By Emily Trube | @KRLDEmily
I have smoked for more than 20 years. It’s not something I’m proud of, but there it is. Something to be proud of? I’m quitting.
I started smoking during my sophomore year of college while on a trip to New Orleans. I had decided that smoking a cigar would be a cool thing to do. It wasn’t. I was looking for a way to get the taste out of my mouth and someone offered me a menthol cigarette as a palette cleanser of sorts. I loved it. Loved it. New Orleans in the 1990s was a very easy place to smoke. You could smoke virtually anywhere — and I did. Back at school in New York, I continued to smoke, largely because I could.
But really, I started smoking long before that. I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s. People smoked in airplanes and at work. I remember my father’s secretary’s ashtray. People smoked at dinner parties and lunchroom counters. They smoked at the country club. Teachers smoked in the lounge. My ballet teacher smoked in her office after class. The director at the civic theater smoked from the back row, while he gave notes. As a child, I was exposed to nicotine most of the time and I did not have a bad reaction to it. The whiff of smokes long past, combined with silk drapes, purse leather, wood paneling, old books, perfume and cocktails was, and is, somewhat comforting. It’s one of the smells I associate with the still-old-fashioned East Texas town I grew up it.
Yet, me becoming a smoker myself came as a bit of a surprise to most people who knew me. It still surprises people.
More surprising, I had absolutely no intention of quitting, and I didn’t. A few years into my 20s, I tried. And then about 10 years after that, I tried again. And then again … and again … and again. Four times I have tried to quit, and four times I have failed. Hopefully, the fifth time will be the charm.
Here’s why I have to quit. It’s time, past time. I love smoking. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing better than a cigarette after a nice steak and a glass of wine. You know how great beer tastes at the beach? Add a cigarette. Ooooooh! Walking with a paper cup of strong, frothy coffee and a cigarette, window shopping, talking, is the best – the best! And, I love talking until all hours of the morning and solving the problems of the world – with a cigarette to punctuate the important revelations. Does it get any better? I have to hope that it does, because the cigarettes will kill me and they kill very cruelly. There’s also the extreme risk of me losing my voice, my trade. I would be lying if I said the thought of cancer hasn’t terrified me and kept me up at night. I imagine having to break the news to my parents, my brothers. I think about what I would do with my life if I could no longer talk on the radio. Yet, I have kept smoking. It is an addiction, after all.
In my quest to break free, I am enlisting help. This blog is part of that help. Being accountable is key. Research and knowledge are also important. So far, I have found three solid smoking cessation programs in North Texas. Parkland Hospital and UT Southwestern both have comprehensive programs that provide medical treatment and behavioral health therapy. Tarrant County Public Health is offering a free program to any and all Tarrant County residents who want to quit smoking. It’s called Freedom From Smoking. Freedom from Smoking offers weekly smoking cessation classes. There is an online version as well.
Many times I have wondered how my life would have been different if I had never started smoking in the first place. I think about the amount of money and time I have spent smoking. I have wondered about relationships I may have sabotaged because of my smoking or how many relationships or jobs or other opportunities never got off the ground because of my smoking. This all comes into sharp focus when I see a young person smoking – someone in their 20s who started despite extensive education about what a smoking addiction can do to you. In today’s culture, smoking is a choice, a decisive choice. You don’t smoke in people’s homes anymore — for the most part — or at restaurants or even in many bars. Most smokers smoke outside, alone. The once social activity is now an exercise is isolation … and, frankly, in shame.
So why do young people pick it up? I spoke with Robin Koval, the CEO of Legacy, a public health foundation behind the national “truth” campaign. “Truth”, which was recently named one of the top ad campaigns of the 21st Century by (italics) Advertising Age, focuses on eradicating youth smoking. Koval says one of the campaign’s successes has been to utilize young people’s natural sense of rebelliousness and casting big tobacco companies as “the man” – the establishment to be rebelled against.
Legacy® has also launched the “Ex” online smoking cessation program. I’ll talk more about my experiencing using both in-person group therapy type environments and online programs next week. Until then, wish me luck.
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