Eight Cigarette-Free Years (Wish I Could Smoke To That!)

October 6, 2011

In two weeks, I’ll “celebrate” a milestone in my life. No, not my birthday (although that’s this Sunday if you would like to send your well-wishes or gifts). On Oct. 20, 2003, I quit smoking after twelve years of addiction to one of the most marvelous, horrible brands in the world: Marlboro.

Oh, how I loved the Marlboros … and Camels … and Parliaments … and American Spirits … and Winstons … and even a menthol Doral or Kool if I was in a pinch. Cigarettes and I have the ultimate love-hate relationship. I hate that they cost me thousands and thousands of dollars. I hate that someday I’ll probably be diagnosed with something that originated from my dirty little habit. And I hated the dirty ashtrays and the stale-smoke odor of my car and home.

But I love them, too. I love the way they smell. I loved standing outside on a cool fall day and feeling that cloud of filth as I inhaled it deep into my lungs. I love walking past somebody just as they exhale, giving me a brief reminder of that crutch upon which I leaned for so long.

Aside from a single drag off a Marlboro Light in 2008, I haven’t cheated. But even after close to a decade, I continue to think about it nearly every day.
I thought about it as I got in my car last week before a three-hour drive across Minnesota. I thought about it as I arrived at Tilia for Fast Horse Founder’s Day on Friday evening. I miss it every Sunday while I watch the Vikings get slaughtered. Sometimes I miss it when I wake up. Often I miss it immediately after dinner or on my drive home.

And then I think back to Oct. 20, 2003. The day I woke up for the first time, slapped a patch on my arm and felt like I was dying every moment of every day for the next three months. Locked in my home or offic … afraid to do anything social for fear that this, my eleventh (yes, eleventh) attempt too would fail. It did not fail, and I hope never to fail.

If you’ve never been a smoker, I’m sure these words leave you dumbstruck. How could a person miss something after all that time? Especially when that something stinks and kills? I have no answers. All I know is I will continue to enjoy the smell of a cigarette burning somewhere nearby. And I may never shake the envy I feel when I see people pulling that sweet smoke down their throats … then blowing it back out in a cloudy stream of contentedness.

But more importantly, I will resist my urge with everything in me in the hope I will someday reach 10 years, then 20 and hopefully a few more smoke-free milestones.