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February 5th, 2011:

Kicking an addiction

For the past little while, February 5th has been a bit of a day of celebration for me. Not the go out on the town and raise the roof type, but more of the self-congratulatory and smug inner smile type.

I smoked since around the age of 15 when my buds and I used to steal packs of Belvederes from a cigarette machine (1) (yes kids, there was once such a beast) across the street from our high school.

And like most addictions, it began slowly. Only a smoke here and there with friends, at the pool hall and while hanging at the salt docks (my Parry Sound friends can relate).

And like most addictions, it quickly became more than a once-in-a-while thing.

Soon, swiping them from machines or our parents (sorry Mom!) wasn’t enough and I and my friends… well, not all of them, but quite a few… started to buy our cigs. We all had a few bucks kicking around from odd jobs and there was not the stigma, nor the legal restrictions, on smoking or minors purchasing smokes from the local store.

Wow, how times have changed on that particular front!

And did I mention they were cheap? I remember having ten bucks which would get me a pack of smokes, 12 beer and I’d still have some change.

OK. Now I’m sounding like my Dad (cue… well, when I was YOUR age…)

So I was smoking full time – broke it to my folks at 17, I think – and there was no looking back.

I was never a really “heavy” smoker. I think the most I smoked was at undergrad at Trent in the early ‘80’s. Something about beer, all-nighters and euchre lent themselves to a pack of Du Mauriers in my back pocket and a trusty Bic in the front. But still, the most I smoked a day never exceeded a pack or so.

As I went through my twenties, I noticed a wheeze in my breathing. And I couldn’t do anything that demanded a whole lot of stamina. Not that this was a big deal to me, but I did start to wonder if my smoking could have been behind this. And it was probably in my 3rd or 4th year at Trent (’84 or ’85) when I seriously tried to quit for the first time.

I think I lasted a month or so.

And something happened. It might have been a girl thing (hmmm… I think that is what it was…) or a weak moment of some kind, but I was back on the weed in no time.

Insidious, these addictions, they wait until you are at your weakest and then POUNCE all over you like Tigger on top of Winnie the Poo!

I made my way through my twenties and to the threshold of my thirties when I clearly remember quitting again. This time it was because of the birth of my first child.

I felt responsible for ensuring that not only was my kid not to be exposed to smoke (never smoked indoors, but still, the odour stays on you), but I felt it would be wise for her to actually, um, HAVE a father to grow up with.

I think this was the third longest go at quitting. I seem to remember that I made it to a full year.

And then something happened – don’t remember what, but it was enough to send me back to the comfort of a boxboard package with 25 while and brown tubes of smooth comfort safely encased inside.

So on I went through my 30’s. I tried again once or twice but the specifics escape me now. And each time, “something” would “force” me to abandon my quest to quit. “Something” would bring me back to that damned addiction.

Finally, I got it right.

I don’t really know why this time was different. It was just after the birth of my second daughter. I felt that I had to get it right this time. I hit the addiction with gum, the Patch, pharmaceuticals. You name it. All at once. An approach that is counter to doctor recommendations.

But it worked. Or something did.

In retrospect I think I realised that my days of trying to quit had to turn very soon into days and weeks and months and years of quitting. I was getting older. I was 40. I had smoked for 5/8 of my life. Sooner or later I knew I had to quit. And I knew that it really did have to be the “sooner” option. At some point in my near future of 7 years ago I  knew that my life and the quality of my life would one day suffer if I did not put down the damned things once and for all.

And here I am, still smoke free.

And I am not going back.

Ask me any day of the year how long has it been since I quit… go ahead, ask sometime. I will pause for a few seconds and tell you how many years, months and days it has been. I need to keep track of this. I don’t know why but this is how I got through the first year or two and it is still important to me to count those years, months and days.

I kicked a big monkey off my back 7 years ago today. And it was one of the smartest – and most difficult – things I have ever done. But I am glad I did. I may just be around to see a healthy old age… and maybe even a Maple Leaf Stanley Cup!

OK. I’m pushin’ it! 🙂

1. I am hoping there are Statutes of Limitations on these things!