Mark “Rent-boy” Renton: Never again, Swanney. I’m off the scag.
Swanney: Are you serious?
Mark “Rent-boy” Renton: Yeah, no more. I’m finished with that shite.
Swanney: Well, it’s up to you, man.
Mark “Rent-boy” Renton: Gonna get it right this time. Gonna get it sorted out. Gonna get off it for good.
Swanney: I’ve heard that one before. - Trainspotting.
At one point, I simply couldn’t grasp the idea of lighting up a little white stick and inhaling the fumes. At one point I was running across the finish-line of the 5FM Energade triathlon. At one point I found myself hitting the wall just before the 39-kilometer mark during the Sun-to-Sun marathon; and somehow found the determination to walk the last 3 kilometers to the finish line. At one point I cycled to work every day; doing my 12 kilometer commute every morning, and again every afternoon. At one point I would regularly take an early-Sunday morning cycle-ride from Bloemfontein to Welkom, a distance of about 80 kilometres, just to buy a can of Coke at a filling-station, then cycle all the way back to Bloemfontein. Just for kicks. These things happened more than 10 years ago.
Fast-forward 10 years later, and I’m an underweight 35-yr old man with a killer tobacco-habit, two scars from past lung-operations, a defaulted gym-membership and fitness-levels that make me the envy of only the obese.
A lot has changed…
I have no idea why I started smoking. Most people start in their teens; I made it through my teens without a hitch, and started smoking at age 24. I cannot remember how nor why. All in know is that I was surrounded by a close group of friends, who were all smokers, and I spent much of my night-life in smoke-filled night-clubs. Funny enough, I was always interested in some chick who was a smoker, and felt like a loser with my sober habits…
Before long, I was buying my own smokes and looking real cool. There’s a big difference between walking into a night-life establishment with your hands in your pockets versus strutting in with a smoke hanging from your jaw. It’s just how it is…
In 2009 I woke up one morning and couldn’t feel my left arm. I walked the 2 blocks to the nearest clinic, but had to stop every now and again to catch my breath. I was walking slowly; but was breathing like I had just finished a 100-metre dash. I was wheeled in to the emergency unit, and diagnosed with a spontaneous pneumothorax. In a nutshell, a hole had developed on the surface of my left lung, air had seeped into my chest cavity, creating an air-bubble that grew so big my left-lung had collapsed.
Under local anaesthetic, they inserted a tube through two ribs under my armpit, and my chest deflated like a tyre that just got shanked. PSHHHH! Hellooo pleurodesis! Two days later I was back at work. Still smoking, but feeling good again. I figured so many people smoke for 30-odd years before getting complications… it must’ve been a fluke. Maybe it would’ve happened even if I wasn’t a smoker anyways…
Astounding, the power of self-bullshitting.
Two years later I walked up a flight of stairs at work, got to the top, and was out of breath. Just finished a 100m dash – out of breath. Again. Drove to hospital, knowing exactly what the diagnosis would be: Spontaneous pneumothorax. A thoracic surgeon was called in, and I went under the knife. Full-on pleurectomy. Basically, they, cut open your rib-cage, insert a type of jack to pry the ribcage open, the surgeon then insert his hand into the chest cavity, cuts out defective surfaces of the lung (blebs), then rubs talc-powder on the surface of the lung, and against the inside of the ribcage. This forms a rough bruised surface, so the lung binds against the ribcage for the next few weeks…
Four painful months of therapy later, and I was back at work. Smoking.
Well, here I am, readers. 3 Years later and a pack-a-day smoker. If you’re a smoker, and an honest one too, you might understand. The power of addiction. It’s not just a chemical thing. The nicotine-dependency is just a part of the addiction. The other part is mental. The small part of your brain that’s so good at reasoning and justifying all the good reasons why “only one more smoke” wouldn’t be as bad…
My maternal grandfather died of throat-cancer. He was a smoker. My Uncle David died of emphysema. We buried him about 4 years ago. My Uncle Toepie died of stomach cancer. He was a smoker. We buried him about 7 months ago.
If you still don’t understand the power of addiction, consider that whenever I went to visit uncle David, I’d chat to him in his lounge, then take regular smoke-breaks outside, while he sat there with his oxygen-tank and mask over his face. At uncle Toepies funeral we stood at the graveyard, smoking while hobnobbing with the family.
I’ve tried quitting using patches, gum, etc. I’m still a smoker. My colleague (an ex-smoker) once told me that the only reason why I couldn’t quit was because I hadn’t REALLY resolved to quit. Half-assed quitting will give you just that: half assed quitting, he said.
Three months ago I resolved to quit at the end of 2012. That’s today. I’ve mulled over it, prepared myself mentally for it. Today is the day.
Right now I have two packs of Stuyvies, and a bottle of Vodka. Tonight I party. Tonight I say farewell to the worst year I’ve ever had. Tonight I finish my smokes, as well as my smoking-habit. Tomorrow will be shit. Holy crap, it will be shit. The next day will be worse. And the day after will be worse. Then the worst is over. From the fourth day onwards, it’s a matter of maintaining the resolution to not have another puff.
If not for me, then for these two munchkins.
They deserve better…
Day-by-day updates to follow…