Blowing steam

People who have never smoked are clueless about the challenges a smoker faces when trying to kick the habit.

It’s easy for non-smokers to criticize and to tell smokers about the hazards of smoking and how they should quit-as though we haven’t tried.

It’s very similar to telling an overweight person to stop eating or to cut back; but, unless they’ve experienced it themselves, they will not understand the difficulties of trying and failing.

After vowing not to smoke for one day, I can honestly say it is very difficult and is a challenge that is more than likely doomed for failure.

In a 1995 study, Philip Morris International reported that nearly two-thirds of smokers have their first cigarette within half an hour of waking up.

Personally, from the time I opened my eyes and peered at the alarm clock alongside my bed, I could think of nothing except my cigarette and how I was going to get through the day without having at least one.

Since my mornings are often jumpstarted with a cup of instant Folgers and a cigarette, I would be forced to face another challenge-whether I should have the coffee because the two went hand in hand for me.

Just the thought of not smoking began to make my head hurt and I became anxious watching the time pass and thinking about how long it would be before I would actually have a cigarette.

Well, that didn’t last too long. Before I knew it, I had made my coffee with French vanilla creamer. After taking a few sips, I figured if I had just one cigarette that would be enough to stimulate my system so that I could battle the rest of my day.

For the next 20 minutes, I found myself prancing the floor searching for things to do just to occupy my time. I thought of eating but was almost afraid because that would definitely trigger the desire to smoke since it’s routine to have a cigarette afterward.

By now, three hours had gone by and I was happy to have made it that far. However, within minutes of receiving what I label a juicy telephone call, I found the justification I needed to reach into the kitchen drawer and light up my long awaited Salem Light-again.

This was like heaven. The sensation of having that nicotine flow down my throat and swirl its way into each of my lungs was ecstasy like no other.

Knowing that I had already violated my vow, I began to feel the guilt set in as my personal dialogue kept saying this is the last one.

I have never doubted my addiction, but what I came to notice was that the whole concept of whether to smoke or not to smoke seemed to be more psychological than physical.

I hadn’t experienced any sweating or trembling symptoms, but in the moments I became idle, I would immediately resort back to romancing the idea of wanting that cigarette.

It was almost as though I was robotically programmed and had no control over my reflexes. My body was used to being filled with this stuff every hour or so.

This went on for most of the day and even though I tried to keep busy doing homework, cooking dinner, and watching a little TV, I was not very successful at trying to restrict myself from smoking.

Finally, I realized around 5 p.m. that the whole concept of putting oneself through the torment of throbbing headaches, anxiety attacks and mood swings to please a non-smoker for just a day is a bit farfetched and not at all worth it.

If half the smokers who undergo surgery for lung cancer resume smoking and 40 percent that have had their larynxes removed try smoking again, what does that say about the addiction or the cure for that matter?

Therefore, in my opinion, after 31 years of smoking, I will honestly say that I find it utterly ridiculous for anyone to think that a one-day smoke-out will be the cure to getting smokers to quit.

However, today is “The Great American Smoke-Out Day” and for those who wish to participate, be my guest; I’m pretty sure the majority of you will be back on the frontline with me tomorrow.