You need to quit. I didn't.
Sometimes life has something in store for us just up ahead, and you don't know about it, but if you've quit smoking already, you might have a chance to survive that thing up ahead. Because if you've already quit, you'll actually be able to breathe, among other things.
I have a twisted dark sad inspirational story to tell about why I'm grateful I quit, even as I sit here on my 100th day quit feeling the craving in my throat and wanting that nicotine relief. Even now. But I'm not going to do it. And my gratitude isn't bc I had a health scare bc of smoking. It's because I was going to need my lungs and my body in a way I never had before, in order to help me cope with the worst thing I was ever going to face in my life. (And I'm no stranger to grief).
On April 19th I was wandering around my house and office in a bad mood. I was having really strong cravings, but I was also craving and missing my husband. You see, I married a man 5 years ago who was an amazing soul. I knew the night I met him I was going to marry him. Literally. I remember thinking it. After 30 odd years I found my soulmate. He was a beautiful heart. But he was broken. And of course my heart wanted to take his broken pieces and put them back together and show him how beautiful he was. In the beginning it worked. But then his demons resurfaced. First showing up as alcoholism. Even after battling and we thought conquering that, it was the internal stuff that he never fully healed. This man was well loved by everyone in our community, he was a leader, he was a friend to so many. He was loyal. And he did these things bc he was genuine- not for for an ego stroke. One little example- he took roses to all of his widowed clients every Valentines day because he wanted them to feel loved, and wanted them to know someone was thinking of them. (He literally drove all over to each of their houses in the countryside to deliver them). He did that every year. (And no, it wasn't something he advertised. I knew about it bc I was his wife). Last year, our normal troubles got worse. The demons got louder for him. And he had a severe manic episode- nothing he'd ever quite experienced. It was so bad I had to leave. I left him for my safety, but not because I did not love him. I tried everything I could but as long as I was there I was the dumping ground for his blame. (No, he never physically hurt me. He was just angry bc I couldn't do the thing he ultimately needed to do for himself. which was love and forgive himself. And the mania was causing him to do things that did threaten our safety). So I left. And then his world crashed around him and so did the mania. My life slowly started getting better (besides the smoking habit I had started with him- but even that I was finally able to put down- even if it took me 6 months after I left). But even as my life and health got better, my heart was sad and longed for him. I went to therapy and dealt with my side of it. But he was my soulmate. The love was love. We still talked. I would dream about him at night. But I knew I couldn't go back. Not the way he was. His depression was all encompassing. I can't even begin to try to describe this to you without fear of breaking open again in sadness for this pain. Even though I knew rationally I couldn't save him, my own heart missed him, missed his soul, his smile, his laugh, his arms and touch being the sweetest most wonderful feeling of home I've ever felt in my life. And on April 19th I was stomping around my house feeling irritable that he wouldn't see me. He wouldn't answer my call. I hadn't seen him in months, even though we'd been talking occasionally or texting and him saying the same things over and over. He'd lost everything. And wanted to die. I just wanted to hug his neck. I'd been craving holding him for months and just wanted to see him and hug him. I wanted so desperately to make him feel better. I knew that all of his friends and other family all knew this too- how he was feeling- and that his doctor knew and everyone in his life was trying to help him. So I thought he'd be ok.
On April 20th I woke up and I was in a foul mood. I wasn't quite sure why. Something was just WRONG. So of course I wanted a cigarette. I was going to go buy a pack of cigarettes and say F it! I am so tired of these stupid cravings. Then I remembered I hadn't run in over a week. So I told myself, go for a run. If you still want them after the run, fine. So I drove over to the mountain trails I hadn't been near in awhile, near our old neighborhood, and near where he lived. As I got out of the car to start the run, I heard gun shots and thought, it's not hunting season....
I had a good run. Then it started to pour. And it didn't stop. It hasn't stopped.
When I saw the name on my phone a few hours later, I didn't have to answer it to know what was on the other side.
Earlier that day one of the most beautiful and crazy and full of life souls to ever walk the planet put a gun in his mouth and blew it all away.
That was just over a month ago. Today is the first day I've woken up without feeling like an anvil of pain attached to my chest. I cannot begin to describe to you the many of angles of pain about all of this. The only way I've been able to survive, especially in those first weeks, was to put one foot in front of the other as long as i could during the day until the pressure would build so much that i'd have to go to the mountains and RUN. Run like I've never run before in my entire life. Run to let the pain explode through my body. Pushing every single muscle fiber until I was practically bleeding. It was explosion. And of course it would allow the pain and tears to explode from me.
It occurred to me on one such run and I thought of you all here. And the new quitters thinking about quitting or thinking about relapsing. I realized this was the real reason I needed to quit when I did. I needed my lungs. I NEEDED them. There was no other way for me to come through this pain and be able to FACE it. To DEAL with it. To face the things I needed to face in this horrific thing. I could not hide from it. Hiding from it would kill me. Slowly maybe, but it would kill my being alive at all in my life. And there was no way in hell I was going to learn a harder lesson than the one the universe just threw at me. Those lessons are a story for another time. I am getting through them. I am ok. I have been in hell but I'm going to be ok. And I finally feel and know he is ok too.
Really, I wanted to share this story because of the weird gratitude of the quit. YOU JUST DON'T KNOW. Hopefully in your story quitting will be for a good reason you don't know about. And yes, having my body, being able to use it as a tool, to allow my feelings to move through me, I am so grateful for. I am grateful for my lungs. I would never, never be able to push them like I have been if I had quit even any later than I did. Or if I had decided on "just one".
Instead of "just one" I'm going to run.