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Smoke

How’s that New Year’s Resolution going for you?

I know a guy who wants to quit smoking. Well, he says he wants to quit, but then he goes and smokes another cigarette. He says you have to “You have to wait until you are ready to quit.” He says you have to have a motivation to change. I’d think the fact that he’s already had a heart attack and is sick all the time would be a good motivation, but it isn’t enough for him yet.

He’s waiting for a kick in the butt. The only problem is that sometimes the thing that is big enough for the kick in the butt is so big that it, itself, cannot be easily kicked. Or emphysema. Or cancer. Or just plain old death.

He’s using this as an excuse. He’s using it as a cop-out. If he really wanted to quit, he’d quit.

I’m not being mean. I quit smoking when I went to the emergency at three a.m. with heart problems. My heart was racing. I felt terrible. Fortunately it was a fluke, but then I started thinking. What about the next time, when it is something serious? Then it’s going to be harder. Sure, I dodged the bullet this time, but what about then? If I keep playing Russian roulette with cigarettes, I’m going to lose one day. This isn’t a good game to play.

Nobody makes you smoke. Nobody holds a gun to your head and makes you light up. Nothing is weirder than watching someone say “I just can’t quit smoking” and see them light up another cigarette. It’s like seeing someone possessed.

This same guy walked away from an abusive family when he was 15. One cold night he saw his stepfather beating his mother yet again and he jumped in to help her. His stepfather started to beat him viciously, stomping on his back in an effort to kill him. He managed to get away, and that night resolved to leave. He put on everything he owned because it was freezing outside and walked several miles to town. He walked away from certain death.

He could use that same energy now. Cigarettes are killing him, just as surely as his stepfather was going to. The bad part is that nobody is forcing him to stay in this abusive situation. He’s doing this to himself, over and over. Every cigarette is stealing his life, minute by minute, year by year. Every time he smokes he is killing himself as surely as his stepfather was going to kill him that cold night.

When he says “You have to wait until you are ready to quit” he’s just lying to himself. He’s ready, he’s just afraid. He’s smoked so long he doesn’t know what to do with himself if he isn’t smoking. Just thinking about quitting smoking causes anxiety, and he’s spent so long dealing with his anxieties by smoking that he goes and has another smoke.

It’s an ugly circle.

It’s easier to stay in an abusive relationship than to leave it, right? Better to stay with the devil you know.

He says that he’s done so much damage to his lungs that there’s no turning back now. This is just like saying that you’ve already ruined your diet by eating a piece of pie – so you might as well eat the entire pie.

I’ve suggested that he go have a ten minute walk instead of having a smoke. He says he can’t go walk every time. He’s at work. Yet he doesn’t get that he takes time to smoke. I’m not saying to double up on breaks. I’m saying to replace smoking with walking. I’m saying to take a walk break instead of a smoke break. It clears your head and reduces anxiety. It does all the stuff that smoking does but without the bad side effects. It worked for me.

He brushes all of this aside. He says he’s not ready to quit. Actually, he is. He knows he should. He talks about quitting, but he’s waiting for a sign. He’s waiting for proof that he has to quit. The fact that he has kept on living is proof to him that he’s tougher than cigarettes. He’s dodged the bullet. He’s survived.

Soon that will change. It always does. Nobody wins with cigarettes.

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