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Cutting to the Core

Cold turkey during the holidays

It's nearly that time of the year again when everyone decides how they will improve themselves in the coming year. For some it's losing weight, others might try to save a little extra money and then you have the millions of people who pick this time of the year to quit smoking.

Ahhhh, smoking! I love to smoke. There is nothing better after a fulfilling meal than a nice cigarette. MMMMM! BUT, the time has now come for me to finally give up the sweet leaf I call Marlboro Reds.

I've probably said that phrase, Marlboro Reds, every day for the past 18 years, give or take a couple. Those beauties have been a part of my life for some time now.

I remember one time in Hong Kong back in 1990. The Cold War was still going on and some friends and I ran into some real live Russians. Neither of us had ever seen a real Russian before, we'd only heard about them. These Russians were part of a circus and they were performing in Hong Kong. We instantly struck up a conversation and started drinking beer.

We also exchanged cigarettes with each other. I couldn't wait to try a real Russian cigarette. I lit it, took a nice long drag of the stale, nasty Russian tobacco and immediately started coughing uncontrollably. I ended up getting sick all over the sidewalk next to some 7-11 convenience store in Hong Kong. Oh the memories.

But those good times are over for me now. I'm tired of paying high prices for cigarettes. I'm tired of having my fingers and teeth stained yellow. I'm tired of coughing and hacking in the morning. I want to be healthy again.

So I've quit. I did it on Nov. 20 and I didn't wait until New Years Day or make it my New Year's Resolution. I did it because, A) I'm broke and I can't justify spending $5.50 a day for a pack, B) my wife hates it and C) I will be a father in a couple of months and I don't want my child to have to smell the nasty odor of stale cigarette smoke on me.

I made it 11 1/2 days before I broke down and fired up a sweet tasting cigarette. I don't know why I did it, I just know I really wanted that smoke. It wasn't a particularly stressful day, I can't really explain it, I just wanted one.

About an hour after I smoked that cigarette I went and bought a pack. I smoked and smoked all night long and that pack lasted me until the next afternoon. Then I quit again.

I'm looking at day four and so far things are going good but they were going good the last day four, too. I'll have to see what happens.

People often suggest trying the patch or the gum but I like to do it cold turkey.

My theory is that it doesn't get tough until all of the nicotine leaves your body. I've stopped smoking several times and it never gets tough for me until the third or fourth day when the nicotine starts to leave and I begin to feel the withdrawals.

Cigarettes are just nicotine delivery devices. That's all. If you use the patch or chew gum with nicotine in it, you're still putting the drug into your body. You might not be smoking or using chewing tobacco but you're not getting any closer to stopping, either. It's only when you stop taking in nicotine that your body starts to heal itself. That's why I always go cold turkey.

I'm on a wait and see program now. I don't want to smoke again but I know anything can set me off. There was one time when I had stopped smoking for about a week. I came home one day and my cat meowed at me the wrong way.

I didn't know what I had done to warrant my cat's criticism, I think he wanted some wet food or something, but it really irritated me. I tried to remain calm but after five minutes I left my house and was smoking a cigarette in the time it took me to go to the store and buy a pack.

I'm hoping my cat doesn't do that to me this time. I've asked my wife to be extra kind to me this month until I can get over the crankiness that comes in the first couple of weeks after I quit smoking.

I'll try to use my wife's encouragement, the $150 a month I will be saving and the renewed flavor my taste buds have discovered again to try and stay off the tobacco.

If I can manage that I'll only have to worry about getting fatter than I already am. There's always a price to pay.

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