Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Do As I Say, Not As I Did

I quit smoking in October 2002, after just short of twelve years of the cancer sticks. I didn't smoke a LOT for the first two years, but once in college I got to a pack a day pretty fast. I never wanted to quit, either. I wasn't one of those whiners who hates herself. I enjoyed every minute. I loved the rituals, the accessories, the friendships, the easy camaraderie with other smokers. It calmed me, soothed me, gave me an excuse to bail from bad situations or linger in pleasant ones.

And frankly, it was an image thing, at least in college. I had a leather jacket and a zippo and I didn't give a damn if no one asked me to dance at clubs, because I was Mysterious and usually ended up with someone else being Mysterious. If I didn't hook up, I didn't care that much because I could spend the rest of the night carousing with my best friend, the one I met at orientation because we smoked the same brand. Playing pool was more fun. Darts were more fun. Road trips, work breaks, sanity breaks, all of them were better with cigarettes.

I should mention that I was a complete idiot about this. Some families have the genetic luck to be less than susceptible to cancer and smoking related illness, but I am not from one of those families. Ever see someone die of emphysema? I have. Not pretty. I smoked anyway.

My parents certainly didn't smoke, approve of smokers, encourage smoking, or in any way suggest that smoking was cool. They disparaged smoking and smokers from the moment I was born. I smoked anyway.

When I left The Horror (aka my ex), and into my first Very Own Apartment, I decided it would be a non-smoking apartment. I smoked on my patio, but never inside. I used to claim I didn't know why, but actually, it was because The Perfect Man didn't smoke. I knew my habit stunk like Satan's underwear marinated in elephant crap, but until the Perfect Man, I didn't care. So I steam cleaned and Febrezed my beige couch (and it turned out it was white with pink and blue flowers), washed all my bedding, and kept my sweet vintage ashtrays outside.

Then I noticed my dog choking up wads of brown phlegm.

She had always lived with chain smokers. The three years prior to the apartment were spent with four of us sucking down the coffin nails in a tiny unventilated basement. (You see how the couch turned brown.) I realized to my horror that second hand smoke was in fact BAD, that trapping other life forms with my smoke was bad, and that I'd done it to a helpless little beagle.

I guess that planted the seed. I still didn't want to quit, and I still don't understand how I quit cold turkey that fall. But I did. Haven't had a single puff since, because I'm pretty sure I can't quit a second time - and I'm pretty sure that if I were the type to have a single ciggy with a beer and stop, I wouldn't have smoked a pack a day for a decade.

Now I look at my beautiful son, with cancer on both sides of his family tree, and parents that border on OCD sometimes, and I think... well, I don't think anything, because I freeze in raw panic. I joke that my non-smoking, non-drinking, never even TRIED drugs husband is going to have the talk with the boy, but that's a copout.

What will I do? What did YOU do?

1 comment:

Wire said...

What can you do? What did your parents not do that you think would have made a difference?

What you can do is remind yourself that your kid is gonna make bad decisions but you're gonna love them anyway.