On the 27th of October, I attempted something I felt was a huge undertaking. I decided to quit smoking, but planned on still partaking in the alternatives. I failed at it within a day. For me, moderation is rarely an option. Especially when it comes to cigarettes. If I was to succeed at this, I was going to need to drop it all; good bye to e-cigs, pipe tobacco, cigars, and I was not going to try patches or gum. I started over on the 29th of October with my goal redefined. 498 days* (and counting) later, life is different. Cigarette smoking is an insidious demon that drastically alters who you are, completely down to your body chemistry. You have no idea how much you have changed by cigarette smoking (and other forms of nicotine delivery) until you are safely on the other side of it. This isn’t a lecture about the dangers of smoking though, if you need that there are several sites out there with really good information. I am here to apologize.
I considered myself a considerate smoker. I was generally aware of my surroundings, often stepping away from people to partake. I collected my butts on the water and put them in a special pouch. I brought fresh conditioned air inside the vehicle and cracked a window to suck the smoke out of the car. I did what I could to minimize even the smell of cigarette smoke lingering on my clothes. That said, 497 days later, I understand how far off the mark I was. There is no such thing as a considerate smoker. Some are more aware of the impact than others, but unless you were completely isolated, your smoking was offending someone.
I began to realize this while riding in the car with a smoker about 6 months after I quit. The smell sledgehammered my olfactory nerves as soon as the door opened. I silently apologized right then to no one for all the times people rode with me. I remembered driving with people in the car and needing a cigarette as soon as I turned the ignition. I was a smoker for the better part of my life. That’s a fair amount of dates, buddies, family members, dogs, exes, and complete strangers that I subjected to the side effects of my own weak discipline. Summer was the worst as the laws of thermodynamics kept all of the smoke from exiting the vehicle during the hottest months. To everyone that I had to suffer at my hand, I am cannot apologize enough to you.
The real eye opener happened while I was out running. I didn’t know where the offender was at, as he was out of my line-of-sight in the neighborhood, but the stench was omnipresent. I couldn’t even see the smoker, but I could smell him! Immediately I had a flashback to one of my first conversations with fishing buddy, Dylan Owens. Dylan was a smoker when I met him and he brought it up when we were talking about hitting the water. He warned me that he was a smoker, and I stated that I was too. We discussed how this seems to offend people, our assumption being that they assumed if we smoked, that we were trashy people prone to littering. Now, I am keenly aware of why I was repeatedly stabbed with icy glares while in the vicinity of other anglers. I was ruining their precious time on the water with my noxious chemtrails. To everyone I have shared water with while I was a smoker, I apologize. I was truly ignorant of how my bad habits affected harmless strangers. I’m deeply regretful that you were snapped out of your communion with nature by the fallout of my addiction. I can’t give you that time back on the water, but I can assure you that I won’t do it again.
I also apologize to: my barbers, movie theater patrons in my vicinity, anyone I ever gave a cigarette to, people who had to stand near me in lines, bank tellers, doctors, massage therapists, co-workers, fishing guides, HVAC customers I serviced, mechanics that worked on my car, adopt-a-highway people in the places I drove, my students, fellow Airmen (especially members of 18th CES EOD shop as well as the other people in the dorms), women I danced with, all the other people at outdoor eating areas, fellow concert patrons, drive thru tellers, people in the non-smoking section of restaurants with both options, airline passengers, rental car companies, and my all of my past roommates. You were all touched by the cancer coating I carried into your life.
I am not anti-smoking now though. I believe it is your right to harm yourself with whatever vice you succumb to. I won’t give you dirty looks if we are out on the water together, complain about how bad your car smells, or preach to you about the benefits of quitting (even though you should); I accept being around it as a form of karmic justice. I however, have seen the error of my ways. I became acutely aware of the discomfort and annoyance as a result of my turpitude. I was stubborn in quitting, and I regret that I ever started.