As most of my friends and family already know, I have been a regular heavy smoker for over 15 years now. My parents and siblings are well aware of this nasty vice of mine. I drink socially (not that into alcohol, really), I don’t club (not anymore because age caught up with me. Plus, it’s one of those “been there, done that” things), I don’t take drugs (recreational, I mean. The medical / prescriptive drugs are never abused), I don ‘t gamble (I love my hard earn money too much to risk it), I am not promiscuous (I am always in a monogamous relationship and am happily married now).
I have also previously written this post on Smoking in Malaysia when my husband quit smoking (he was mostly a social smoker) and when the local government started including gruesome pictures on cigarette packets. I was not motivated to quit then.
I have pushed the deadline to quit smoking so many times. It ranged from, “When I reach 21” to “When I get married” to “When I reach 30” to “When I want to try for a baby” to “When I conceive”. It’s one excuse after another. I know a lot of smokers out there can agree with me.
I always felt a sense of belonging or community with smokers. Classic example is when you start a new job. You’re new to the office premises. Your immediate acquaintance / new friends are usually smokers. You find out where the smoking section is and you make friends with the smokers over a puff or two – to find out about the new job, office, boss, etc. You form an unexplainable bond and you are immediately in a community / group.
I started at 17 years old, just after high school. Not during. Exams were over and loads of house parties started. Peer pressure and general curiosity kicked in. I had been a good enough teenager to fend off these temptations until after the life-changing exams are over. I took my first sip of real bottled beer (hated it and still do) but slowly start to discover more varieties of alcohol to suit my taste. The same can be said about smoking. Out of curiosity, I took a puff from a friend. Then, graduated to buying a whole pack for myself of Salem (the lightest cigarettes on the market then).
Over the last 15 years, I have smoked almost every brand of cigarettes in the local market, and some foreign ones as well. Watching my dad suffer through high blood pressure and underwent by-pass surgery should’ve scared me, but it didn’t. Mom was devastated of the behaviour of her “little girl” and my elder brother helped me hide the habit from my parents for years as we both sneak puffs together.
At my peak, I was smoking 2 packs of Dunhill Reds a day. Yes, that’s 40 sticks a day. It was giving me sore throat and a permanent husky voice. Not sexy if it’s cigarette induced. Majority of my smoking days were back to Marlboro Lights. I am averaging a pack of 20s a day.
Cigarette prices weren’t exactly breaking the bank either. I used to pay RM 3.60 (if I remember correctly) back then and now it’s gone to RM 9.30 a pack. Yes, that is almost double, but I remember telling myself that I would probably quit when it gets to RM 10 a pack. But I know, that’s just another excuse. If I were in US or Singapore, even. I might have been smoke-free. I say… MIGHT.
F&B establishments in KL still accommodate the smokers out there. We have fairly hot weather, but the al fresco dining style of sitting out in the open is popular here in restaurants, cafes, bars and even clubs. So if there’s no smoking in air-conditioned areas, people just flock to the al fresco outdoor area. Sadly, the outdoor area is usually more happening than the indoor section.
My lifestyle has been catered to accommodate this habit of mine. You can smoke in my apartment (everywhere except the master bedroom, where I need a smoke free room for a good night sleep). We have air ionisers and air fresheners in the house to try to kill the odour and make the room smell better than the lingering second hand smoke.
You can smoke in my car (a road trip up north or down south will be excruciating without a ciggie, you know. Don’t get me started on the stress of being stuck in a traffic jam). Again, odour eliminating air fresheners are always there. Can’t say much about the leftover ash on the dashboard though. Nothing a good car wash can’t rid.
Smoking was who I am. Who I’ve become – a smoker. Heck – I was even smoking freely for my photographer to snap pictures on my wedding day…
|Taking a ciggie break during my make-up session for my wedding|
|The “un-glamourous” shot of the bride in her cheongsam|
Then, one day not too long ago, I have a feeling that I’m not young and carefree anymore. My health is catching up on me. I can’t eat junks like I used to anymore, I need to exercise to stay fit and healthy, my teeth is stained so badly that you can tell that I am a smoker. My skin is permanently dehydrated.
In an attempt to spend money on myself rather than material goods, I started a healthier living routine. I joined the gym and have been attending yoga regularly. I have been eating healthier food (I also have to due to the gallbladder removal surgery I had about 2 years ago). I switched to better (and more expensive) skin care range and signed up for facial treatments. I made appointments to fix my teeth and solve my dental nightmares to ultimately get an expensive teeth whitening treatment.
It was when my teeth is all white and normal and beautiful again, I suddenly realised that I can’t afford to procrastinate anymore. I do want to conceive someday without any leftover harmful nicotine in my system for the future baby, too… I just have to take the leap and do it cold turkey. I am going to quit smoking for good.
Most of my smoker friends I hang out with lately have successfully (or trying to) quit. I believe that I can do it, too. No more excuses. I need to give this an honest try. No more half-hearted negativity. I know I can.