore that, we "persevere", if you like (I am not sure that is the right choice of verb!), and once the physical symptoms have subsided, we get hooked. If only people could stick with their immediate physical reaction, what their body is telling them, they would never get to the point of being addicted to it.

I was never a heavy smoker and never addicted, but it was habit-forming with me, nonetheless, and obviously I wish now I had never smoked at all. At least I have been smoke-free for about 6 years now though, so hopefully I can try to live the rest of my life in future as healthily as possible.

Hope you enjoyed this blog, and I appreciate your votes and comments.

 

Visit to the Hospital

All I can think of right now is the fact that my grandpa has been admitted into the hospital, again.

The doctors don't know anything for sure yet, but I'm so scared. And, when I pulled up Breathing Happy, all I could think about was the hospital and the faces of the people in the Emergency Room. Faces muted with worry and pain and "what if."

Have you ever been in a hospital? They try to make it as pristine and welcoming as they can, but there's still this underlying pressure of illness and pain that ways down every movement, every word. Especially if you're visiting a loved one, or if you're the one being checked in.

I have an image of smoking related death statistics with this post. I chose that particular one because it doesn't only involve the smoker.

The next time that you get the urge to light up, think of who you could be putting in the hospital. Maybe it'll be you. Maybe it'll be somebody that you love–your husband, wife, child, parents, best friend.

Take care of yourself and the people you care about. I believe in you.

Social Smoker? My Experiences With Smoking

When I was twelve years old I remember my older cousin Mike talking me into sneaking into my grandfather's bedroom and taking a pack of his Salem cigarettes off his bureau. I did it and we went back behind the garage to smoke one of these menthol cigarettes, Can you imagine your first experience in cigarette smoking being a menthol?

When I was a teenager many of my friends smoked and I occasionally smoked. Not often though.

But when I was working at the telephone company years later and a group of us went out on Wedsnesday nighs I would partake of a cigarette. For some reason if the group around me was smoking I could counteract the annoyance of the smoke by smoking myself. So when the five or six around me lit up, so would I.

My daughter occasionally went to the smoke shop down town for some specialty smokes and I would get me a pack of Swisser Sweets. They had a nice mellow and sweet flavor. I actually liked to smoke them. In the Summer I would set out under the tree in the front yard and have a Swisser Sweet. But one day the flavor seemed to change and they just didn't taste good anymore. I threw the pack away and never had another. What happened? I really don't know.

I have never had any effects from smoking. No shortness of breath, or anything. I guess I was just a social smoker and when I was around people who smoked, I felt a need to too. I don't like the smoke or the smell, and haven't smoked in probably fifteen years or more. I am glad I was never addicted, and only wish it was this easy for others. My daughter smokes and I wish I could get her to quit. My granddaughter does too.

Social smokers? Peer pressure? What is it?

The Reluctant Smoker

I used to really hate smoking when I was very young, then I became a smoker myself, then I quit, now I hate it again! Full circle! I come from a family where we almost all used to smoke, and have now all given up and been smoke-free for years. I remember I used to complain about my Mum and my brothers smoking, then I took up the deadly habit myself! I think it was a question of “If you can't beat them, join them.” Fortunately that is not the case now, as now no one in my family has smoked for quite a few years.

I didn’t take up the habit until I was around 20 years old, and the only reason I did really was because of peer pressure: I was working at McDonald’s at the time and almost all the staff smoked (that was in the Dark Ages, when people could still smoke indoors at work!). Consequently the staff room would usually be thick with fug at break-times, the sort of atmosphere you could almost cut with a knife! That seems unbelievable now. It seemed less unpleasant to be a smoker myself than to be the only non-smoker in the room, so I took it up. I carried on for a while, but always meant to give up for good. I think I continued because I found, as most smokers do, that a cigarette seems to help in times of stress (I think it is more the oral solace though, the sucking action! Nicotine is actually a stimulant, so should make you more stressed).  I used to find the times I enjoyed a cigarette the most were with a drink or right after a meal, those were the hardest times to go without one.

Then I met a man who was a very heavy smoker and lived with him for several years (I have written about this in my previous blog). So I kept trying to quit but having a partner who was a constant smoker made it very hard. One quitting strategy I had was trying to restrict myself to just having a cigarette with a drink – and not having more than about 20 drinks a day! (Joke!)

Then when I was forty I had a serious accident: I broke both my legs in a car crash and was in hospital for 3 months. I couldn’t smoke there, and didn’t want to in any case, so I was able to quit that way, by simply not having a cigarette for several months. I admit, I did have the occasional cigarette on occasion when I got out of hospital, but didn’t enjoy them very much at all – the desire had gone. I haven’t smoked since then, and I have reached the point where I know I never will again now. That was around 6 years ago, so I think I am now safe from temptation! There is absolutely nothing to gain from this disgusting, killer habit, and everything to gain from giving up. I know that going through the initial withdrawal can be hard, but once you are through that it is easy, because you usually find you hate cigarettes after that!

Hope you got something out of reading this blog, and I appreciate your votes and comments.

(The photo shows me with my Mum)