Thirty two days and counting, Life without cigarettes: Part 1
June 20, 2013, Commentary By Mike Fak, Growing up in the 50s I used to listen to my favorite newsmen on television. They were Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow and Mike Wallace. I listened to them on television instead of watching them because in those days large plumes of smoke from the newsmen and everyone else on set filled the screen back then often making clear looks at anyone difficult to catch. Smokes in their hands, lighting up another, billowing plumes of gray smoke in the air from cigarettes in ashtrays are all vivid memories of my early years of watching television. It wasn’t just the newsmen who smoked. All the favorite shows about cops and private eyes and cowboys had plenty of scenes with cigs hanging out of mouths. Even the women spent half their scene time sucking in and then blowing out another waft of smoke.
It was the age of cigarettes as ads with doctors telling us how cigarettes were good for the nerves filled TV, newspaper and magazine space. John Wayne told us to smoke Camels, the Marlboro Man said Marlboro’s were the way to go and the Milton Berl show had female dancers with lovely legs dance around wearing packs of Lucky Strikes over their heads.
Despite smoking being a very acceptable habit during my teenage years I didn’t smoke very much, maybe one here and there at a party. I didn’t really pick up the habit until I was in advanced infantry at Fort Gordon Georgia in 1970. I was learning how to shoot people before they shot me so the long term effects of cigarette smoke wasn’t exactly something I found any need to worry about.
I kept the habit after I got out of the army and never really stopped smoking for more than a few days from then on. In my younger years, being so active in sports probably helped my lungs combat the tars trying to build up in me. But as I grew older and less active, the smoking began to take its toll. Shorter breath, less stamina: I could always blame that on age rather than the smog in my body and so I did.
I made a pact to quit at many eventful times in my life. When my son was born, when I turned 40, and then 50, and then 60 all were moments of promises never kept. Always something would come up giving me the excuse that I would start the process of quitting the next day. But the next day never came. Or should I say the day to quit showed up again but I didn’t.
The years since those early days have shown that all those doctors back then were wrong about cigarettes. They were not beneficial but have been proven to be killing machines. They are devices that deliver Nicotine, an addictive drug that makes people choose to suck in methane gas to get their dose of the drug. Being aware of that knowledge didn’t seem to be enough to cause me to quit however nor are the facts about the dangers of tobacco enough to make millions of other knuckle brains like me do so either.
Every night as I hacked away before falling asleep, I pondered again if tomorrow was going to be the day I finally stopped being stupid. As I coughed until it hurt I pledged it would be. But I knew in my heart I would find the excuse again that not tomorrow but the day after would be the final day I sucked poison knowingly into my body. And when the days after came, I always found an excuse to postpone again my withdrawing from Nicotine and maybe gaining back a little lost time on the mortality clock my body keeps for me.
And then I got a phone call.
To be continued