I stopped smoking on 4 January 2008.
I had tried several times before to quit. I had cut down on the sticks yet had never been able to kick the habit. I knew all the bad things about the habit, the harm it caused to both myself and secondary smokers yet giving up was elusive.
I'd started in college on the old roll-ups and progressed to packs of cigarettes in my early 20's keeping the habit 'secret'. My parents never smoked - my mother had the occasional cigar - but smoking wasn't their thing.
The smoking combined well with my lack of exercise, drinking and non-drinking years. It went especially well with my occasional asthma ailments. I tried nicotine gum in the late 90's and it helped. There is nothing like - t0 me - the headrush from inhaling the first stick after a few days off the smokes. It's an extraordinary feeling and then, of course, I smoked more to try and replicate the feeling. Which never happened.
I knew I had to stop. My wheezing. Disappearing from the office for a cigarette every few hours. The stench of smoke on my clothes. The spoken and unsaid disapproval from the sensible, non-smokers. The panic pangs of withdrawal from my gums eager for a nicotine refill at shorter periods than I was giving.
I was someone in denial. I lied about how much I smoked. I was always vague about how much I smoked to myself and anyone that asked. Embarrassed for smoking yet committed to continuing.
On 4 January 2008 I stopped. I broke the habit.
When I was 13 years old someone bet they could beat me in a race across the playground. We raced and I was beating him when he shoved me in the back. I veered to the side and my mouth collided with a concrete post. Snap went by front teeth and left arm. The school didn't think it was serious enough to call an ambulance so I was transported by a teacher in his Robin Reliant.
My arm was put in plaster and several visits to the dentist with the teeth stumps being removed, the nerves removed. Temporary crowns went in and fell out within a space of a few hours. Then steel posts were drilled in and 'new' crowns fitted. After ten years, the steel posts began to move apart until I had a gap between my teeth. All through my 20's and 30's.
Then I opted for titanium implants. Out came the steel posts and in went titanium screws and covered with a removable denture. Here's the x-ray.
As the dentist peered into my mouth, checking the surgeons' handiwork, she uttered the words that changed my life forever. The next six months are critical. There's a very high risk of infection. You mustn't smoke. If infection sets in, it will be bad. Very bad. Stop smoking."
So I did. Every time there was a need pang, I thought about those words. I had been given the perfect opportunity and I seized it. I had one stick on 21 January 2008 and the head rush was off the planet. But then I spent two days coughing. I stopped after that. In my mind, if I ever had one stick, I'd have to start the 'no cigarettes for x days' clock again. I wanted to see how many days I could go without.
I never smoked again. I needed a push to stop and I took it.