Time to Quit Smoking
by Martha Haile

Yes, I'm still smoking--over three packs a day.  I switched from regular
length to 100's so I wouldn't have to admit to four packs a day.  
And I'm not sure I count too well either, since a carton 
doesn't really last three days.

Are the cigarettes going to kill me?  Intellectually, I know they are.  But
I'm not sure I know it deep down in my gut.  Maybe I indulge in some kind of magical thinking that convinces me that I will beat the odds.

I look at my lung xray and see the "hyperexpanded" lungs--the telltale sign of emphysema.  Oh, it must be something else.  I see the "bullae" on the CT
scan.  Oh, it must be something else.  It couldn't possibly be that I have
emphysema because I smoke four packs a day.  No--that is not possible.

So I loosen my bra a little bit, relax my shoulders, and try to talk in a
normal voice.  There's nothing wrong with me.  I just need a little 
exercise.  So I get up and move about a bit.  I need to walk.  
I need to learn to breathe right.  So I walk a bit, then I practice
breathing a bit.  Then I light up.

I cough for five minutes trying to get some crud up out of my lungs.  
Then I gasp for air and finally get a breath, and light a cigarette.

I do need to quit, though, don't I?  I thumb through some "stop smoking" info, blowing smoke onto the pamphlets as I read.  Then I go find some "stop smoking" info on the net.  Hmmm....I need to think seriously about this, I tell myself as I light up.  I look at the ashtray and it's full again.  
I emptied it just a couple of hours ago.  So I dump it.  I don't want the
reminder that I'm smoking that much.

I cough some more while I'm writing down all the reasons I want to quit
smoking.  Then I blow smoke on the paper I'm writing on.  I look around at my walls.  I painted them last year and they're already heavily coated 
with tar.  Hmmm....wonder how my lungs must look?  And I light up a cigarette.  I clean my computer screen for the second time today. The screen is coated with brown stuff.  Hmmm....is that really tar?  And I light up.

I go into a coughing fit and almost can't get a breath back.  Oh, it's that
darned asthma again, which, of course, couldn't possibly have anything to do with smoking.  I'd have the asthma even if I didn't smoke, wouldn't I?  My throat is so sore from coughing that I have to drink a glass of water to be able to smoke another cigarette, which, of course, triggers another coughing fit.  Did you ever cough the smoke out and have it go up in your sinuses?  Kinda painful.  Takes a few minutes to recuperate from that before I can take another drag.  I'm going to put this darned cigarette out.  Nah--just one more drag.  After all, I can still see a little white paper before the filter.

I tell myself I'd rather die happy smoking than to live a long, unhappy life.
But honestly, my quality of life is declining daily.  This AIN'T a happy
life.  My gut hurts from coughing too hard, my muscles ache from coughing, my throat hurts, I have so much phlegm in my throat I'm not sure how any air gets through, my eyes are so dry they feel as if they're cracking, my tongue is sore and "cooked," my sinuses are dry and cracking, my neck and shoulders are tight and tense from the extra work of helping me breathe, my feet and hands are half numb from the poor circulation, my heart is racing trying to keep up with my body's demand for oxygenated blood . . .

If I were an outsider looking at me, I would have to say, "Does this lady have a death wish, or what?"

I gotta tell ya somethin'-if I do manage to quit smoking, I will know for sure that anyone can.  I have made one VERY tiny baby step in the right direction.  Last week, I put a "no smoking" sign on my bathroom door.  And I haven't smoked in there since.  I know that doesn't sound like any progress at all-but for me it is.  Next, the sign is going on the kitchen door.

Wish me luck.  I think I'm gonna need it.


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