I Quit

I don’t remember my first time, but by high school I was doing it pretty much daily. I was underage, I knew I could get in trouble, and sometimes I did. But I didn’t care. The risk and danger were part of the appeal. I was a teenage rebel without a clue, and I thought smoking was cool. The ignorance and arrogance of youth excused my behavior. I told myself I’d quit when I was older. It was no big deal because I wouldn’t do it forever.

James Dean made it look so cool.

James Dean made it look so cool.

Yet, here I am, a 45-year-old mother of two justifying inhaling toxins into my body and risking lung cancer by saying “I only do it on the weekends” or “I don’t smoke around my kids.” I know I’m deluding myself. I can’t rationalize shaving years off my life in the name of instant gratification and a nicotine buzz. I no longer have the years to waste.

It’s not that I haven’t tried to cut back or quit over the years. In fact, it was easy to stay smoke-free during both my pregnancies. The smell of smoke nauseated me, and I had my unborn children’s health to protect. But after my babies were born, and only my own health was in question, smoking became my secret vice, my mother’s little helper. I’d sneak a smoke while the kids were napping or slip outside after dinner while my husband was playing with them in the living room. It was my own unhealthy version of “me time,” a twisted yet comforting way of staying attached to my pre-mom self by indulging in an old, familiar vice.

When I started running five years ago, I shifted to more of a social smoker, lighting up only after a few cocktails when I was with friends who smoked. The intense training schedules of long distance races made puffing on a cig less desirable, but I never managed to pack away the ashtray for good.

During stressful times, smoking is like the bad boy I couldn’t stop dating in my twenties: I know it’s wrong for me, but I can’t seem to help myself. I’m addicted to the ritual: lighting the cigarette, inhaling the smoke, even stamping out the butt. Whenever I’m around someone who’s smoking, the urge and nostalgia envelop me. Before I can consider the consequences, I’m doing it again.

I hope things will be different this time, though. After a particularly bleak year, when I started buying packs of cigarettes and smoking more than socially, I think I’m finally ready to end this dysfunctional relationship. In a snap but sober decision on New Year’s Eve day, I signed up for the 2013 Chicago Half Marathon. After wimping out of what would have been my second Chicago Marathon last year, I thought I was done racing. But it’s a new year, and things seem a lot brighter. I think I have at least one more race in me, and I’m excited to get healthy and start training for a new personal best time.

I know I can quit smoking; I did it twice for nine months. But this time I’m doing it for me. Sometimes quitters do win.

Happy New Year, peeps! I missed you over the past two weeks but enjoyed a fun, relaxing holiday break with my family. I hope you did the same.

62 thoughts on “I Quit

    • Thanks, Kristin. I’m off to a good start: eight days clean and I made it through hosting an NYE dinner party without smoking. That, believe me, was a feat.

    • Oh, I love cloves! I had one this summer for the first time in years. The smell, the crackle…takes me back to my clubbing days in the ’80s.

      I think you’re right: They don’t count.

  1. I got into cigars in 1990s when they were a fad. I kept it up, sneaking a cigar or cigarillo here and there, until a few years ago. I still love the smell of good tobacco — really love it — and get tempted from time to time, but I’ve had any tobacco in quite awhile now. Good luck!

    • But never a cigarette smoker, eh? Good for you. I can’t smoke cigars without inhaling, which produces profound nausea. Thus, no cigars for me. BDD was into them for a while. Still has one every so often.

  2. Good luck! Quitting old habits is so hard, especially when they’re filled with addictive properties on top of all the usual habit-forming things habits do. Hope you find the right way to make it stick!

  3. Yes! Quit! Look it as if it’s another race to finish that you will win. of course, i’m a big talker over here. my vice is ice cream. i vowed not so much and i don’t want to tell you what i had for lunch today but it rhymes with smorklet mysmeem, i had something similar to that later this evening. it’s not easy, because we have stress and we’re good and exercise and we deserve our pleasures… and it’s not easy, but can do it. and then i’ll treat ya to a cone. 🙂 happy happy new year filled with all good things.

