By Bill Dunn

“Smoke smoke smoke that cigarette puff puff puff and if you smoke yourself to death, tell St. Peter at the Golden Gate that you hate to make him wait, but you just gotta have another cigarette.”

-“Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette” by Merle Travis/Tex Wiiliams

On June 15th I had an anniversary, well two actually. Two that will always be linked. It was on that day two years ago that I had a heart attack. It was also the last day I had a cigarette and became an ex smoker. The one thing that I didn’t want to become is one of “those” ex smokers. You know the ones who bitch louder than any non smoker ever does.
Everyone that I knew before quitting always gives me the thumbs up and high fives when they find out that I have continued to stick with the program. I appreciate the support, but most of those people know me well enough to know that I am not doing this because I want to. It is more out of need than want.
Let’s just say that a heart attack is a pretty effective motivator when it comes to quitting smoking . Maybe not for everyone, but it certainly was for me.
When I say not everyone that became clear two days after my stay in the hospital began. One of the nurses at the time was pleasantly surprised when I didn’t request to have someone walk me out to the smoking area. Smoking area? For someone who just had a heart attack? Yeah, that’s what I thought too.
While I didn’t ask, I figured there was some sort of catch. Like you could only smoke the cigarettes the hospital provided and they cost $1,000 a pack. Well $999.99 after Anthem Blue Cross paid their share. As I laid there in that hospital bed I came to grips with reality that my smoking days were done. 42 years was a long run. Obviously too long.
My smoking days and my wife Stacey’s as well. The day I got out of the hospital our home became a non smoking zone. Had she not joined me on this journey, I know that I would never had made it. I will always thank her for that. She has been a rock and a continuous support.
Despite that unwavering support I still think about it every day. No matter what I do during the course of the day that little devil on my shoulder is always there poking me with his pitchfork. The best I can do is brush the little bastard away and change my focus.
While people who have never smoked will never understand what I am about to say, in all honesty, I have to say it. I loved smoking.
If tomorrow the Surgeon General released a statement saying they made a huge mistake and that it was actually good for you, I would be the first one in line at the smoke shop, money in hand.
During my career as a smoker, the cigarette was tied to so many things that once I stopped they all came to the forefront of my thoughts. Like what I am doing right now, writing. You would find it mindboggling how many I would consume during the course of writing one piece. Then after I completed it I would treat myself to, what else? Another cigarette.
You would have thought I was one of Pavlov’s dogs and cigarettes were my food. There were certain things that I would do, like the completion of yard work or even answering the phone in my office, that had the same effect as Pavlov’s ringing bell on me. As soon as one of those things would happen it would be time for me to light one up. Pavlov’s dogs would salivate. I would smoke. I’m not sure which was more gross. I do know which the majority of the public is thinking nowadays.
You used to be able to smoke everywhere. Movie theatres, bars, restaurants, airplanes, even in your seats at a Dodgers game. Now you can’t smoke in your own apartment and in some cases there are entire cities where you can’t puff in public.
And, in what I am sure is the wave of the future, Vietnam has become a non smoking country and one where you can’t even advertise the product.
Speaking of advertising, I think we have all got the message with the “Scared Straight” CDC advertisements that play every other commercial on TV. For someone in my position these make my quitting ever harder. Not because watching Susie getting a sponge bath from her son Daniel doesn’t look enticing, but it is a constant reminder that I am not smoking.
As it is I have plenty of positive reminders in my life without the doom and gloom scenarios they portray. Things that while I was smoking I heard about, but thought I was immune to.
Like the constant smell of tobacco on my hair and clothing. The presence of a constant cough and the difficulty in my breathing that was more of a wheeze than taking a breath. My ability to smell the person smoking who is two cars ahead of me at an intersection. Dude, if you are going to smoke at least roll up your window!
Oh my god, I have become one of those ex smokers. It looks like I “chose” the right time to quit.


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