by Andrew Spraque
I come from a smoking home. Dad smoked. Mom smoked. Both my sisters smoked. I think I was the last one to take them up seriously. I remember my first one. I was just about seventeen. I was driving down a country road with a girl I had a desperate crush on. She smoked and she made it look awesome. So I asked for one and lit it up. I felt like I'd reached a new level of cool. I was smoking. Really smoking. And I was driving down the road with my crush in the passenger seat. This was freedom. This was living.
I started a twenty year relationship that day. Not with the girl in the passenger seat. She and I would remain friends but nothing more. The love affair that began on that early spring afternoon was with the most efficient delivery system for the most addictive substance known to man. I fell in love with cigarettes.
I was a confirmed and relatively heavy smoker by the time I turned twenty. Half a pack a day was my low average. Thrown in a beer or two, a round of golf, a long car ride or a poker game and that could easily turn into a pack, sometimes more. I smoked as soon as I got in the car, and as soon as I got out. I smoked as soon as I got up and right before I went to bed. I smoked before I ate and after, sometimes two in a row. I used any and all excuses to have a smoke. Cigarettes were a big part of my life. In a lot of ways they controlled it.
The first time I tried to quit I invented my own way. I decided I’d start at 25 a day, more than my average to help make me dislike it more, and work down from there. One less a day until I reached zero and that would be it. I think I got down to ten. An hour after I finished my last of the day I was craving so I borrowed my eleventh from the next day, and would therefore only be allowed eight. Two days later I was out of smokes and out of hope my system would work. I was right. I tried to quit three of four other times, with varying degrees of success. I was often grumpy, even a bit snappy, and generally unpleasant to be around when I quit. I always felt like I was being denied this great and important part of my life.
Finally, six months ago now, I quit. This time for good. I read a book, believe it or not. It’s called The Easy Way to Stop Smoking by Allan Carr. My wife bought it for me. I’m not going to go on and on now about how great it was and how it was some kind of miracle cure for nicotine addiction. But I will tell you this; it worked for me. I haven’t craved a cigarette and I’ve passed all the tests; beer, golf and poker. The book cost the same as a pack of cigarettes.
Mom quit first in about 1987. She just stopped. She’s had one drag since and hated it. Alana was next. She also just stopped. She hasn’t had a drag since and is terrified, justifiably, that if she had one she'd be right back on them. Amy quit about two and a half years ago. She met a guy and they quit together. I doubt any of them will start again. Dad is about a month smoke free now. I think he’s finally fully disgusted with them. He smoked for sixty years.
I try not to be preachy. Mostly I joke about it with friends who still smoke. But if I can leave one message it’s this; there is no benefit to smoking. Do whatever you have to to quit. It’s the single best decision you’ll ever make and you won’t regret it for an instant. If every one of the Spragues can do it, you can too.
Thanks to Claire Nantes of the Canadian Cancer Society (PEI Division) for suggesting that Andrew speak about quitting smoking during Daffodil Month, the Society’s annual campaign to raise awareness about cancer issues and cancer prevention.