    • I like the idea of looking at it as another race, since I’m hoping to beat my original 1/2 marathon time from 2010. I need all the lung power I can get.

      Happy new year to you too, mama! I’m gonna take you up on that cone someday!

  4. You can do it, you can! It’s one of the hardest things to do, but if you keep at it, eventually it will stick. Sending positive thoughts your way that this is the time it works!

  5. I suspect the ritual aspect is part of what makes it so hard, well that and the nicotine. 😉

    Or maybe I am just projecting the challenge of my cutting back on my coffee consumption.

    Either way I am rooting for you.

  6. I am totally rooting for you, Kathleen. I started in my teens, too, and tried quitting several times when I was older. I was unsuccessful but finally kicked the habit in ’98. I haven’t had one since.

  7. Ah, Michigan Left, keep on quitting…how brave of you to reveal all of this. You know who’s going to be cheering you on during the marathon right? ME ME ME. Proud of you and happy to see you up on the grid!

  8. I am not there yet…quitting time I mean. My time will come or it WILL take MY time away….Good for you Kathleen!

    • Thanks, Lori. I’m really hoping it takes this time. I feel pretty confident, but then I haven’t been in many tempting situations yet. We’ll see how I do at the band’s next bar gig. 🙂

  9. Good job quitting! The way I see it, every one you don’t smoke is one less in your lungs, right? Take each one as a victory and don’t beat yourself up if you slip.

  10. It’s so hard to quit, but good for you for the resolution. I finally quit after watching my father pass away from lung cancer. He smoked for 50 years, and put them down forever the day of his diagnosis. Online forums, about.com has a pretty good one, can help. My mom also quit two months ago with the help of an e-cig. If those damn packs didn’t come with 20 of their friends, I feel like it would be so much easier! Anyway, good luck to you, and I related to this post so much.

    • I’m so sorry about your dad. My aunt/mom (aunt who raised me) also had lung cancer and had part of her lung removed. Her respiratory health continued to be affected, but we were blessed to have around for quite a few years afterward.

      I wish I had been smart enough, like you, to quit after watching what she went through.

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  12. I smoked in college and a few years beyond that. Slipped a few times in the following decade a cigarette here and there until finally… now the smell of smoke makes me annoyed that I ever smoked – that anyone does. You can do it, Kathleen… I know you can. And the piece… fantastic opening paragraph.. and putting this out there for us to get to know you…and love you.. priceless.

  13. Yes, of course, you can do it! I’ll be at the ___ mile marker with The Outlaw Mama (I should inform her) to cheer you on!

  14. Best of luck, my fellow former Michigander! We all have our vices. Mine is Red Bull. It’s exactly like you described — that familiar feeling of normalcy. Rebelling a bit against who you have to be now (wife/mother/snot-wiper) with a little bit of the person you were, pre-THEM. Not that we don’t love them with every ounce of our being. But we all need to feel some autonomy in some way. I hope you can find new ways to feel that in 2013. Happy New Year! (PS – not sure if you saw my reply on my blog, but I’m from Flint. Don’t be scared. 🙂 )

    • Thanks, Melissa. So true. I’m looking forward to focusing on my healthy habits this year: writing and running. Maybe I’ll even find some new ones.

      By the way, I missed your reply about Flint. I was born in Detroit, so I can’t be too scared. 🙂

  15. Good for you for both signing up for the race and the with the smoking!!

    I know how hard it is to quit and to still want to go back. I struggle with my own not smoking, so I really get you on this one. Good luck with it. Stay strong!

  16. Hey, whether it’s cigarettes or something else, most of us have a long-term relationship with a vice we need to ditch. Mine shall go unmentioned here but I applaud you for tackling yours.

  17. Terrific writing! Congratulations on two things; your win at Yeah Write and most of all, quitting smoking. My husband’s mother snuck cigarettes for years and it ended up killing her at 62. She was able to see her first grandchild for three weeks before she died and has missed out on meeting the remaining three. I wish you a long and happy life with your children and eventual grandchildren!

    • Thank you! I appreciate you sharing the story about your mother-in-law and am so sorry she missed out on that time with her family. I need to hear more stories like that to keep me on the straight and narrow.

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