There but for the Grace of God go I … Stopped Smoking Cigarettes

God Did For Me What I Could Not Do For Myself

I don’t remember exactly what day I started smoking cigarettes, but I do remember the day that I quit smoking as if it were yesterday. At about ten years of age, started acting cool like grown ups with a couple friends by acting as though we smoked by rolling up dried lawn grass from backyards and the Merrill Park in the Jeffery Manor at Chicago, Illinois. We also tried smoking dried tree leaves rolled up inside notebook paper, typing paper, old Chicago Transit Authority transfer fare paper, torn pages from a phone book or whatever was available. Trying to imitate my father, cousins, other adults, movies stars, soldiers, cowboys, musicians, tough guys, bad guys, good guys and any other heroes who smoked cigarettes. I guess it was cool and glamorous when they inhaled/exhaled smoke in their lungs. It made them look smarter and in control. I did not know how to smoke at all. I just puffed and coughed from the burning sensation that I felt in my chest and lungs. It was awfully painful! One day a friend stole an open pack from his mother and we tried to smoke a real cigarette. I think it was either Benson & Hedges or Virginia Slims cigarettes. By the way, we learned that a cigarette is also called a “square”. We almost got busted because my friend’s mother found out her cigarettes were missing and it seemed like trouble was coming fast. Somehow I dodged that bullet. If you ask me today, then I wish I had been busted so I could be punished. And back then we used to get beatings for disobedience and doing wrong. Today it is called child abuse. I think that is what’s wrong with this world today. Spare the rod; spoil the child. I needed a beat down just on GP alone.

Time passed and I learned to smoke the real McCoy, cigarettes fresh out the pack or crush-proof box! Newport brand cigarettes, an attractive green square shaped pack or box with the upside Nike swoosh on the front label and the surgeon general’s warning on the side, to be exact. Twenty, filtered menthol cigarettes, jam packed with nicotine, tar, embalming fluid and couple hundred more flavorful low-dosed toxic deadly poisons. I learned to hold the cigarette like a real man should. I held the square between my index finger and middle finger with a slight curve on the pull, like a cool way of holding a pool stick at a speak-easy pool hall, tavern, bar or a club. I was cool at 12 years old. Stunting my growth and development already. It took me a couple days to learn exactly how to inhale smoke without choking. And of course, I did choke. I got light-headed and dizzy in the beginning of my 24-year life sentence as a smoker of cigarettes. That light-headedness made me feel relaxed after enjoying a refreshing cigarette. Oh, I did not discriminate in the beginning. I smoked many different brands without prejudice. For example, Kools, Marlboroughs, Salems, Players, Camels, and Viceroys (the brand that helped to give my dad emphysema and cancer), oh well, whatever, never mind. Put it this way, if you had a cigarette, I would probably smoke it without hesitation. I was cool, calm and collected, an in control smoker. I mean I was bad, the best of the best, top cat, cool, can you dig it man. (So I thought)

Always coughing up cold. Spitting hockers ranging from off-white to yellow, to tawny, to brown and green, orange and red and the occasional black hocker. Sometimes getting a solid chuck that resembles a broken sunflower seed that stank worse than Rex the dog’s breath on a hot and humid day in Maywood, Illinois in the month of July. Cigarettes were cheap to buy back in the day. I mean the early 1980’s when I started smoking. They were more or less about 75cents a pack. I heard in the military, they were about $7 for a carton of 20 packs of squares back then, in the early 80’s. It just didn’t cost that much to kill yourself back then. Now the cost of living is high and the cost of dying is higher. My oldest brother and I used to hang out at a friends house. There we were enabled to smoke, drink and listen to loud music in his basement. At home, we hid our bad smoking habit by sticking our heads out of the bathroom window while smoking cigarettes. We used air fresher and aerosol hairspray to kill the smell of cigarette smoke. Who were we fooling? One snowy evening, in the winter of 1982-83, my brother and took a walk down the avenue where we lived, to smoke cigarettes. My mother, for some reason, open the door, looked down the street, just as my brother was taking a few hearty drags, on a freshly lit Newport 100 cigarette. She came out the house and saw him smoking. I almost got busted that day because I was just about to pull my cigarettes out my pocket. Well, just say that eventually I confessed to my habit of smoking around that time also. My mother told us not to smoke around her or in her house, period. She was very disappointed in us but she knew that it was basically nothing she could do because we were big young boys and officially addicted to inhaling nicotine, tar and about 400 other low dose poisons.

