Hello Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Sandi and I am a reformed smoker. (Hello Sandi).
When I say I’m a reformed smoker you can take that to the bank. I do not sneak around in the bathroom or on the porch or in the yard hiding to feed my nicotine habit. Oh, I used to smoke all right. Like a chimney. I would put out one cigarette while reaching for another. I would stop on my way home from work and buy a pack of cigarettes even if I had a half pack in my coat pocket. Yes, that’s right, coat pocket. No time to be fumbling around in the suitcase I call a purse looking for that life giving nicotine. I had to be able to put my fingers on one at a second’s notice.
I had to have a lighter that would not fail to flame at the first turn of the wheel. I had stock in the Marlboro Company and single handedly supported entire families of workers for the Zippo Lighter Company.
My fingers and teeth were yellow, my white walls at home were yellow. Not a pretty daffodil yellow, but an ugly nicotine yellow.
Oh yes, I was a smoker. I tried everything known to man to put down the filthy habit; I used a patch (sometimes two) I chewed the gum, I tried cold turkey. I would announce to the world “This is my last cigarette” as I balled up the half empty pack and tossed it carelessly into the nearest trash container. I always had good intentions. But like the road to hell, my good intentions had filters on each and every turn.
If I was lucky enough to have made the now infamous “I have quit smoking” speech at home, I could crawl out of the bed (hoping not to awaken Mac) and into the kitchen and root around in the trash like the crazed addict I had become until I found a piece of broken cigarette large enough to smoke. I wouldn’t even make it out of the kitchen, just sitting propped up against the wall, a lighter in one hand and a badly damaged cigarette in the other.
Now, Mac had quit smoking in 1999. He made no announcements, called no press conferences, he simply put the last one out and it was over. It is the closest I have ever come to hating him.
I remember the day I quit smoking like it was yesterday. It was several days before Christmas 2002. The week before I had been taken to the hospital with a breathing condition. The condition was, I couldn’t. Breathe that is. They gave me breathing treatments, kept me overnight (after announcing that a surgeon would be in to draw fluid from around my lungs … luckily he was a no show) then sent me home. Yep, they sent me home and I was breathing just fine and woohoo, I needed me a cigarette like nobody has ever needed a cigarette in their life.
Two days later I awakened in a panic, I could not breathe in such a way that I thought perhaps this time I had finally been successful in killing myself. I had hoped that after I retired the stresses I had felt at work would mean that I wouldn’t want to smoke quite so much. Luck would be a fine thing. I was on the phone to my cousin (also in Law Enforcement, also a smoker, and on breathing treatments at home!) I begged her to bring her nebulizer kit over, that I thought I might die.
I knew then and there that one way or another I was never going to light a cigarette again as long as I lived. Even the breathing treatment didn’t work for long, as at 7 a.m. I awakened Mac and told him I might need to go to the hospital. He took one look at me and bundled me into the car and off we headed to Carolina Pines. They gave me a successful breathing treatment but wouldn’t let me go home. I had test after test. The doctors kept asking if anyone had ever told me that I had had a heart attack. No, no one. They scheduled a stress test an Echo and an EKG. They kept asking that question. Finally, I just told them I suspected I must have because that same question kept coming up. Yes, they said, we believe you have had two events. Uh huh. Two of them.
Well, I had the third event while I was on a treadmill the next morning taking a stress test. I remember them helping me onto a gurney, I remember them giving me something to help me relax (can I get a six-pack of that to go?) I remember they were ordering a helicopter to fly me to Providence Hospital in Columbia. I don’t remember much after that. When I came to there was a nurse leaning over me telling me I couldn’t move my leg for the next four hours and here’s something to help you relax (OK, maybe not a six-pack of this one, but hows about one for the road?)
Turns out the weather had been too bad to fly, so the siren I kept hearing in my narcotic haze was the ambulance. I learned that women’s symptoms of a heart attack are pretty dissimilar to a man’s. I learned that I really should have quit smoking the first time I had made the announcement 15 years earlier. I learned that the only thing worse than a reformed whore is a reformed smoker.
I don’t smoke. I don’t allow anyone to smoke in my home. I nag every smoker I come across, even though I know in my heart that all the time I’m preaching they want to shoot, stab and disembowel me while they’re lighting up that smoke for a nice long drag.
But people, I tell you this: The inability to draw breath, then find yourself with your chest cracked open while they cut a vein out of your leg to attach to your heart is a mighty strong incentive to stop smoking. Do I want a drag? No. I don’t even want to be in the vicinity of a puff. I wish all of you smokers out there the guts to put them down before they put you under.
In the words to an old song:
Smoke, smoke, SMOKE that cigarette,
Smoke, smoke, smoke until you smoke yourself to death,
Tell Saint Peter at the Golden Gate that you hate to make him wait,
But you just gotta have another cigarette!
— Sandi McBride is a resident of Jefferson, who blogs regularly and enjoys her garden and her furry and feathered friends. She is a wife and mother of two sons.