I guess there are a few things I can’t say no to, but most likely, outside of not being able to say no to air, water and food, tobacco is the one thing I can’t say no to.
I didn’t begin this post with tobacco as my choice of something I can’t say no to. I was going to tell you about something else, something more fun and exciting, but maybe I’ll go with the flow on what I’ve already written on this page.
Maybe I should tell it like it is how addicted I am to smoking and nicotine and how I feel like I’m going to explode, or rather implode, if I go too long without a cigarette.
I may be in denial because I had to pause to write the word cigarette. It sounds ugly to me. I wondered before I wrote the word if I want to tell of this awful habit, this complete failing of myself and my family, especially in my attempts to heal my body. This one thing that feels like if I hadn’t ever started that my entire life would be different today.
I could have been a great athlete. I could have gone to New York and studied modern dance. I could have taken job offers as an aerobics and aquatic fitness instructor. People offered to pay for my training, but smoking made me feel like going into a career like that would be misleading or false.
My habit got worse during a very bad time in 1996. It got worse again in 2003 when both my son and I became ill.
One day during the summer of 2003 I was smoking a cigarette and thought of a local man whom everyone downtown knew. He had schizophrenia because his older brother, “dosed him with large amounts of acid,” when he was fifteen years old. He died in the mental institution when they committed him and put him on a new medication. It was a tragic loss to all who knew him. I didn’t know him as well as some of the men did, but I cried when he died.
I was having tremendous anxiety the day I remembered him. I felt like smoking an entire pack at once, like he did. He cleaned windows for local small businesses and the owners paid him in food and cigarettes. He would wait until he had what looked like over a hundred cigarettes. Then he would sit down at the coffee-house, put them all in a large pile between his legs, and smoke every last one of them back to back.
I always felt his anxiety when I saw him smoking. He rocked back and forth and smoked hard and fast.
I saw myself in his memory that day I wanted all those cigarettes. My son was in serious trouble in life and utter fear was overwhelming me with anxiety. That summer, before my son finally received medical help, is when I remembered our friend who smoked the pile of cigarettes. I went in the side room of my little home, opened the window, and smoked while I wrote an ode to him.
“The tobacco plant, Nicotiana, has probably been responsible for more deaths than any other herb. At present, tobacco smoking is causing over 3 million deaths a year worldwide, and if current smoking trends continue the annual mortality will exceed 10 million by around 2030.” (1)
The Nicotiana plant isn’t what’s so bad. It’s the addiction to smoking and nicotine that leads so many to the doorway of death.
“Nicotiana tabacum, the plant now raised for commercial tobacco production, is probably of South American origin and Nicotiana rustica, the other major species which was carried around the world, came from North America. In 1492, Columbus found Native Americans growing and using tobacco, sometimes for its pleasurable effects but often for treatment of various ills.” (1)
“As early as 15 October 1492 Columbus noted that dried leaves were carried by a man in a canoe near the island of Ferdinandina because they were esteemed for their healthfulness. In the same year, two members of his crew observed people in what is now Cuba carrying a burning torch that contained tobacco, the purpose of which (it later emerged) was to disinfect and help ward off disease and fatigue.” (1)
One time a wasp stung me and my leg swelled and ached badly. I put a compress of wet tobacco on it and the swelling went down immediately. I wore a patch for a couple of days and my leg was fine. My grandmother had taught me that when a bee stung my foot around age seven. I loved walking barefoot and we had more than what I considered our share of bees.
I grew up in the 1970’s in a rural cotton mill town where everyone smoked, except my grandmother. She was the only adult in my family that didn’t smoke.
I remember my dad smoking in the line at the grocery store, along with everyone else. The store manager walked around with a wide broom to clean up the butts on the floor. He didn’t seem to mind this at all. He would greet people as he did this. I didn’t think anything about it.
I smoked my first cigarette in elementary school. I stole them from my grandpa. They said he was blind, but he always knew when I reached into the drawer where he always had a carton of Winston’s. I don’t know how he knew because the drawer was out of his sight in the hallway. One day when I opened the drawer there was a dozen packs of Juicy Fruit. He never kept his cigarettes there anymore.
I nearly passed out the first time I inhaled smoke, but that didn’t stop me. I thought I was cool. I would go behind the neighbor’s outdoor shed, which was beside the cow pasture and smoke. I didn’t do it often, thank goodness.
It was when I was around fourteen that I began to practice the habit. I’d ride my bicycle and hide a pack of Marlboro’s in my socks or if I wore my cow girl boots then it was quite easy. Nearly all my friends would hide cigarettes in their boots. The cool ones anyway.
I quit the habit when I was seventeen. That was the year when I made life-changing good decisions. I wanted good health and an education and I got both. I had many accomplishments when I was seventeen.
I started back one day when my son was a young toddler. I was sitting around the kitchen table at my former sister-in-law’s house. I hadn’t thought of a cigarette in five years. I was having a hard time being a single mother.
“Maybe you need one of these. You need something to calm your nerves,” my dear in law said to me.
She handed me a Marlboro light. I thought I’d smoke only one. I was wrong.
I was going to write that I can’t say no to severe sexual desire that has gone past the point of no return, but I wrote a little about that in The Elusive Fence.
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(1) PubMed Central, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Medicinal uses of tobacco in history.
(2) Image of sign via Wiki Commons
Click on images of plants for Wikimedia Commons description.
Topic #60 from The Daily Post, “What can’t you say no to?”