Tantejoan here! When I read Meg’s pieces in which she mentions her smoking, and how she thinks she will probably try to quit when the weather turns cold because it’s hard to stand outside and smoke when you’re shivering, I think of me almost 10 years ago. When no amount of entreaty from my friends and family, no warnings from my doctors, no restaurant and club restrictions, no articles in The New York Times, no outrageous “sin tax” New York City levied on me for the privilege of polluting my lungs could stop me from exercising my God-given right to smoke.
(This pic is of Meg desperate for a cigg. No one had one so she stole a man’s cigar!)
So this is my testimony as to how I stopped, and why, and why I want Meg and everyone else I love to read this.
I started smoking when I was 13, at camp, because my counselor gave all the girls lessons in “French-inhaling.” It was cool, and I loved everything about it, from the holding and the lighting to the way it became an extension of me. I stopped smoking in 2000. I did it cold turkey, because I wanted to. In my experience, no one can “make” you stop smoking unless you want to do it. Shame doesn’t work, because smokers can ignore or rationalize shame. Bribery doesn’t work, because quitting to get a reward from a loved one only makes the smoker resent said loved one, sometimes to the point of cheating and sometimes to the point of losing the “loved” part of the description. Nagging doesn’t work, because smokers are experts at projecting Cones of Silence over the heads of anyone whose message is unwelcome.
I believe the only effective persuaders in the Let’s-Get-[insert name here]-to-Quit Sweepstakes are those under 50 inches tall. No, I am not referring to Little People. I mean children. Somehow, the idea that continuing to express oneself by inhaling tobacco is causing a child anxiety and distress is often the first step a smoker will take voluntarily to quit. Otherwise, nada. Spouses or significant others can complain about bad breath, and yellow teeth, exile the offending smoker to other rooms, out of doors, the garage – it does not matter. The smoker will smoke. When the price of a package of cigarettes rose to close to $8.00 a pack in New York, my ace shopping skills took me to the internet, where my Native American name, “Never Buys Retail” made me a devoted customer of the Seneca Nation. Having lost America to the white man centuries ago, the reservations are now taking it back, one lung at a time. I was proud to get my deliveries of discounted cigarettes — $25 per carton to the local $80 – and continued to smoke that peace pipe.
So what did it? I made a personal decision to quit. Everyone who does has a different reason, but I contend that the effort will only succeed if it is your own. The object, after all, is not to “try” to quit, but to quit. In my case, I did it as a private thing I could do to make my sister happy at a time when nothing in her life could accomplish that: her husband was dying, and she was watching him do it slowly. Both she and he had spent years entreating me to stop, without any success. And, to be clear, they did not ask me to stop this time, either. I just decided that if I could stop, it would please her, please him, and please me. So I stopped, cold turkey, and not, good shopper that I am, before I finished that one last carton. And it worked, for me. I have not had a cigarette since.
Bully for me, right? I am not writing this for me, cats and kitties. I am writing it for Meg and all the Megs who smoke but feel guilty, or smoke but wish they didn’t or smoke and think “at least I know what will get me.” Oh, and P.S.? that last is never, ever true. Life always has plans for us that do not include our assumptions. I am just offering this piece to start a conversation for those who are interested, and to see who else is out there with another opinion. Over to you.
Who else has ended their “love affair” with ciggs and how did you do it?