Shortness of breath, bad colds and flu symptoms, yellowish (coffin) fingernails, eyes looking lowly and dimly lit up were signs of the unhealthy aspect of smoking cigarettes. What a drag after taking so many drags. Clothes and hair stinking like smoke. Holes burned in clothing. I apparently loved 電子煙 cigarettes and it was a marriage of convenience that kept us together as one. And for 24 years it took its toll on my life and me. Nicotine controlled me and I was not the wiser. A friend once told me that with every pull of smoke I took, 5 seconds was taken from my lifetime. My rational answer was, we are all gonna die from something, you’ll never know what or how. Enough said for the glory of smoking cigarettes.

While visiting an elder near Green Bay, Wisconsin in about the spring of 1984, I remember eating an authentic home-cooked Polish dinner for the very first time. We ate Polish sausage and sauerkraut and some kick ass horseradish. It was the bomb! I was about 14 years old at the time. I had a girlfriend. She didn’t smoke. I use to always brush my teeth, use mouthwash, chew gum, and use a breath mint or spray or something before I kissed her, if I smoked. It really wasn’t right, to be honest. I mean, my smoking. But I denied the truth about it. Back to Green Bay, the people I was visiting found out that I was a young boy smoking cigarettes, after trying to hide it and cover it up from them. I remember, Joseph a man I love and respect like a father, telling me don’t be a hypocrite and admit that I smoke. It felt like a weight was lifted off my chest after telling the truth. Yet, I still smoked. So, I asked Joseph’s father, Gramps, did he smoke? He said “yes, but he quit about 15 years before our conversation.” I asked him “how did he quit?” He said, “he just stopped.” And that, “when it is time for you to quit, then you will know it and just quit for good.” I had a fresh addiction to nicotine flowing through my veins and I craved for a cigarette after that delicious meal. I thought to myself, “easier said than done old man”. That meeting with him has stayed with me ever since.

As time went by, year progressed. The same thing, I smoked after eating food, drinking alcoholic beverages, drinking coffee, drinking soft drinks and especially drinking highly caffeinated colas. I smoke when I felt happy, sad, upset, or just to be smoking a cigarette to have something to do like people who play baseball, a past time. Even when someone ticked me off, when problems and trouble came up, before and after relieving myself, I had to smoke another cigarette. That is the plain truth. And it’s somethen rong with that pickture!

I remember trying to quit off and on with no success whatsoever. I would quit a day or two, a week or so and “bam!” I was back at it again, “Smokin’!” It was off to the races again, baby. Addicted to nicotine. You see, as the years went on, I became allergic to dogs, cats, dust, pollen and grasses. I later developed bronchitis. I wonder did smoking have something to do with my developing these health problems. Hmm. I wonder… Well, anyway, I’m in my mid-30’s. I am now a little older and I believe a tad bit wiser. I no longer need to look cool, act cool and think that I’m cool, in order to be cool. Sometimes in order to be cool, you have to be uncool. You will surprise your friends and confuse your enemies. I felt like Pavlov’s dog when it came to smoking cigarettes. I also began to remember when my mother use to say that “I do not want to use anything that has that much power over me.” Yes, she was right and basically said ” I am powerless over cigarettes.” Until I realized the truth in that statement, I would probably have smoked for the rest of my natural life. It is not so much as the physical dependence of nicotine or cigarettes but the mental dependence caused by my thinking and the force of habitual thinking and acting upon the thought of physically craving nicotine. And the best way I could get my nicotine fix was to fire up a cigarette and inhale the smoke. If I do not pick up the cigarette, then I will not smoke.

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