Sunday, May 20, 2012

the habit of a lifetime


Like most kids who grew up in the 50s and 60s, my parents smoked though my dad quit about the time I was 8 or 9 I think, when all the research was coming out about how bad it was. I was pretty young because I don't actually remember him smoking but I know we had moved into the new house. He used sour lemon candies, the kind that are sweet until you bite into them and get the sour powder in the middle, to help him break the habit.

I can still see the dish of candies on the side table next to his recliner. We weren't really allowed to eat them as they were his candies but we did sneak one now and then. Whenever he felt the urge to smoke, he would eat a candy or two instead. I think that for awhile he just shifted his addition to those candies.

The other thing I remember about my father smoking is that he used a human skull cap for an ashtray. Once he quit smoking it became just another ornament in the house. I don't know what happened to it after he died. I know it was still on his desk. Perhaps my brother has it or maybe my sister.

My mother, though, never quit. Not even when she started having TIAs (transient ischemic attack or mini-stroke). She only quit once she was in the family home because she needed 24 hour care and they didn't allow smoking. She was very sneaky about getting cigarettes though. She would talk people into bringing some to her. Of course it only aggravated her condition and when we found out we would roundly chastise whoever had given them to her. Eventually she ran out of people she could call.

I remember when the first anti-smoking campaign came out. Us kids jumped on it trying to get our mother to quit. We were tired of the smoke filled house and going anywhere in the car was even worse. It's a wonder we're not all dead from second hand smoke.

Dad brought home some posters one day. My siblings and I took one of them and pinned it on our parent's bedroom door while our mother was out.



She was not amused.


Eventually I grew up and went off to college and picked it up myself. Even then more people smoked than not. Didn't really care for it though so I quit after a couple of years. I was more into smoking pot.

My first husband was a smoker too. He was also a lazy no good bum who couldn't be bothered to get out of bed every morning and look for a job, much less go to work. I would come home from my job and he would still be in bed, watching TV (the Sony Trinitron his mother gave him for his birthday), the house a mess and forget any meal waiting. That was the woman's job.

I think the day I came home and found the ashtray mounded up so full of cigarette butts that they were spilling out and onto the floor was the day I began my exit from that relationship.

Several years later I married again to another smoker but when the kids were still small in the early 80s, he quit. It only lasted a few years before he started up again but I took the opportunity to ban smoking in the house. When friends and family came over, they had to step outside to have a smoke.

Once again, my mother was not amused.

It was a very radical move at the time, to expect your friends and family, your guests, to step outside no matter what the weather to have a smoke. My mother thought that she should be the exception. It took another 20 years or so for smoking to be banned indoors in public places.

Mother eventually died from the cumulative effect of her TIAs. My brother-in-law, who smoked for 50 years, died from stage 4 metastatic lung cancer two or three years after he quit. My husband finally quit smoking again about 2 ½ years ago.

The jury is still out on him.



19 comments:

  1. Hat's off to people who are able to quit an addiction, especially after years and years. Wow.

    The anti-smoking campaigns have been great to watch: love that poster!

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  2. it is one habit i am so grateful to have never tried. my father smoked for years - but it was before i was born. my mother-in-law smoked for years - even though her boys had asthma. ugh!

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  3. One of the biggest differences I noticed when I moved to Oklahoma is how many people smoke here. Darn near everyone it seems. They even smoke in some stores and restaurants. It's very bad here, but trust me, they don't want to hear about it. What's scary is that I'd feel like choking when first around it but now it really doesn't bother me that much.

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  4. In the 60's I swear everyone smoked. We lived in CT and went to NH frequently to visit relatives. The taxes in CT on cigarettes was and still is very high. When my parents went to NH they'd buy cigs for all the neighbors.

    Finally my sister and I convinced my Dad to stop smoking one year - he gave it up for lent (!) and finally never went back. Mom was only a social smoker - was no problem for her.

    Then my brothers came a long. And by 2 years of age they were asthmatic. Mom instantly banned any smoking in our home. The ashtrays disappeared (remember when every home had them?) and even visiting family had to step outside to smoke - the was the early early 70s. So, like you - Mom was way ahead of the times. Today most smokers don't even smoke in their own homes.

    When I started working in the real world, you could still smoke at your desk (I think now about the fire hazard that is...along with the respiratory hazard). I blame that for my early labors - I had no other health issues and was very young when I had my babies. By the time the 80s ended, so did smoking in the workplace - at least you couldn't smoke at your desk.

    I still wonder if my son would have been bigger had he not been exposed through the placenta to all those carcinogens...or maybe my daughter would be a lot healthier. Who knows...

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  5. Brother tobacco is a perfect drug - both calming and stimulating. It brings clarity to the mind and peace to the heart. No wonder the Indians used it ceremonially. Of course we Americans must go overboard with everything.

    Though, come to think of it, the rest of the world overdoes it with cigarettes, too.

    I do remember when it was rude to cough or beat a hasty retreat from smokers. Remember smoking sections in restaurants? What a joke! Even weirder: smoking sections on airplanes. Would be funny if not so awful.

