I think I’ll have a cigarette. Yep now would be a good time for a smoke. It’s been a long day, I’ve been working hard, definitely deserve one. Yep, I’ll just pop out and have a quick smoke and when I come back in I’ll start that job I’ve been putting off.
Mixed Blessings with Kevin Blessing
That’s normally about all I’d need to think and I’d be outside now puffing away on a well deserved fag. But not any more.
I’m off them. I have crushed the last fag under my heel over ten days ago and so far so good. It’s not been easy but I am still off them. As Gloria would sing . . .”one day at a time, sweet Jesus”.
Its been a long journey. From my first adolescent puff on a fag to waking up in the middle of the night gasping for breath and knowing I had to do something about this.
Someone asked me during the week when and why I started smoking. Looking back at it now it kind of seems pathetic.
Like everyone else, I started smoking because I thought it was ‘cool’. I was sure there was no one cooler than me, standing in the middle of the Mayflower dance floor at a teenage disco puffing on my fag like a big man, sure all the girls were looking at me.
It took a fair bit of coughing and retching to learn how to roll that smoke up into my nostrils, to blow smoke rings and develop all the other signs of a truly sophisticated smoker. But I put the effort in and by sixteen I was an expert smoker.
I think it was Oscar Wilde said, “I can give up smoking any time; I’ve done it a thousand times!!”.
Well that was me. Being a strong-headed, (some might say thick) Leitrim man, I was sure that I could give up smoking any time I wanted, could take it or leave it and it just so happened that I choose to take it and take it, over 20 - 30 times a day.
But that was a lie. I found out pretty quickly that as soon as I tried to stop smoking it had me firmly in its grip. A couple of well intentioned efforts fell by the wayside for one excuse or another.
Usually going back on the smokes starts with a thought process something like. . .”just cause I have one cigarette doesn’t make me a smoker” or “Its just because I am celebrating tonight” or everyone’s favourite “I do like to have a cigarette with a drink”.
I won’t go through the whole sordid details of my repeated attempts to quit, suffice to say that every failure started with some sort of denial, some class of a lie to myself about how me sticking a fag in my mouth wasn’t really smoking.
This time out, I have to say it kind of feels right. It’s early days yet and my natural stubbornness will take me a certain amount of the way, but at this stage the struggle hasn’t been as bad.
Maybe it’s just where I am at in my life, maybe it’s the good influence of my better half, who works in the Oncology Ward at Sligo Regional, maybe it’s the slow and painful deaths I have seen to lung cancer. Whatever it is, now seems to be the right time for me. And at that, it is still a struggle.
I have the nicotine patches, I have the electric cigarette and all the aids and supports a man could have to make it easier. It’s the right time in my life, I actually want to stop, I have good support and home and at work, and still it is not an easy thing to do.
It’s got me thinking about the many people that struggle with addiction in this county. Fags are a terrible curse to shake, but alcohol and drugs like heroin must be an incredibly difficult shackle to shake.
Being in the eye of the ‘giving up’ storm has given me a lot of clarity about just how hard a battle it must be for people with serious addictions.
And I have questioned about whether we are really doing enough in this country to understand and assist people suffering with addictions.
Alcohol is a shadow over the lives of many many people. It is so prevalent in our culture and our bloodstream that we have accepted alcohol addiction in our society. And we have viewed the people who struggle with this curse as somehow being responsible for it; lets face it, there is very little sympathy and understanding for the shadow an alcoholic lives under in this country.
Is the person who develops an alcohol addiction any more responsible for it than I was for foolishly starting smoking as a teenager? I don’t think so, I think in many ways it is part of the culture we have submerged them in.
I won’t go on about our national battle with the bottle but in light of my struggles with nicotine over the last ten days, I for one can say I have a profoundly deeper respect for those who choose to tackle the demon drink and go through the horrors of withdrawal to try and quit.
There are a lot of very brave people who are climbing their own personal mountain every day they don’t touch a drop – maybe spare their efforts a thought. And if your someone who is still smoking, still drinking be alert to the day coming soon that will be the right one for you to perhaps give up.
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