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Five Years - Vapors Across Time

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Updated November 29, 2012

Five Years - Vapors Across Time
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At five years smoke-free, About.com Smoking Cessation support forum member Donna takes a poignant look at nicotine addiction and the importance of keeping our memories green.

Congratulations on five years Donna, and thanks for sharing your story with us.

I've started (and never completed) this post several times in the past few months. Although I made my 5 year mark on January 8, 2012, I think I waited to make this post today for a reason...In less than 12 hours, it will have been 3 years to the hour that my father passed away from 4th stage, small cell lung cancer which was caused by the smoking he had done for over 50 years. He was 63 when he passed away and to this day, I'm haunted by the horrific death he suffered. It seems fitting that my 5th year post, that passing from keys to wings, be both a eulogy and a celebration, a remembrance and a vow, a last tear shed for the past while looking, finally, towards a future.

Last night, while standing in my kitchen, I thought I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a fleeting glimpse of a large-framed man in a blue plaid shirt, worn blue jeans and wavy black hair. I shook my head in bemusement, told my 19 year-old son what I thought I saw, then went into the bedroom (which had been shut for only 4 hours or so) and recoiled in shock. The pungent, sickly-abrasive stench of stale cigarettes hung in the air like a thick curtain of funk. Indeed, it was so thick that my son walked in, gagged and said, "Mom! Who was smoking in here?" We looked at each other, surprised. There hasn't been a smoker in my house since I quit. My son smiled and said, "Yeah, I miss him, too. But he's here." I closed the door, sat on the edge of the bed and wept softly, briefly. The pain is still here, and yet I take my comfort in any way possible. Had it not been for cigarettes, my father would probably still be alive today...And my mother along with him. I have a voracious hatred of that noxious broadleaf, but more so than that, I have a hatred for the social acceptance and the corporations who insist on keeping this killer addiction accessible to us all. After all, who profits from the misery and terrible deaths and maiming of innocents? Who profits from addicting our children and endangering the health of us all?

The smell dissipated within minutes. Far be it from me to lecture on what I believe to be the "moving on" of the Christian soul...But sometimes, you experience things you just can't explain. My other siblings have had similar experiences to what I had last night. There is simply no logical explanation for either the apparition, or the phantom stench which went away on its own in a room with no ventilation.

I feel the same way about the miracle of quitting smoking, and making it to five years. I can tell you, step by step, what I did as I desperately scrambled to stay "quit". Put together and viewed as a processive whole, it doesn't make sense that I was able to somehow overcome this addiction of nicotine, dopamine and psychology. And yet I stand here today, knowing I'm not going to smoke again, knowing I'm not even tempted to try. I can never take another drag of cigarettes again, and that's quite all right with me.

I've noticed that, over time, my longing for smoking is like the longing for an old lover. The first year or so, you look back with regret, then nostalgia. Somewhere along the way, though, you realize that during the journey of your life you outgrow certain things. You realize that the thing you wanted a few years ago would be perfect for the person you were years ago, but in the grand scheme of things nowadays, that old longing has no place. It's like your grandmother snapping bubble gum and wearing clothing from Hot Topic. It's out of place, not serviceable...Outgrown. The younger me smoked. The older me, the woman who stands today, has no need of it.

I have tried to forget that I personally spent 20 years as a slave to nicotine. I have tried not to forget, however, the chains which bound me, and the hopelessness I experienced as an addict. I have tried not to forget the compulsion to suck poisons into my lungs, nor the knowledge that I was harming myself with every puff. I have tried not to forget the helpless horror one feels when you're a prisoner of your own addiction. I have tried not to forget how horribly, terribly in denial you are even in the midst of the addiction. Am I masochistic in the remembrance? Nope. I simply feel that, by remembering my own weakness, I can treat with more respect those who are still ensnared. Those who come here every day need us to remember that vulnerability that has caused them to seek out the forums and to respect the frailty of their realization that they need support in quitting.

With respect and remembrance, the natural rejoiner is acceptance. From acceptance, we can help bring about success. Thank you to everyone who made my journey possible, and who are working every day to insure others who come here are successful as well.

More from Donna:

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