By Heather Woods
I was a smoker for over 15 years. I was young and impressionable when I tried my first cigarette at age 14. My nan was a smoker and on one particular visit there was an open pack of smokes on the table and before I knew it I’d curiously and discreetly whipped a few out and into my pocket for later consumption.
It was a few days before I had the opportunity to actually get my first taste as I had to find a place without the prying eyes of my parents. It was under the house one afternoon after school that the opportunity arose, and in the warm windy air I tried lighting it with some matches. Living at the top of a hill, the match stick was no opponent for the wind and the damn thing wouldn’t light. I should have quit while I was ahead.
I eventually did get that match stick lit, and I choked my way through my first cigarette. The rest, as they say, is history. I spent the next few months bum-puffing my way to social acceptance, before the addiction took hold and I became a dedicated cohort of the ol’ inhale/exhale.
During high school it seemed like the ‘cool’ thing to do, and every weekend at every party, it was a way of making new friends and keeping old ones. After high school, it was more a case of ‘Well this is me now and I enjoy it, I may as well keep doing it’. And as I traveled the world in my twenties, despite having little money, smoking was a way of meeting people and finding out the pro’s and con’s of my next destination. The simple act of asking for a light was extremely convenient for striking up a conversation after long lonely bus trips!
Years later, when I wanted to start a family, the obvious thing to do was quit. For the health of myself and my unborn baby there was no argument. Despite numerous attempts to quit in the past, this by far was the easiest and since then, I really haven’t missed it that much. Recently I started to get really paranoid about my own health, not for any particular reason or the appearance of any symptoms, just general worry. The consequences from years of damage prevalent in my mind, it caused me great anxiety. Knowing that I had consciously plied myself with nicotine and tar for so long, and now I was worried about it killing me. Now! Not 15 years ago when I ignored all the warnings.
I spent about twenty-four hours considering every possible evil scenario, before booking myself an appointment for an x-ray. The only way I was going to move on was to see for myself. The doctor had a little giggle (I know him well) when I told him why I was there but still took my request seriously, and to be honest I did feel a bit foolish. But I had to know. The only way I’d rest easy was to make sure there was no nasties lurking inside me. The x-ray came back all clear, but it doesn’t mean I’ve escaped altogether. For now I can breathe a little easier and enjoy my life with my family. I can’t go back and change anything I’ve done in the past, but I can make the most of what I do from this point onward and focus my energies on my kids. I just hope that I can educate my kids well enough, so that they don’t end up in the same state of paranoia as me one day.
If you’re considering quitting, see here for information and help: http://www.quit.org.nz or call the Quitline on 0800 778 778.