How I finally kicked my decades-long nicotine habit
“Don’t you want to be alive to dance at my wedding someday?” asked my 18-year-old son, Brett.
My husband and I were up in Cambridge for the first parents’ college weekend. Brett was apparently majoring in Jewish guilt at Harvard. “How can a mother possibly reply to that question?” I thought as I reluctantly snuffed out the cigarette I was smoking. It’s not that I hadn’t tried quitting before. I had, in fact, stopped smoking when I was pregnant with Brett, but ran to buy a pack of cigarettes the day I returned from the hospital. Twice I’d attended a “smoke enders” course at the 92nd Street Y. I’d get down to smoking two to three cigarettes a day (from a full pack), but then I’d have a bad day at work and start puffing away. I’d gone to see a hypnotist. I can’t say whether I was put into a trance or not, but when I left his office I couldn’t wait to light up. I tried Nicorette gum, then started smoking cigarettes along with the gum. The nicotine patch was also a bust.
Quite truthfully, I never stopped because I really didn’t want to give up smoking. For 30 years, cigarettes were my best friends. They calmed me when I was anxious. They enabled me to overcome my desire to snack, thus helping me stay thin. They were my comrades when I chatted on the phone. They were my companions when I went for a walk. They remained my best date in a social cocktail setting.
Then my favorite newscaster, Peter Jennings, announced to the world that he was diagnosed with lung cancer from smoking, and died soon thereafter. How could that be? He was so vibrant and strong. Then my son challenged me to stay alive for his wedding. This was throwing down the gauntlet, especially since Brett hadn’t even started dating a girl yet. I might have to wait years for that wedding to materialize.
As a final effort, I got acupuncture. Not a traditional Chinese technician, but rather a Jewish doctor named Naomi Rabinowitz. It seemed like an interesting combination of Eastern meets Western philosophy. Each session, I lay down on a table while she stuck needles into various parts of my body, including my head. “This really isn’t painful,” I would think to myself, as she turned out the lights and I slumbered for the next half hour. I was glad, however, when the needles were removed and I got Chinese herbs to take away my withdrawal symptoms.
During those six weeks, I did not have my usual withdrawal jitters, nicotine cravings or weight gain. I did quit smoking all cigarettes.
It’s been four years now without even a puff, yet I still walk by a newsstand and get such a yearning. I know that if I have even one cigarette I’ll be hooked again, so I completely stay away from this evil addictive weed.
My son is now 22 and a college grad. To my great joy, he has not only started dating but has fallen in love with a fabulous young lady. They’ve been a couple for two years now. I wonder if this might be the one. I can’t help but ruminate, how many more years will it be before they want to get married? There isn’t even a remote chance that I’ll pick up another cigarette until I reach that milestone. Then I’ll have to ask myself, “Don’t you want to stick around for grandchildren?”
Rosemary Kalikow was a talk show producer at ABC and Court TV Network for 25 years. She is currently working as a freelance writer in New York.
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