Thoughts from the Publisher | September 8

I am quite proud of myself. As of last Thursday, Aug. 31, I have spent the past 11 years as a non-smoker. Let me tell you, quitting cigarettes was the most difficult thing I have ever done. Immediately after quitting, for the 10th time in my life, I started to feel severe flu-like symptoms. Little did I know that the sensations I felt were common with those going through smoking withdrawal.

I also experienced myriad other symptoms besides the flu-like thing. According to quittersguide.com, quitters report such experiences as irritability (sometimes extreme), insomnia, headaches, coughing, chest infections, dry mouth, sore throat, nausea, extreme tiredness, lack of concentration and increase in appetite.

They also explain that the longer one smokes, the more acute these withdrawal symptoms tend to be.

Some of us refer to the quit-smoking status as being “smober.” Well, that’s what I am– 11 years smober.

I started smoking as a young teenager and really picked up the habit during my middle-school days. Although lots of folks look back on their lives and blame such bad behavior as being caused by peer pressure, I don’t. I hold myself accountable for my actions. I was a leader– not a follower. I smoked because I thought it was rebellious.
More likely than not, I started because my dad was a smoker. I can’t remember Dad without a cigarette in his hand. He smoked non-filter brands like Chesterfield Kings or Pall Mall, and he sometimes rolled his own, which not only gave him the nicotine he craved but turned his fingers a lovely shade of pukey yellow. He was a very handsome man and was always dressed to the nines and perfectly groomed. His silver hair was so striking– except for the yellow tinges due to nicotine stain. He tried to quit smoking many times.

Our house was always under a smoky fog, as was the interior of our cars. Yep, Dad smoked in the house, in the car, and, frankly, wherever else he wanted to. There were no laws regarding designated smoking areas back then. In fact, smoking was touted as being glamorous during the ‘40s and into the ‘60s. Shoot, even Andy of Mayberry and Lucy smoked on their programs. I also remember seeing Walt Disney on television puffing on a cigarette. Their behavior was certainly not suitable for children to emulate. After all, they were our role models.

For those wondering what methods I used to quit, I offer the following. First, I had to find the right motivation. My reasons for trying to quit in the past had always been pretty run-of-the-mill: 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.

About 11 and a half years ago, I found out 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 costly laser dental/gum procedures to cure me of my dental issues. I haven’t had any problems since.

How is that a motivator? Dr. Gregg informed me that if I didn’t quit smoking, I’d have to go through the whole thing again and again, and if I decided to keep smoking and not have the procedure repeated, I would probably lose my teeth.

Now, there was 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 nicotine patches and a 12-step program, I did it. I am a non-smoker!

Even with all of that said, I still have nightmares that I started smoking again. I wake up in a panic, and once I recover from my grogginess, I am always so grateful that it was only a dream.

For those still hooked on cigarettes, may your efforts to quit smoking be successful. Search for your motivation, and get started. You can do it.

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