I am a smoker.
Ok, I can hear your gasps from here. You're looking at the title of my blog and then back at the post, confirming that yes, I am a nurse, and yes, I am a smoker. I know, I know. It is a terrible, unhealthy, unattractive habit. Not to mention it being slightly hypocritical to be a health care worker and a smoker, right? Well, I must admit. I am not proud of it by any means and I have struggled through many battles and multiple attempts at quitting.
I can say without a doubt, that quitting smoking has been one of the most, if not the most difficult thing I have ever done in my entire life. My life has not been easy either, so that's saying a lot.
I'm not kidding here. I have such compassion for people who struggle with addictions because on a major level I understand their struggles completely. Now my addiction may not have as dramatic a social or medical consequence as say, meth or heroin or alcohol. I know that, but lets be honest here. Addiction is addiction and nicotine is well known to be one of the most addictive substances out there. Even more addictive than heroin.
I have been smoking off and on since I was fifteen, regularly since I was eighteen. That's a solid ten years to form a habit that has truly become an active and very prominent part of my life. My days are marked by the times I get to smoke. I get through with a shift at work and it brings a sigh of relief and a smile to my face because I know that on my way home I can have that glorious cigarette.
When I am running errands or cleaning my house, or when I was studying for hours on end in nursing school or trying to survive clinicals. I knew that no matter how stressful, hard or boring or tiring it was, in the end, all was right with the world because I had my cigarettes. Smoking has been my buddy, my friend through it all. Through every emotion whether it be happiness, sadness, fear, excitement, joy, contentment, heartbreak. Smoking has been the one thing that went with it all. It is a vice I have used in utterly awful times and completely wonderful times of my life as well.
The one thing I knew I could count on, is that smoking made it seem like everything, no matter how bad it was, would be okay. When people hurt or disappointed me, it didn't matter because I would mask the pain with smoking.
At this point you may be wondering why I am writing this ode to smoking. Obviously I am not an advocate of smoking and more than anything I wish I had never started the awful habit. I would do anything to prevent another person from starting themselves.
Well, for one, if there is a small chance that there is someone struggling with addiction reading this, I can only hope to give them a place to identify with. You are definitely not alone. So many people have addictions, some worse than others and yes, even nurses, doctors, surgeons, teachers. Good people have addictions. I hope someday we can learn to treat people with addictions more properly. It already carries so much shame, it is an awful place to feel so hopeless and it honestly feels insurmountable to beat at times.
The main reason I am writing this post though is because today will be the last time I can call myself a smoker. See, I have been going through a process of letting cigarettes go. From a mental standpoint its as if I have made up my mind to leave an abusive relationship. My bags are packed and I have my escape plan. There is a way out and I decided a while ago to take it, its just a matter of taking that last step. I started Chantix just over a week ago and today is my quit date. After 12am smoking will no longer be apart of my life.
So, this is my goodbye. Goodbye smoking. In many ways I have needed you. In the most terrible, desperate times of my life I had you to depend on, to rely on. But now its time to move on. It's time for me to be healthy and whole. It is time for me to embody everything I want to be as a nurse and as a woman. In many ways you were a necessary part of my life but now it is time to face the world without you to hide behind. It is time for me to embrace life as a person...not as a person who needs to smoke.
I hope I will never have you in my life again and I look forward to the day where I wake up or I step into my car and you are not the first thing I think about. For now, I know that will not be the case but I know that someday it will be my reality. In the meantime its going to be lots of gum and licorice for me.
Here's to freedom from addiction!