Yes, I’m a quitter—smoking that is. No I won’t pretend it was ever SMART or healthy. Unfortunately back when I was a smoker we didn’t think much about it. But just like how eating too much sugar is considered bad today, every time I’d cough I suspected there would be a price to pay. Thankfully I quit over 25 years ago and hope I’ve compensated for the risk. Sadly, my mom wasn’t as lucky and paid for it with her life. That’s why today I’m a strong supporter of the Great American Smokeout (GASO). I agree with the GASO theme for 2014, which states, “Quit Together. Win Together.” I don’t regret much in my life but I do regret not being able to help my mother quit so we could both have won against this addiction together.
The facts today are undeniable. According to Cancer.org, “Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the US, yet about 42 million Americans still smoke cigarettes — a bit under 1 in every 5 adults. As of 2012, there were also 13.4 million cigar smokers in the US, and 2.3 million who smoke tobacco in pipes — other dangerous and addictive forms of tobacco.” The problem isn’t that we don’t know it kills us; the problem is we do and don’t work together to help each other quit.
Mom knew it was killing her—we all did. She stopped several times but something always happened that drove her back to the addiction. Towards the end of her 60s she suffered a number of small strokes, which slowed her down and kept her from her love of painting and sculpture. After that, about the only thing she seemed able to do easily, was light up a cigarette.
I grew up in a household that smoked. Mom and Dad both smoked when I was born and out of four daughters, I was the only one that ever took up the nasty habit. I was one of the rare ones who actually liked the taste of cigarettes and started when I was 18. When I met and married my husband I told him, “Just don’t ever ask me to quit smoking.” He never did. Likewise my father never asked my mom to quit either. Looking back, maybe that was the wrong approach. It’s possible that as with any addiction, being too nice only makes things worse.
My father quit smoking several years before I did. He had nasal polyps making it impossible for him to continue. I managed to quit around age 32 when I could no longer pretend that it wasn’t harming my health. Like my Dad, I made up my mind to do it and followed all of the good advice I could find to get it done. I’m proof it is possible. Once successful, I became a reformed smoker and tried to convince Mom to do the same. When I told her she could no longer smoke in my house, she got very angry and we were never as close again.
I could tell you how things got toward the end after Mom was diagnosed with esophageal cancer but I’ll spare the details. What’s important to note is that smokers know that what they are doing will likely kill them. But the grip of the addiction is very tight. Just like the lure of alcohol is to an alcoholic, drugs to an addict, or even food to the morbidly obese, it is difficult to say no. It takes help. That’s why one of the best ways to handle addiction usually involves other people. Again, that’s why “Quit Together—Win Together” makes so much sense to me.
Fortunately, no one has to be a quitter all alone. For the last 38 years on November 20th the American Cancer Society sponsors GASO. As always, their message is to encourage smokers to commit to quit or make a plan to quit on that day. They remind us all every year that by quitting, even for one day, smokers take a critical step to a healthier life that can reduce the risk of cancer. The Great American Smokeout website is full of information that can help you quit, or you can call the GASO at 1-800-227-2345. And for all you Facebook Fans there is even a Quit for Life Facebook page. Remember, you don’t have to do it alone.
And let’s not forget all the other “wins” that come when you quit smoking. Here on SMART Living 365.com I write a lot about ways to be money SMART. Not wasting money on a product that actually kills us is a good place to start. Plus, a huge benefit besides being healthier, is actually feeling more healthy. Right after I quit smoking I started walking and/or exercising 5-7 days every week and now I am far healthier than I was 25 years ago. Even the big excuse of weight gain can be avoided if you start exercising and moving once you’ve quit. Best of all, after I quit my husband Thom stopped telling me I tasted like licking an ashtray whenever we kissed. How’s that for motivation? Go here for even more news and information about quitting.
Here on SMART Living 365 I don’t usually get on the soapbox about topics but this one was near and dear to my heart. I still wonder if there is anything else I could have done to help my mother end her addiction to cigarettes. Next Thursday (the 3rd Thursday of November) is the Great American Smokeout. If you are a smoker, or know others who are—why not start calling yourself a quitter instead? It’s too late for my mom but I’ll bet there are other moms out there who just might hear the message and quit.
This post represents a sponsored editorial partnership with the American Cancer Society.
All storytelling and opinions are, of course, my own.