June is National No Smoking Month and I just wanted to share with you how my father successfully quit smoking. He has not smoked a cigarette for 19 years now. Imagine that!
Growing up, I have known that Tatay (how I call my dad) was a smoker. He usually smoked Hope cigarettes but I remember that he occasionally puffed Marlboro reds, too. He never smoked in front of the family (me, my mom, and my older brother) but I sometimes saw him holding a box while getting out of the house. He used to smoke about one to two packs per day, and it started when he was only 17 years old.
I bet you already know how smoking kills, how it increases the risk for A LOT of diseases, even those not involving the lungs! Let’s not talk about those facts.
Two Versions of the Story
I have always thought that the story revolved around me (of course), and how I was the favorite child (turns out I was wrong, haha, more on this later). When I was five years old, I was really fat for my age. We could say I was already overweight back then. It was approaching New Year’s eve when I told Tatay that I would start dieting if he would quit smoking. I have never seen him smoke since. And that’s how I thought I was the reason why he quit.
Here’s the second and real version (as told by Tatay) which I only got to know about early this year when I asked him about the story. My brother is eight years older than me so when Tatay decided to finally quit smoking, it was also the same time my brother was entering adolescence. We all know how teenagers are prone to developing vices, right? He wanted to set a good example. He wanted to be able to tell my brother “Don’t smoke” without the irony or sounding like a hypocrite.
What It Was Like to Quit
Tatay told me how hard it was at first, quitting. He would quit for three months, then relapsed; then for another three months, and relapsed again. There was a constant craving for a puff that he would just munch on candies instead. When he had quit for six months, there was one moment when he was about to relapse again. But then, the cigarette tasted bitter, not the delicious kind of bitterness smokers would like, but bitter, really bitter. Moreover, much to his surprise, he was appalled by the cigarette smoke. In that instant, he took the cigarette off his mouth and threw it onto the ground. He has not smoked since. That was 19 years ago. Maybe the beginning of those six months just coincided with the new year when I was “supposedly” dieting. But who cares, the important thing is my dad did it, and his lungs are smoke-free for 19 years and counting!
Why We Should Not Judge
Although I haven’t really consumed a full packet in my entire life, I have tried smoking a few cigarettes in med school. I know how it makes your brain feel cooler and lighter, and I understand how studying is easier when you’ve just had a puff. If I smoked every time I had to pull off an all-nighter, I wouldn’t have gained a lot of weight during med school (because when my friends were smoking outside during study breaks, I was either drinking another cup of creamy coffee or munching on snacks). But there are other ways to stay up, like listening to up-beat music. I do not encourage you to smoke! I also understand how cigarette smoking can be a vehicle of socialization. I will not elaborate on this since I don’t really want to sound like I am promoting smoking. I’m trying to do the opposite here!
I love my friends even if they smoke and they were actually the ones giving me the evil stare when I used to ask them for a puff or a stick. I don’t smoke now, and I can’t remember the last time I did because when I’m faced with the choice of doing it or not, I think of Tatay. He quit his vice to set a good example for me and my brother, how could I just ignore and forget that?
Smokers may have different reasons to quit — some for their health while others do it for their families. It would be a great battle, especially since they would be fighting against themselves. In the end, the benefit is not only for the smokers who quit, but also for the people around them, especially their loved ones. Let’s not judge them, but positively encourage them.
Some quitters actually win.
*The background used to make the feautured image was downloaded for free from unsplash.com.