If anybody had said to me of late “Raoul, you can stop smoking, you know”, I would probably have laughed derisively and no doubt lit up another one.
After all, I’ve been smoking for more than 50 years and that nicotine addiction is so deeply ingrained in my system, I simply couldn’t imagine a couple hours, far less a couple days, going by without my lighting up,
But the good Lord, it’s said, works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform and I can certainly attest to this because today you are reading, looking at and dealing with a man who has not smoked a single cigarette for 40 days.
Hard to believe, I know. Even harder to achieve, believe me. But thereby hangs a tale.
It started with a very bad flu that laid me low for a few weeks a couple months ago. I kept smoking but I wouldn’t describe it as pleasurable. Then I had what I can only describe as a couple “blackouts”, that is, moments—they lasted only a few seconds—when though I was conscious, with my eyes wide open, I simply wasn’t comprehending anything or anyone around me.
My alarmed beloved younger sister, who experienced this with me in her car one day, immediately drove me to my doctor, who didn’t appear to have the wherewithal to deal with the problem so she recommeneded a specialist, whom I went to see. And he was the one who indicated, among other things, that the heavy smoking, smoking period, was having a negative effect on my brain.
He was basing this not just on his own medical experience or wise speculation but also on the results of a brain scan that I had done previously.
Now I don’t know about you but the one organ in my body that I treasure above all others is my brain. Being skinny as a rake as a young man never really bothered me. Not being the best looker on the block, not to mention in the community, I’ve taken in my stride. I always found anyway that what I couldn’t achieve with good looks or brawn I could always achieve with words—because I was a voracious reader from young and could sweep any girl off her feet with a torrent of well chosen words. (Or so I liked to believe, anyway).
But what this specialist doctor was now telling me was my brain was under attack from nicotine and if I didn’t do something about it, I could severely damage that organ in an irreparable way.
That was said to me on a Friday when up to 11 that morning I had already smoked five cigarettes. And those, believe me, were the last five cigarettes I ever smoked. Because on leaving that doctor’s office I made up my mind (since I was still able to use my free will to do things with my mind) that the cigarettes would have to go.
I’m not going to lie and tell you it was easy. After the first couple days I felt I was literally climbing the walls. And there was this persistent nagging voice in my head that kept saying “just have one; it can’t do you any harm.” But that voice was always countered by another that said: “It’s a trap. If you have one, you’ll want to have two and soon you’ll be right back where you started— at a pack a day!”
And just a week or so after I exercised my free will power and quit smoking a friend of mine confirmed the worst. He’d been a heavy smoker but had quit. Then one day he visited his young daughter at the apartment where she was living. And smelt cigarette smoke “Do you smoke,” he asked her. She said “yes”. And being a doting and indulgent father, he had one with her.
“A week later I was back to a pack a day!” he told me. And it would take another Herculean effort on his part to break with the habit again.
So I did the equivalent of gritting my teeth with my free and independent will power and stayed away from smoking. There were some really bad moments initially. I was accustomed to smoking after I ate. So every time I had a bite, the urge would come roaring at me and I would have to summon up some real strength to beat it back. The same was true whenever I was writing on the computer.
For years I had used smoking as a means of lubricating my mind, making it easier to write while I had that little white stick alight in my hand.
Now I had to start all over, from scratch as it were, forcing myself to write and to think without the articificial aid of nicotine.
It both surprised and annoyed me that after more than a week without smoking I still felt the urge —at times so strong that I was on the verge of saying “the hell with it” and going out and getting some cigarettes. But I also had another kind of competition, if that’s the right word, going on. I was determined to prove that my free and independent will power was stronger than the addiction of nicotine.
Because if it wasn’t, then I was a slave to a drug that was not only doing me harm but would eventually rob me not only of my free will but also my independent mind. And when I looked at the struggle against smoking in those terms. I knew this was the big one. I can tell you that 40 days later, the nicotine urge hasn’t entirely gone away. In fact, I’ve had smokers who’ve stopped telling me the urge can last for years afterwards.
Well, I’m not looking forward to that. But as of today, I feel I can boast of the strength, not to mention the wisdom, of my will power, which is what it’s taken to say: goodbye to nicotine.
Mark my word!