Sunday, May 3, 2009

Missed Opportunities

I was thinking this weekend about all of the opportunities that I have had over the years to quit smoking, but did not take advantage of.

When I was 17 years old, my parents had me admitted to a hospital for reasons that I would rather not explain. I will just say that I spent 15 days in the hospital and I was not allowed to smoke. I spent 15 days without a single cigarette. No nicotine, gum, no nicotine patches, nothing. When I finally got out of the hospital, the first thing I wanted to do was smoke, so my mom stopped at a gas station so that I could buy a pack of cigarettes. I was smoke free for more than 2 weeks and I blew it! I guess at the point in my life I was not thinking about quitting smoking. If I was ready to quit smoking at that point in my life, I probably would not have spent the next 16 years smoking. Here is something a little parents probably saved my life by having me admitted, but then I spent 16 years slowly killing myself, one cigarette at a time.

A few years ago I had to have my wisdom teeth pulled. For some reason I only had 3, and not 4, wisdom teeth. Maybe that would explain why I made some pretty dumb decisions in my life! Just kidding! But seriously, after the surgery was complete, I was warned by the dental surgeon not to smoke because it could cause complications in the healing process. I was told not to smoke for at least 24 hours after the surgery. I think I waited exactly 24 hours and then had a cigarette. Again, another missed opportunity.

About a year and a half ago, I was having some digestive issues. Whenever I had a meal that was high in fat, I would have severe pain in the middle of my torso...between my chest and my stomach. Sometimes it was so bad that I threw up. After about 3 hours, the pain finally went away. My doctor seemed to think that it was acid reflux and gave me some sample medication to try. It seemed to work until my wife and I had a nice New Year's Eve dinner and I found myself in severe pain. It was so bad this time that I actually thought I was having a heart attack. I had my wife take me to the Emergency Room. An ultrasound showed that I had gallstones. This was actually not a shock to me because I had done some online research on my symptoms and thought that it might be gallstones. I talked with my doctor and he recommended a surgeon. About a week or so later, I had my gallbladder taken out. The procedure was quite simple. The surgeon made 4 small incisions in my abdomen, pulled my gallbladder out, and I was able to go home from the hospital the same day. The recovery time was about 3 days. I spent those 3 days basically laying in bed because it was extremely painful to move. The surgeon had to cut through my abdominal muscles during the surgery so any movement I made that involved my abs hurt like hell. Just trying to get out of bed to go to the bathroom was a real chore. I did not want to move any more than I had to. But somehow I managed to get out of bed and go out for a cigarette every once and a while. And once again, this was another opportunity that I could have said 'no, I don't need a cigarette.'

So, there were 3 times over the past 16 years that were good opportunities for me to quit smoking...or at least tried to quit. There might have been more, but those 3 stand out in my mind. I guess I just wasn't ready. And I think that is the key. You have to want to stop smoking. Nobody can force you to stop smoking, but yourself. Unless you really want to kick the habit, it just won't happen. Well, I think that I have finally reached that point. I want to quit. I need to quit. I will quit. I am determined to rid myself of this addiction!

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