When I started smoking a packet of Marlboro Red cost 54 cents. This was in about 1972. A 50 gram pouch of Drum cost $1.65 and the papers were 5 cents.
It has been 16 years, nearly 17, since I last had a cigarette. I have honestly forgotten many of the early benefits of quitting; I know there has to have been an upturn in my health. I remember feeling better really quickly after I stopped. Particularly in the mornings. I woke up feeling better.
But there is a downside to being 17 years off the cigarettes; in order to get 17 years free one has to age 17 years! Yup. No way around that one. I am 17 years older than I was when I quit.
Health-wise, 17 years is not a lot when you are 20. At 37 you are still a pup, you still have everything going for you that you had at 20.
When you stop smoking at 40 it becomes a little different. The difference between myself at 40 and now, 57 seems vast. At 40 I had started to slow down, but was still strong, virile, fit. At 57 I am positively a sluggard. I search the internet looking for the health benefits of an armchair. Don't find 'em.
Okay, my health is not what it could be. But where would I be if I had continued to smoke for those years? Probably in a pine box. I do remember the shortness of breath, the elevated pulse. The many years of smoking (I started in primary school - just the one or two a day I could swipe from Dad when he wasn't looking - and was smoking full-time by 14 when I started work).
The long term benefits of stopping smoking are not always so readily apparent as the short term. As I wrote, the health benefits are camouflaged by the pure and simple act of getting older. The ones that I notice regularly - and I don't always see them at first glance - are . . .
Money. Need I say more. When I first quit I spent it all on what I have no idea. It just disappeared. After a few years I made a conscious decision to save some of what I would have smoked. Over 16 years this has meant a new car (imagine buying a new car, no contracts or monthly repayments!), better clothes and about $5000 in the bank.
And this is money saved based on about $10 per pack. Smoking is much more costly now.
I have 2 children, a son 34 who has never smoked and a daughter 30 who never smoked until she was about 28 or so, when she met the man she loves who is a smoker.
It is gratifying to know that I have been able to be a good influence on my kids regarding smoking. Every parent has some guilt or other about the way our kids turn out but that is one that I don't have to carry.
Fear. This was a big one for me. I lived with a cloud hanging over me. I just knew that one day the hammer was going to drop and I would be right under it. But by and large that fear has gone. What a relief that is.
I started out by writing what cigarettes cost when I started smoking. When I stopped they were about $10 a pack. Someone told me recently that they are now over $30.
I simply could not afford to spend $30 per day on cigarettes. That is a real slug in the wallet.
Oh, that 17 years older thing. For me it has meant I now have a little more free time on my hands. How I remember those early days when I dreaded free time. My mantra was 'Keep busy, keep busy!'
Now I am able to enjoy free time without the nicotine time clock chiming every half hour or so.
What I want to do, at least one of the things I want to do, is to encourage others to stop smoking and the things I needed to hear when I first quit were not the cancer and emphysema scares but the good, positive aspects of having put the drug behind me.
Today I know a new freedom and I am probably guilty of taking this for granted. I can enjoy a movie without having to rush out in the quiet moments for a few drags on the durry. It doesn't worry me if I have to spend a couple of hours in a 'No Smoking' zone such as a doctor's surgery or a library.
Oh, remember the dread of going to bed knowing there was no cigarettes for the morning? I do. Sometimes I would go out late at night just to buy smokes for the morning heart-starter.
It is years since I have had that worry.
Cigarettes ruled every aspect of my life. Today they don't.
When I quit smoking the big question I needed an answer for was not when will the cravings end but when will I forget about smoking and be free of this internal turmoil?
Of course the answer is that it is different for everyone. The thing is it does end. I can go for days, weeks, even months without the thought of a cigarette crossing my mind. If I was not writing this I wouldn't have thought of it for yet another day. This is a true freedom that you can achieve.
Imagine, forgetting about smoking altogether, having a great meal and not automatically reaching for the sticks. Not even thinking about them!
I feel I have gone on for far too long but there is so much I would like to say to encourage the quitter. I wish you well in your quit journey. Your life is about to get better.
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