Health And Wellness

What 46 Years Of Smoking Did To Me

Photo: Feyyaz Alacam / Shutterstock
woman smoking cigarette

I remember the day I started smoking like it was yesterday. I was 13 years old. My friends and I had planned this for days. We were excited and scared. And stupid. It was easy to get money for cigarettes back then. At 47 cents a pack all, you had to do was clean out your mother’s pockets and within seconds you mustered up 50 cents to buy smokes. 

That part was easy. Getting away with it was easy. Finding a secret place to smoke was also easy. 

Stopping smoking was not easy. Once you got hooked you were doomed. Little did we know then. 

Back in the “smoking was cool” days

As a teenager growing up in the late ’70s, if you didn’t smoke, you weren’t cool. There were 2 groups in my ‘hood: the goody-two-shoes and us, the smokers, rebels, and bada**es. 

I needed to be accepted. I needed friendship and attention, love and support. None of which I got at home. So I took to my friends in the ‘hood for all that. 

I also picked up an addiction that would stay with me, unbeknownst to me at that time, until the day I die. 

I spent the next 46 years of my life convincing myself “I’ll quit when…” and the reasons, although very valid, never were enough for me to kick the habit.

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I’ll quit when…

I’ll quit when cigarettes go up to $5 a pack, and then $7, and then $10. When I finally did quit, they were $13.

I’ll quit when I’m pregnant. That never worked either. 

I’ll quit when …

For 46 years I promised myself I would quit “when” and I never did. Until one Christmas morning in 2020. At 58 yrs old I had had enough. 

Being an addict is soul-sucking.

I thought about it an awful lot that week. Am I ready? Can I do this? Can I finally put this addiction to rest

This addiction. 

For 46 years this addiction has not only sucked the life out of me but my soul too. I spent over 75% of my life being controlled by cigarettes. 

Do I have enough cigarettes for tomorrow? Do I have enough money to buy cigarettes? What if I don’t? Then what. 

Can I smoke there? Are there any other smokers that will be there? I’d hate to be the only smoker. The outcast. Doesn’t anyone smoke anymore?

Oh, sh*t did I just drop ash on my baby? Fuck did I just burn that person’s arm? “Sorry!” 

Can I smoke in your house? Can I smoke in your car? Can I smoke at your friend’s house? 

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Where can I smoke so I’m not bothering anyone? People are looking at me with disgust now. 

My entire life was controlled by these 3 words “Can I smoke…?”

If I couldn’t smoke I’d have an anxiety attack or make up an excuse as to why I had to leave. 

Oh and all the aids I carried around to make sure I didn’t smell like smoke. Each purse had a pack of gum, a breath freshener spritz, TicTacs, and a spritz bottle for my clothes and hair. 

I was determined to make sure I didn’t reek of smoke. 

That was my life. Making sure I had enough smokes, I had enough money for smokes, making sure no matter where I went I could smoke and do whatever the fuck I had to do to make sure I didn’t smell like smoke.

My entire life. I was a slave to this addiction. It ruled everything I did. Day in and day out. 

Until one day it didn’t anymore.

I looked in the mirror one day and was horrified by the woman looking back at me. My skin was sallow, wrinkly, and sunken in. My teeth were yellowing. At 58 years old, I knew it was time and that if I didn’t kill this nicotine addiction, it was going to kill me, and soon. 

I was always out of breath. I could barely walk up a flight of stairs without huffing and puffing. Mentally and emotionally I was exhausted. This addiction had held me, hostage, for long enough. 

It was time. 

I prepared for it all week. I talked myself into it. I looked at myself in the mirror many times a day that week. This is the week it’s going to happen, whether you like it or not.

On Christmas Eve 2020, just as the clock struck 12 I smoked my last cigarette, brushed my teeth, used mouthwash, washed my face, and went to bed. 

Christmas morning I woke up and had given myself the gift of life. I finally quit smoking, once and for all on December 25th, 2020 and I haven’t looked back since. 

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Almost 2 years later.

While I don’t gasp for breath anymore, I’m fairly certain my lung capacity will never be 100%. My skin finally has a little glow and some nice color to it but there are wrinkles and signs that I smoked for a long time. 

My teeth are finally white and my voice has softened. 

I’m glad I stopped when I did. I’m not sure that if I had waited another 2, 5, or 10 years if I would be able to reverse some of the ugly signs of smoking. 

I’ll always be an addict.

Was it easy? No. Was it worth it? Yes. I used nicotine gum to wean me off cigarettes and they worked like a charm but I’ll be 100% honest.

There isn’t a day that goes by, almost 2 years later, that I don’t want to smoke. 

Every day I think about smoking. Every day I would love to have a cigarette with my morning coffee. Every day I would love to have a cigarette after dinner. 

I’ll always be an addict and I know that all it takes is one puff. I can’t ever have even one puff because I know, without a shadow of a doubt, I’ll be a smoker again because that’s what addiction does to you.

46 years of smoking has turned me into a prisoner of a drug. And I will be an addict til the day I die. 

If you can, stop.

I’m not going to preach. I can’t help you. No one can. It’s up to you to decide and want to quit your addiction, whatever it may be. 

All I can say is this. You can do it. It will be hard. Every day. But you’ll get through it and your life will improve in ways you never thought possible. 

Give yourself the gift of life. You’re worth it. 

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Iva Ursano is a self-help/personal development blogger. Her mission is to inspire, motivate and encourage women around the world to step into their own personal power.

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