No smoke without fire
A quitter's diary
This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of SpunOut.ie. It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for SpunOut.ie please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I started smoking when I was 12 years old. That means I’ve done 8 years of damage to myself. 8 years of addiction. 8 years too many."
For years now I’ve responded to quips about how “smokers are jokers” with a sharp, well-rehearsed “well, I’d rather be a joker than a quitter”. Now, I find myself short of breath, scared for my health, broke, watching friends and family around me drop like flies. I’m ready to be a quitter. I’m ready to look after myself. Most of all, I’m ready to be the master of my own mind and body; not to be ruled by an addiction.
I started smoking when I was 12 years old. That means I’ve done 8 years of damage to myself. 8 years of addiction. 8 years too many. Thinking back, I honestly couldn’t tell you the real reason why I started, but I kept going because I liked how it made me feel. It was like magic. One cigarette and it was as if all my stress melted away, if only for a few minutes. If you’re wondering what real stress a 12 year old could be under to constitute dependence on cigarettes, I would just like to put it out there that I’ve struggled with mental health issues for a very long time, and I know I’m not alone. A lot of my friends have been smokers for the same or similar reasons. Now though, I see that this dependency is not a help, but a hindrance.
I’ve tried to quit before, obviously with little success. What’s different this time, however, is that I’ve seen one-too-many lives ruined by cigarettes. In the space of five years I’ve lost my grandfather to vascular complications, had two uncles diagnosed with emphysema who are now dependent on oxygen and inhalers, and nearly lost my father to a series of blood clots. I think living with my father in and out of hospital, on warfarin for life, and recovering from multiple surgeries has finally scared me enough; it doesn’t get much closer to home than that. The scare tactics used by anti-smoking campaigns never hit me as hard as the reality of facing a life without my dad, or the reality that – at age 50 – that could be me.
All of that is not to say that I’ve gotten this far unscathed either, by the way. I’ve had to have medications changed as I was at a much higher risk of developing blood clots by virtue of being a smoker. I’ve never been the fittest, but I get winded running up the stairs or tying my shoes. My skin isn’t great; I have lines already. On top of all that, I dread to think what my lungs look like. A few months ago I decided to go vegan in attempt to improve my overall health (and for profound moral reasons). Now, I feel like the only thing standing between me and the health and wellbeing a 20-year-old should have, is cigarettes. Besides, vegan junk food can be pricey, but much more fulfilling. I think of it as an upgrade for my health and my wallet.
I’m entering this attempt with a lot of hopes. I hope that I’ll be able to foresee the pitfalls that stopped me the first time, that I won’t let the stress get the better of me, and that I’ll be so much better off without them. For someone as strong-headed as I am, you might think it would be easy, but honestly, nothing makes me feel as powerless as cigarettes. Hope is a powerful thing, though. That, combined with a lot of motivation and a total lack of funds might just be enough to get me through this and out the other side addiction-free.
Disclaimer: There is more than one way to quit smoking. You may need to try a few different things to find what is right for you. For advice and support on quitting, visit SpunOut.ie/QUIT