Today, the 18th of August, is the fifth anniversary of my quitting tobacco. According to all the web-based stuff, I’m now down to a non-smoker’s risk of stroke. About half the risk of lung cancer of a smoker, and my heart disease risk is approaching normal. The epidemiology is pretty clear: smoking is bad, and quitting smoking has massive benefits. My personal experience corroborates the science.
For me, quitting smoking was a bit different from quitting alcohol. There was much more in the way of will power involved. I used nicotine gum and I used it according to the directions. I also first quit on the 16th, and then gave myself permission to screw up if I really needed to. So I had 1 cigarette on the way home from work on the 17th of August, and that was the last one.
I ended up chewing nicotine gum for about six or eight weeks, and slowly tapering off. I still will occasionally have cigarette cravings. I still find myself breathing in the smoking fashion, where I draw air into my mouth without inhaling, and then inhale as if I have a mouthful of smoke. I miss smoking in a way that I don’t miss drinking. The little rituals, my pipes, having something to do with my hands (though, my phone has replaced that a bit).
Math suggests I’ve saved somewhere around $10,000 by not smoking. And as cigarette taxes continue to rise, the price is ever increasing. I read that in NYC cigarettes are like $9 a pack or more. Chicago is the same way. At that price, I’ve probably saved more like $15,000.
And it’s amazing how the body rebounds. Slowly but surely, I’ve gone from an obese alcoholic smoker to a clean, dry, only-mildly-overweight half-marathon runner. This weekend, while running with my partner, we set as our fundamental fitness goal to be in constant half-marathon shape. Meaning that we should be in good enough shape at all times that if we read about a half-marathon that sounds cool in two weeks, we should be able to go run it.
I love that I have that option. When the Lord of the Rings movies were coming out, after seeing The Two Towers, I remember wondering if I would live to see The Return of the King. I was 28 and getting ready to die. Today I’m 40. And I’m living.