    Lots of people smoke and never develop lung cancer, so no need to expect the worst with your husband. I'm impressed you and he could quit! They say it's worse than heroin in terms of how addictive it is.

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  6. Well, at least that is the one cancer the doctors have ruled out with me so far. Too bad b/c I could've used my parents' years of second hand smoke for one reason for having it I suppose. Dad died of lung/brain cancer and Mom of COPD 7 years later. All due to smoking.

    Everyone has their habits, bad and otherwise. We had to finally do the same thing with my Mom b/c honestly? Who wants to buy cigarettes for a person who is on 24 hour oxygen? But it is truly an addiction and a hard one they could never break.

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  7. My mom smoked very heavily (more than 40 a day) for about 40 years - she stopped smoking in her mid-50s quite suddenly and unexpectedly, but it was too late she died of lung cancer a few weeks after her 64th birthday.

    Neither I nor my siblings smoke - I think seeing all those stinking ashtrays, watching her smoke whilst cooking and worst still dog-ends in the toilet put us all off!!

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  8. I think I have a unique story about quitting smoking. My husband and I went on vacation. We went to Colorado to Quray, Silverton to camp. I needed cigs on the way out of town but my Joe just said we'd pick them up in the next town. Several hours and some ugly words did not kill his determination to have me quit. We made it all the way up to Red Mountain Pass which is at 14,000 ft above sea level (and trust me there were'nt any 7 to 11's close by and he said, see you got up here without any and you and I both are still alive. We spent a week camping. And I never smoked again. I think it was the concern in his voice that convinced me. But I am glad. That was 36 years ago.

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  9. I don't have a point of reference because neither Jilda or I have ever smoked tobacco.
    Several good smoker friends have dropped dead from heart attacks and one died a horrible death with lung cancer.
    I had a female friend at work that smoked for years until she began to notice wrinkles around her mouth.
    She quit cold turkey. Her looks were more important than nicotine.
    We've never allowed smoking in our house because Jilda has had lung issues for as long as we've been together.
    There was never any debate.

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  10. Like TexWisGirl, I have never been a smoker. I recently read a novel by Stephen King in which a man finds a portal through which he can go back to the year 1958. He calls it The Land Of Universal Smoking, which cracked me up. When i started at the post office in the mid 80s, the letter cases had little ash trays clipped onto their edge, and people who smoked could puff away all morning if they wanted to. It seems bizarre now.

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  11. My parents never smoked & neither have I - and boy am I glad because with my addictive personality it would be impossible to quit & who can afford cigarettes these days? At least cookie dough is less expensive :)

    When I first started working at my current job 10 years ago certain people were allowed to smoke in their offices as long as their staff didn't complain (who's going to complain to the president of the company?). And we had smoking rooms in the break rooms. I remember going to get something signed by one of the executives - I smelled like an ashtray when I left his office. Eww!

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  12. Except for my two year dip, neither myself nor my two siblings smoked. my daughter does however, but not my son.

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  13. I used to be a folk singer who gave up smoking simply because it ruined the voice. As I began to age I developed borderline asthma and had to quit pubbing altogether. There were days I literally couldn't breathe. Forget the performing. I know many hate the fact that they can no longer smoke and drink publicly. Publicly, I can now BREATHE!

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  14. I too picked up the habit in the 60's. But quit about 22 years ago. Whew!!
    Good for you and yourt hubby.
    Hugs
    SueAnn

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  15. My last boyfriend was a chain smoker. I HATE smoking and couldn't believe I was attracted to a smoker. BUT I loved him like crazy. The habit is such a dirty, powerful addiction. I often wonder what payment he will make with his health. I am relieved I will not ever have to watch what smoking may steal from his life other than almost 6 dollars a day.

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  16. A tough habit to kick. Now I'm kicking myself for every picking it up. I like to say that I was "just" a social smoker. But I know that isn't really accurate. At least not in my college days and the few years afterwards. I smoked more often than I'd like to remember. Certainly, when I had a glass of wine in hand. Which was, at one time, quite often.

    It took getting pregnant in my mid thirties to make me stop entirely. And just the tiniest odor of cigarette smoke now makes me ill. When I was pregnant w/my first, smoking was still permitted in the office. I pushed for a total ban and smokers were soon relegated to puffing outdoors. But because almost everyone in that office still smoked at the time, they weren't very happy with me. Can you imagine. And I was pregnant!

    We've come a long way, baby. ;)

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  17. Hullo There - I just stumbled onto your blog and read this - can totally agree with this post, having gone through similar stuff. My Mom quit "cold turkey" in her late 60's and never went back.
    Great post and I shall be back to read more. Cheers n have a great day from Atlantic Canada.

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  18. My mother never touched a cigarette to her lips but my Dad smoked from the time he was 15 until about 55 years later when he met a man who had had a larynxectomy. He threw them away and never went back to them. He was dismayed to learn that I had begun smoking shortly afterward. That lasted until I knew I wanted kids. I quit after a dozen or so years and never looked back. My younger son has smoked lightly for the past few years but has just decided to quite last week. It's a horrible habit and we've lost quite a few family members to its evils.

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I opened my big mouth, now it's your turn.