Farewell to cigarettes – Phil attempts the big ‘Quit’

It’s very difficult to describe to a non-smoker what it’s like to smoke. Explaining why you can’t ‘just stop’ is virtually impossible.

But let me attempt.

I smoked because it made me feel relieved, re-charged, re-energized, re-focused, re-(insert any other term here). It seemed that the lack of nicotine in my system was enough for my brain to be fooled into wanting something that it didn’t really need. Trying to argue with your brain, though, is perhaps not a wise thing – especially when it comes to nicotine (or any other addiction, I presume).

If you have ever gone an extended period of time without eating, you may actually have felt the same cravings that smokers have. I’m not talking about a late lunch, I’m talking about skipping lunch and having a late dinner. The only difference is that nicotine wears off a lot faster than the digestive system takes to process your intake of food, therefore smokers will satisfy their craving much more frequently. On average I was smoking a cigarette every hour or about 16-18 cigarettes daily, low compared to those who smoke one to two packs a day.

Twenty years. That’s how long I have been poisoning my lungs. Minus a few days of quitting attempts, that’s nearly 7,300 days of puffing away.

“Just quit!” I have heard those two words so many times that I often thought “why CAN’T I just quit?”

Smoking is not only a chemical addiction, it’s a habit as well, or a learned behaviour. It is part of your daily routines and fits in with certain events throughout the day. First smoke in the morning. Smoke after lunch. Smoke breaks. Smoke while walking the dog. Smoke after dinner. Smoke with coffee. Smoke with friends who smoke. Smoke while doing this, smoke while doing that. Smoke.

Therefore quitting is not only giving up the addiction to nicotine, but having to deal with the cravings that, magically, occur during those routine periods. Coffee without a cigarette? You’re nuts, I MUST have that cigarette! Stress? Well, a cigarette will fix that.

That’s why it’s so difficult for millions of Canadians to ‘just quit’ smoking.

Then we’re told: “if you don’t quit, it will kill you!”

According to Health Canada’s website “more than 37,000 people will die this year in Canada due to smoking. Of those, more than 300 non-smokers will die of lung cancer and at least 700 non-smokers will die of coronary heart disease caused by exposure to second-hand smoke.”

According to Statistics Canada, smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer which has a mortality rate of 10.63 per 100,000 (males aged 40-44, 1998)

What got me to quit now? Easy. My kids and the stats.

If I want to see my children grow, I must survive. If I continue smoking, statistics show that my chances of dying due to lung cancer increase dramatically. It’s a no-brainer. My children are only four and two – they have a lot of growing to go through.

I have not had a cigarette (or any form of nicotine) since Dec. 28, 2010 at 9:30ish. I remember that cigarette. I still taste it and feel it between my fingers. I flicked it into a puddle on the ground. Stared at it for a few seconds. Held the smoke in my lungs while thinking “this is it,” and then exhaled. Said two words out loud – not ‘good bye’, but the letter count does match that – and walked away. I haven’t looked back.
That date was not exactly planned out, but I knew I wanted to quit before the new year came about. It felt too ‘cliche’ to quit on New Year’s Day.

I’m also not doing it without aid. My doctor prescribed Bupropion to me, which I took for one week prior to quitting. I’m not sure if it’s helping or not, but I certainly haven’t lost any battles against the cravings, which are few and far between.

Some battles, I will admit, are excruciating. In one instance I drove to a gas station, strategically parked outside so I could see the counter, and let my conscience go at it. For nearly 30 minutes my mind told itself countless times that it would be fine to have just one more. That if you went this long, then you will be able to do it again. That I could buy a pack and just have one cigarette and throw out the rest. That I could fail…really, it’s OK.

That little voice in my head was persistent, but in the end it failed. And it continues to fail whenever it intervenes in my new life.

My biggest hope now is that it will just shut up. It will happen.

Editor’s Note: You may have noticed stories and photos by Phil appearing in the paper over the last few months. Phil has joined Beach Metro as our regular reporter/photographer. Phil’s background as a freelance ‘spot’ news photographer will add a new dimension to our local coverage.

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