Today, January 14, 2019, is the 36th anniversary of my birth…or should I say, rebirth.  Truth be told, in 1983 it was the date that I stopped smoking cigarettes, forever. Had I not, I would have been long dead by now, and a horrible death at that.

     A year or so prior to then, a doctor-friend shared a diagnosis with me that I had the early stages of emphysema which, in today’s jargon, we call COPD.  I’ll not forget his words. “Marshall, I would rather treat an advanced case of cancer anytime, than a patient dying of emphysema. There is very little I can do to alleviate the suffering.”

     This would be no easy task for a four-pack a day addict like me. Like many folks of the early era, I started in 1955 at age 16 mainly to fit in with friends. It was cool. It was in. Movie stars on and off screen, all smoked. So did famous recording artists. Physicians could be seen on billboard ads recommending Camels or Lucky Strikes. In the 1950s and 60s you were not cool if you didn’t smoke.

     But time marched on. Literature was coming out just how dangerous cigarettes are. I was coughing my guts out every morning, before lighting my first of the day. The addiction was so powerful, I smoked everywhere, in movie theaters, in my officers, elevators, the back of airplanes. I even smoked in the shower, having a Pall Mall burning on the edge of a toilet tank. I, alone, set the stink-standards for others to tolerate inside offices and cars.

     But I needed to quit. I figured I’d use some methods and devices that supposedly helped others. I tried One-Step-At-A-Time filters, four weeks later I was still at four packs a day. I tried acupuncture, (in the ears) no success there. I went to a hypnotist. I think it was ME that put HIM to sleep. Finally, the realization occurred to me that I was a hopeless addict, and the only thing that could help me stop smoking was — me. Quitting cigarettes was not up to the devices or methods, it was up to me. I had to do it on my own. No weaning. No clinging. Cold turkey was the only method that could work.

     I had one idea that might help. I asked my doctor if he had a drug that could knock me out for a full day and a half. He administered the medicine on a Friday afternoon, (after work), and I didn’t wake up until Sunday morning. By that time, I had a head start. I woke up as a non-smoker on my second day. Meanwhile, I had warned my co-workers, friends and family that I would likely be on edge for a few days or more, and to please understand.  

     Remaining a non-smoker was the next step. Some folks suggested I get active with exercise. I hate work-out gyms, so I tried the running therapy. My lungs were so bad I couldn’t jog more than 50 yards without coughing my guts out. But I tried again, and gradually went to 100 yards.  Then 200 yards and eventually, a half mile.  I grew to love the running experience. I started entering 5K and 10K runs, not to win, but to endure. Two years later, I completed the Orange Bowl Marathon, 26.2 miles.

     To cigarette addicts who are hoping to quit the habit, here’s my hindsight advice.

  1. Don’t “Try” to quit smoking. You either quit, or you don’t. Trying is not quitting.
  2. Don’t depend on devices or methods to do it for you.
  3. Forget about vaping and pot smoking, you are still smoking and self-damaging.
  4. Learn about COPD and the horrors such patients experience
  5. View color pictures of autopsies comparing pink lungs to smoker’s lungs.
  6. Realize the long range suffering you face if you continue smoking.
  7. Just do it.  Believe me, you’ll live through it.