by Neena Strichart
I am ready to blow up the balloons, strike up the band, send out the announcements and drink a toast. Tomorrow I will be seven-years smoke-free! And, since some of us former smokers like to refer to ourselves as being “smober,” that’s how I think of it– I am seven-years smober.
Smoking had been part of my life since I was a young teenager when I picked up the nasty and addictive habit during my junior-high-school days. I know that many people reflect on their lives and blame their bad choices on peer pressure. Not me! I made my own decisions, and I hold myself accountable for my actions. During my elementary-, junior-high and high-school years, I was a leader– not a follower. I smoked because I wanted to. I probably started because my dad was a smoker, and although I look like my mother I truly related more to my father’s personality.
I can’t remember Dad without a cigarette in his hand. He smoked non-filter brands and sometimes rolled his own, giving him the nicotine he needed without those pesky filters that might have kept his fingers from turning such a gross shade of yellow. He was a very handsome man, always immaculately groomed and dressed to impress, and his silvery hair was so striking– except for the yellow streaks caused by cigarette smoke.
Through the years I had tried to stop smoking a time or two, but honestly I wasn’t very dedicated to quitting. I don’t think I ever really thought I’d be a non-smoker. I was a smoker, and that was that. However, after achieving seven years of “smobriety” I believe that I will never pick up another cigarette.
As I have written before, in order to quit smoking I had to find the right motivation. My reasons for trying to quit in the past had always been pretty standard: the cost of cigarettes, stinky clothes and hair, fear of cancer, chronic pneumonia and bronchitis, and the unhappiness it caused my husband and mother. Although they were all valid reasons and may be motivators for others, none of them worked for me. Only one event in my life finally pushed me to put down those “cancer sticks,” or “coffin nails,” for good. Below is the story:
About eight years ago, I was told that I had periodontal disease. It was painful, and I was afraid to undergo the cutting and suturing necessary to treat the condition. Thanks to my friend Robert Quintero, I went and saw Dr. Gregg in Cerritos, who put me through some pretty intense (although nearly painless) and relatively costly laser dental/gum procedures to cure me of my dental issues. I haven’t had any problems since. How could that be a motivator for me when something as serious as cancer was not?
Well, my dear Dr. Gregg informed me that if I didn’t quit smoking I’d have to go through the whole procedure again and again, and if I decided to keep smoking and NOT have it repeated, I would probably lose my teeth. Now there’s MY motivator.
With the genetics in my family (I should live to be nearly 100 years old), dying doesn’t scare me, but living without teeth does. Ah, vanity. That was and still is my motivator! Thanks to support from my husband Steve, nicotine patches and a 12-step program, I did it. I am a non-smoker!
If you would like to quit smoking, my advice is to find your motivation and then call the Long Beach Health Department’s Tobacco Education Program at (562) 570-7950. The folks there will provide you with a free stop-smoking guide with tips to help smokers quit and a list of Long Beach support meetings and resources.