Smoke free editor
Change and how we deal with it can tell us a lot about ourselves.
Having picked up and moved twice in a little more than a year, I like to think I am, at the very least, capable of dealing with change. Truth be told, that first move and the change that came with it was desperately needed.
Shortly before boarding my flight departing Cincinnati in mid August, I decided to make, or at least attempt to make, another change. I decided I was going to do my damndest to live a healthier life. This would entail the usual tasks: exercise more often and eat healthier. And it also included quitting smoking. Some change is easier to embrace. This change has been hell.
It’s worth noting why I latched back on to this idea of a healthier lifestyle. My younger brother, Kevin, decided to do so sometime after I left in the fall of 2014, and even though it pains me as an older brother to say this, the kid looks good. Equally important, he’ll tell you he feels good.
All of this is evident in the way he behaves. He has a level of confidence that I can only vaguely remember from certain brief periods in my life.
I still suffer from the side effects of growing up an extremely fat child; extreme in the sense that I had the waistline of a medium-build adult male by the time I was in the fourth grade. While some of us might tend to think that body issues are limited to a specific gender — and by no means am I trying to belittle the cultural pressures put on girls and women — your chromosomes don’t automatically make you immune to body and self esteem issues.
If we carried confidence in a bucket, the bottom of my bucket would resemble a colander. That was part of the reason why I became obsessed with working out in high school — which translated to aspirations of becoming a physical therapist when I was entering college. While I never had the body of a gym rat, I looked the best I had in a long time and was down to 185 lbs. I had confidence.
For those who would like to point out how superficial this all sounds, you’re right, it is superficial. But even when you don’t evaluate others on such inequitable terms, one of the lingering side effects of being a fat kid who slims down is always being aware of your body.
I wanted, and still want, that confidence Kevin has, so I bought a gym membership and cleaned out my refrigerator. And I decided to quit smoking, because any physical gains made on the treadmill or in the weight room would be stunted by my pack-a-day habit.
The exercise became easier after the first-week aches, and the change in diet — which now mostly consists of chicken, egg whites, fruits, kale and granola — has gone about as smoothly as it could for a person who would like nothing more than to eat a picosa pizza from Lilly’s Kitchen for every meal of the day. Putting down the smokes is a different story.
When you’re a smoker with no intention of quitting, you don’t realize how ingrained it becomes in everyday life. Getting out of bed is immediately followed by a cigarette. You forget how to drive without your left hand out the window. Dessert is had after each meal and it’s always the same … unless the local gas station is out of your brand of death sticks.
With help from some Kroger-brand nicotine gum, I made it through the first several days without any major meltdowns. I lapsed the first weekend after a couple of beers following a long week at work. I probably should have known better seeing as how I started smoking in high school around the same time as my first adult beverage.
I rebounded after that pack and made it another week without a single cigarette. Kevin, who quit smoking as part of his healthy transition, had told me about the change one feels after making it 72 hours without a smoke. It’s a lighter, less grimy feeling, although the cravings persist. Again, this pains me to say, but he was right.
It’s unclear how much was attributable to the diet and exercise and what I owed to being smoke free, but last week felt great.
I lapsed again this past weekend while visiting some friends in Salida. To be honest, I embraced the idea that I would before I even passed Glenwood Springs. Now, I’m back to that first week, and after an irritable start, the weight of smoke filled lungs is beginning to dissipate.
I have no intentions of making any promises — I know too many people who have gone through treatment for much more serious addictions to do so. For now, it’s one day at a time, and at this moment I’m going to go enjoy a piece of gum on my back deck.
Ryan Hoffman is editor of The Citizen Telegram. He can be reached at 970-685-2103 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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