When I was a smoker, I had every excuse in the book to continue to be one, but my favorite one to pull out of my hat was my youth. I would say, "My uncle Arthur smoked from the time he was 16 to the day he died at age 80. My aunt Del has been smoking since she was a teenager. Nothing is going to happen to me now, only during the BAD part of my life, the end part!"
So I continued to smoke. I LOVED to smoke. It was a huge part of my social life, my alone time, my escape. But being an active young person with a family, my limitations were becoming more and more painfully apparent. I couldn't chaperone field trips. I couldn't go to more than one store and bring my kids. I couldn't go to the movies. I couldn't race my kids down the street or even toss a Frisbee for any length of time. Not only that, my circle of friends didn't really smoke anymore, so I found myself either sneaking or just turning down evenings out for fear of being the "odd man out".
Then one day, my son heard me coming home from Happy Hour with my co-workers. I was greeted with,"I knew you were home mom. I recognized your cough."
At 31, I had recognizable cough. A nagging and obvious cough is not a natural occurrence for a 31-year-old woman.
I did finally make the leap into freedom on January 8th, 2004
. I started reading more and more into other people's stories, finding myself fixating on others who were my age. I found a library of them at whyquit.com. There is Noni
, who died at 33, when her son was only months old. Her husband celebrated their child's first birthday without her. She was a victim of small cell lung cancer
In her 30's????
It must have been a fluke, bad genes, just one of those things.
Then there was the story about a 34 year old father who died of lung cancer
, leaving his little boy without a father. A tough guy; a construction worker, who had smoked since he was 14, reduced to a mere shell of a man.
Yet another story is about a woman by the name of Barb Tarbox
. Barb tells a tragic tale of smoking to fit in as a teenager, never thinking anything bad would happen, especially while she was young. Barb got lung cancer at 41 and was suddenly faced with having to cause enormous pain to her daughter, leaving her without a mother - watching her suffer while she died.
What drove me to write this was a chance meeting I had the other day with a 31 year old woman who shares the same name as me. Talk about spooky fate. Kery
was just diagnosed with the early stages of emphysema. She HAS to quit if she is to have a chance at life. She is MY AGE! She has 3 children. Emphysema
could suffocate her to death right in front of them. It's not cancer, it's another lung disease this time.
I have been one of the lucky ones. I don't know if I would have been one of the tragic stories above or if I would be blessed with a long life like my Uncle Arthur. What if I wasn't? Would I want to be the one to sit my young children down and explain to them that they were going to have to find their own way in the world because I was dying due to a poison
I couldn't resist?
I quit smoking 18 months ago. I find the sheer freedom of it exhilarating. And because I quit young, I have the rest of my life to do WHATEVER I want, breathing with ease the whole time, without slavery, living my long life the way I CHOOSE, not chained to an addiction. I can run, I can swim, I can be as active or as inactive as I want. I gave myself ME back and I have my whole life to enjoy that feeling.
I still have to worry if I quit in time, but not nearly as much as I would worry if I waited another 10, 20, or 30 years to quit. The thing about this addiction is that it doesn't just lose its grip eventually. Quitting is a choice you HAVE to make. It will cling on even while you are dying of cancer. Bryan, as mentioned above, smoked up to 1 week before he died. He gave himself only one week of freedom.
We have the choice to make for ourselves. This is not a dress rehearsal, this is the only YOU you will ever get. Do you want to purposefully risk cutting it short or live a long life full of excitement, freedom and loved ones?
It CAN happen to you. You always think it's on the other side of the fence, but not this time. Cigarettes do not kill a specific group of people. No one is immune to the hazards of tobacco...not celebrities, the young or the old. Even non-smokers exposed to second hand smoke
are at risk.
Love this life you've been given. Love yourself. Appreciate the fact that others love you and don't play Russian roulette with yourself.
More from Kerri:
Kerri's Quit Story
5 Months and a Sock
Kerri's 6 Month Milestone
Kerri Reaches One Year Smoke Free
Kerri's 2 Year Smoke Free Milestone
Last Updated: 2-5-2006