Smoke Gets In Your Social-Pariah Eyes

By Gretchen

Smokers are an ash-flick away from serial killers.
When friends, aquaintances, and readers find out I am an ex-smoker, they usually say things like, “But you are so nice!” Yes. You should have known me when I was a smoker! Jaywalking! Taking an extra brownie! Waiting until March to do my taxes! I was a psychopath.

So villified are those who smoke in our society, I’ve often wondered what my kids think about my status as ex-smoker. We’ve never hidden my dirty, dirty former habit from them. Do they wonder how the same squishy, round lady who makes their sandwiches and kisses their owies and loves them so much she’d die for them could have lived so dangerously in her youth?

We got the answer a few nights ago when the conversation turned to Let’s Talk About How Mommy Used To Smoke!

Our oldest daughter, Aidan, asked why smoking is so bad. She is in middle school this year and I expect questions like this to increase as she gets older. I told her about toxic chemicals, black lungs, disease, death. I noted smokers are stinky and age quickly, to appeal to her vanity, too.

Ryley, our oldest son, asked the next question. “If it’s so bad, why did you do it?”

While I collected my thoughts, I congratulated him over and over for his critical thinking skills. “What an excellent question!” I gushed. Really, I was wondering why he had to be so clever and would I be able to afford law school?

I started by admitting I was really foolish when I tried my first cigarette. It made me feel sick, so I should have stopped right then, right there. Bodies aren’t stupid and mine was sending an important message. But I didn’t stop. I persisted, determined that a little white stick wouldn’t triumph over my lungs. I wanted to be able to smoke socially at college parties and look sophisticated. By the time I got to the point I could seamlessly smoke without coughing, it was too late.

The addiction was complete.

“But then you quit, right?”

I quit cold turkey on my wedding day. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I only smoked for a few years. Imagine the person who has smoked for 50 years. My heart goes out to them. Frankly, I don’t expect them to be able to quit. I wish they would. But I know how the act, the addiction, the drive is sewn into their days and nights. You wake with a cigarette. You lull yourself to sleep with a cigarette. It is consumes the moments in between.

“Yes, I quit! I am proud of myself because it was very hard. I wish I never started.”

The kids affirmed they will never smoke. Ever!

I said that once, too. I saw the black lungs brought into my fifth-grade classroom by a lady from the county health department. I didn’t think of those lungs when I lit that first match.

I congratulated them on their decisions.

If they fail?

They are still nice kids, and I’ll be there to help them find their way through. I have the map.

Gretchen can also be found blogging at Lifenut.

14 Responses to Smoke Gets In Your Social-Pariah Eyes
  1. Lifenut » Vice squad
    August 24, 2008 | 5:34 am

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  2. Aimee Greeblemonkey
    August 24, 2008 | 12:02 pm

    Yeah, fellow Coloradan rockin it! You know we do smoking prevention at work, and I think the way you handled it was PERFECT. Great post.

  3. Minnesotamom
    August 24, 2008 | 1:59 pm

    My husband smoked, too. He quit because it was a prerequisite to dating me. Wasn’t I sweet?

    My biggest vice (other than criticizing others, which I think of as more of a SIN than a vice) is eating too many baked goods. Even though my daughter is only 1, I usually reserve such indulgence until she is napping or asleep for the night. The reason? I don’t want her to develop the unhealthy relationship with cookies that I have! So far she only eats mostly organic, mostly fruits, veggies and whole grains, with the occasional egg yolks or beans or cheese. How will I do it as she gets older? Mommy may have to curb her habit, I suppose.

  4. feefifoto
    August 24, 2008 | 3:07 pm

    As a never-smoker, I suspect I may have less currency with my kids than an ex-smoker would. My parents are both ex-smokers, however, which means I can invoke them when urging my kids not even to try it.

  5. Veronica
    August 24, 2008 | 6:05 pm

    I have a history with eating disorders. It’s hard to feel superior to smokers when my own compulsive behavior meant that I was incapable of reliably feeding myself. Yeah. Hard to feel competent then.

  6. Beck
    August 24, 2008 | 6:49 pm

    You’re a good mom, the way you’ve talked about this with your kids. Too many parents hide their former, flawed selves away from their children. I had my pre-children bad habits, too. I’m still not sure if I’ll ever discuss them with my children, but you present a great role model for being open with your children.

  7. Cyndi
    August 24, 2008 | 8:43 pm

    Good for you, for quitting and for being honest about it with you kids. Hopefully they will see how bad it can be to try it even once. It is more of a negative thing now days so hopefully the peer pressure won’t be as bad as it once was.

  8. Kayla
    August 24, 2008 | 10:16 pm

    It may be difficult to realize but when it comes to smoking, it is a spirit of addiction. I’m not pointing fingers, I promise. I have had my own addiction and it took God to release me of it. You are a good parent and your children should be proud. 🙂

  9. Tonyia
    August 25, 2008 | 11:02 am

    Oh, of all the timing! My hubs and I are seeing a fertility specialist, and he has (for obvious reasons) asked us to quit smoking. I will be 30 in September and I have smoked since I was 13 (young and dumb…). And this very morning, I took my very first smoking cessation pill. I am praying it helps becuase I really do want to be an “ex-smoker”. Thanks for the post, truly. It makes me feel better that someone understands the isolation that comes with smoking in todays society, and it also helps to hear people admit how hard it is to quit, but that they still did it. Thanks again, and take care…

  10. Heth
    August 25, 2008 | 1:10 pm

    It sounds like you have handled the conversations beautifully. You are equipping them to make good choices and yet giving them a compassion for people who aren’t perfect. Which would be all of us. You are raising non-judgmental kids with good morals. Sometimes that can be an oxymoron.

    A funny side story. Nate’s grandma has smoked 2 packs a day for her whole life and she is over 80 years old and still kicking. The thing that is so funny about it is that she doesn’t inhale. Nate’s mom has said that the reality is that she is killing herself with her own second hand smoke. I know that’s not a laughing matter but for some reason it really cracks me up!

    Right now my biggest vices are whole milk and white flour/white sugar laden carbs. I don’t plan on ever giving either of them up.

  11. Michelle
    September 14, 2008 | 5:31 pm

    I love your blogs and the real way you accept the challenges and blessings of life with children. Keep writing.

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