Tuesday, November 25, 2008

An important anniversary

When I was seventeen it seemed that most Australian adults were smokers, or at least most of the ones I knew. Both of my parents smoked and had since they were teenagers in uniform. And like my friend J, I took it up myself in the November of 1970 when we were studying for our matric oh all right Year 12 exams, in my case because it was a preferable alternative to the absent-minded stress-induced scarfing up of biscuits while I tried without much success to get cell division, irregular French verbs, the battle of Thermopylae and the European revolutions of 1848 straight in my head.

I became a seriously dedicated smoker and remained that way for nearly two decades, except for one interlude in 1983-4 when I gave up in order to spare the person I was living with at the time.

What with all the excitement and fanfare and brouhaha of the federal election this time last year, I clean forgot to notice the anniversary of a day that changed, and very likely saved, my life. And this year it's even more significant than it was last year. Because as of approximately 3.30 am tomorrow morning (I was sitting up at the kitchen table drinking and fighting with someone about the SA election of November 25 1989, which Labor controversially won by a shred of a whisker), which was the last time I smoked a cigarette, I will have been a non-smoker for longer than I was a smoker.

Actually I'm not a non-smoker. I am a recovering smoker.


Anonymous said...

Congrats on not smoking for this long!
I'm now in my 10th month of the second attempt to give up nicotine (first try lasted 3 years).
Thankfully I'm not working as I try again.
I just wish that government and the medical profession would recognise that withdrawals last longer than for many opiates and give some realisitic support for those who are giving up cigarettes while in full-time employment.

Ampersand Duck said...

Fantastic, a standing ovation to you!

I haven't, to my sudden consternation, reached that tip-over point yet, even though it feels like an AGE since I had a smoke. I keep saying that there's no such thing as an ex-smoker, only a smoker who doesn't, and it continues to hold true. I don't think anyone who has never smoked knows the willpower of not smoking. I chastise my smoking friends, but I also know that giving up is an intensely personal thing. All you can do is encourage, encourage, encourage.

(DB: phalis -- ewwww)

Alexis, Baron von Harlot said...

My Pa used to give up smoking every year. It was hideous living with him for three weeks (more hideous for him, of course), and then there'd be a lull for a month, and then he'd start again. He had surgery on a carotid artery and converted to nicotine chewing gum, then developed a tumour in one of his salivary glands (noone's ever suggested that this was owing to either the gum or the cigarettes, but I have my suspicions) and gave up the gum too, amidst more surgery and radiotherapy. I remember it taking him months after he stopped smoking to finish coughing all the stuff out of his lungs.

This gruesome tale, all by way of saying Good Work You. I'm so impressed by people who can do this.

Pavlov's Cat said...

As an absolutist I had an easier time giving up smoking than I have had on the going-on of innumerable and ongoing diets, a wagon I fall off constantly. If it were possible to simply give up eating I would be in fantastic shape. (No lectures feminist or otherwise from well-meaning commenters, please! It's a health issue, and I have forgotten more about weight gain and loss than most people will ever know, and I know what works for me and what doesn't. Neither knowledge nor self-knowledge is the problem here.)

Your Grovelship, I know an awful lot of people who try constantly to give up smoking much in the way of your Pa but for some reason I never even tried for ages, thinking I simply couldn't. I only ever even made the effort to give up twice: the first time for 13 months in 1983-4 and the second time that day in 1989. Cold turkey both times, too, no patches or anything. I think the main impetus the second time was that they were about to ban smoking inside all Melbourne University buildings, which meant I would to have had to go outside and huddle in some inadequately protective doorway exposed to the Melbourne sleet and gales and filth if I wanted to smoke, and I couldn't bear the thought.

I was also in Adders on study leave at the time; the change of usual scene was a big help.

The Devil Drink said...

That's OK. I'll be around if you need me.

Anonymous said...

I gave up in 1986, so I've been not smoking for a couple of years longer than I smoked. I still miss it, occassionally.

I found the ashtray-flavoured chewies very helpful, btw - they allow you to get over the psychological addiction while maintaining the physical addiction, then gradually wean yourself off the stuff completely.


Mindy said...

Word verification doesn't approve of smoking 'kilife'

Congrats on successfully giving up PC. If only I could successfully give up junk food, I'd be right.

M-H said...

David, 'Ashtray-flavoured chewies'??? I am retching at the thought. I smoked from age 17 (!968) to 1976 (gave up after Scarey Emergency Surgery), then again from 1987 (result of horrible marriage breakup and then living with smokers) for about 7 years. So I've been truly clear of the demon weed for only about 15 years. How depressing - it feels like much longer.

As for the chewy, my late partner gave up smoking after a near-death experience with asthma, and became addicted instead to the gum. The nicotine still did her a lot of damage, just not in her lungs.

Barry Leiba said...

Congratulations! And I hope I'm saying that to you again in another two decades.

As a lifetime non-smoker of parents who smoked like chimneys, I know only second-hand how hard it is... yet I do have an appreciation of it, and I sit in the glow of your pride in your accomplishment.

librarygirl said...

I was moving old photos into better albums recently and in the photos 1981 until about 1990 there were cigarettes/ full ashtrays on tables/smoking people in every single one - at parties, dinner, Christmas you name it. It quite shocked me, comparing it to ciggy free everywhere now. I also remember family members giving the smokers cartons for Christmas!

Lefty E said...

Good for you Pav.

I'd been smoking since Dec 88. Gave up for 18 months in a few years ago when it seemed transparently obvious that since my pregnant partner couldn't smoke, I shouldnt. Took it up again in a blaze of mutl-deassline induced stress, and am now 4 months off - sicne the 40th birthday.

I even rang my Mum to find out what time I was born - so I could smoke up the very minute - 11.26am, to be precise. A smoker's logic, which you may still recall.

I love the nicotine gum, I must say - though reading these posts has given me pause to do some research. I deliberately havent investigated that, as the thought of stressing over that was too much! Maybe now's the time...