It was a not-so-secret, secret.
I tried hiding it in photos, but it’d show up here and there.
If you asked me then, I would tell you that I wasn’t a smoker.
I’d say it was only when I drank.
I’d say it was only because I worked in the service industry.
I’d point out that at least I didn’t smoke while I was pregnant.
At least it was not in front of the kids.
I’m probably going to die from cancer anyways.
“I like smoking. I enjoy it.”
“I can quit any time.”
And I sort of did quit after my son was born in 2014, but if I drank, one would soon find me outside, socializing the smoker’s circle.
Then, tragedy hit my life in a way that no one could’ve foreseen. It still takes my breath away to stop and think about it. Within hours, I had a Marlboro Light in between my fingers. I didn’t even try to hide it. Parents. Kids. Whatever. No disappointment or disdain from the outside could ever come close to the anguish I felt. I hurt so deeply that I yearned to be in control of that pain.
Smoking was a symptom of this mindset.
It was a killing of myself with the slow death of tobacco. The bottom fell out of my life, I had been repeatedly forced into silence over it, and I couldn’t get angry. I subconsciously hoped that the tobacco smoke could reach through the rabbit hole, prod my anger, and awaken the rage I needed to speak on my behalf. In time, it mellowed and evolved to where nicotine just became part of my daily routine. For three years, cigarettes were alongside my multivitamin and my morning coffee.
On August 30, 2021, I will be two years cigarette free. Cold turkey.
Addiction is insidious. And I’ve learned so much about its nature and myself from quitting.
What I’ve learned is that when we are addicted to something, quitting has to be our complete priority. I didn’t do anything for the first two weeks that I decided to quit (and I mean: not a thing) because I had to be hyper focused on managing my reactions and my discomfort.
I started to feel real emotions that I hadn’t felt since I was a teenager, likely because I wasn’t smoking back then. These emotions needed to be cared for in other ways. Had quitting not been my top priority, had I been busy, I would’ve got distracted and fell back into the old habits, using one of my many ways to justify it. (My favorite one being: So what if I smoke? I’m a good person. — A phrase that I loathe.)
I know that this whole thing may seem like a self serving pat on the back, and yeah, I suppose I do want to give myself a shout outdoor waking up from denial and taking the time and energy to do this.
But I also write this to throw myself to the wolves. Feeling very exposed and nervous in revealing such an ugly part of me. But it’s there… and I want to help you if you feel the ugly parts of you have too much control.
August 30, 2019 to present day have not been a walk in the park. Aside from 2020, there were several outside events that stopped me in my tracks; like you, the stresses that I’ve been met with in my life are way more than what’s posted on social media. Nearly immediately after I decided to quit smoking, I was met with an extreme, life changing occurrence. A stress that I never imagined for myself. And in the weak and quiet moments of the evening, while I was alone, I could hear the devil on my shoulder whisper, “You deserve a smoke. Just one pack to keep on the fridge like Grandma did.”
I was a lie though.
I didn’t deserve to kill myself slowly. None of us do. We deserve vitality. We deserve clean lungs and proof to ourself that our minds are stronger than the demons rooting for us to lead with reckless ugliness.
Most importantly, we deserve to feel our emotions. Not to numb or distract ourself. We deserve to process feelings and memories, and personally, two years out, I can say I’ve never looked back.
Whatever you are struggling with right now (and I know there’s something because there always is in life), please know that to know me, is to have me in your corner. You got this.