It was four years ago today that I smoked what is — so far, at least — my last cigarette.
As the anniversaries — and semi–anniversaries — have rolled around, I have written about smoking and giving it up. I have refused — and I still refuse — to call myself an "ex"–smoker. I prefer to call myself a "recovering" smoker — even today.
I know some people who used to smoke but don't anymore — and most of them tend to look down on smokers. I don't know why. Of all people, former smokers should know how hard it is to give up smoking. It is not a character defect or a lack of will power that keeps many from succeeding yet many former smokers act as if it is.
Many former smokers pass judgment on current smokers. I do not.
Granted, the smell of tobacco smoke is irritating for someone who has given it up. I don't really know why that is. Perhaps it is because the enhanced nicotine in today's cigarettes appeals to us in subliminal ways, trying to sneak in under our personal radars and seduce us.
I believe a former smoker must be ever vigilant to remain one, but I have assured my friends who still smoke that I will never tell them what I think they should do — unless they ask for my opinion.
If you want to read what I have written about smoking in the past, you can find the posts on this blog without too much difficulty.
I still believe that it is good that I am what I call a "recovering smoker" — and not an active smoker. I respect tobacco and nicotine and the power they wield.
I am glad I do not hand over my money to the cigarette companies anymore. I don't cough first thing in the morning anymore. My hair, my clothes, my home and my vehicle don't reek of tobacco smoke anymore. I'm not constantly emptying ash trays or wondering when I will need to replenish my cigarette supply.
I remember, when I first saw "Cast Away" and marveled, like everyone else, at his survival skills, my very first thought was a sense of panic at the thought of being deprived of cigarettes indefinitely, perhaps forever.
Because I knew that, once I was plunged into the water, any cigarettes I had on me would be useless — and a smokeless existence would be imposed on me immediately. How would I cope? How would I be able to do it?
It's been awhile since I've seen that movie, but it seems to me that Tom Hanks' character survived for four years on that deserted island before he was rescued. I don't think his character was a smoker before being stranded, but he had many obstacles to overcome.
Well, now, I have survived for four years since my last puff. I haven't had to do it in such a primitive setting, but it's been a long, hard and lonely battle. There have been many obstacles that I have had to overcome, too.
Nevertheless, I suppose I'm free. Free at last, free at last ...
I've spent about two–thirds of the last four years looking for full–time work.
That fact alone ought to be worth something. I mean, when I worked for newspapers, it was considered a plus to be dedicated and patient because a complete story rarely, if ever, fell into your lap — and, if it did, it seldom made deadline.
You had to be committed to the long haul.
I've endured the stress without turning to tobacco for the soothing calm it always provided. It hasn't been easy. In fact, it's been damn hard. But I've done it.
Aren't those qualities that an employer should want in an employee?
I can learn to do the things I do not know how to do if someone will show me.
But it won't mean much if I do not have a long–term commitment.