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Day 429: This Blog Has No Pictures

Monday, January 14, 2013

A long, long time ago, back in my salad days when I was two-and-twenty, I smoked. A lot.

I grew up in a tobacco-growing state, and cigarettes were a cheap commodity - often cheaper than food. When I started smoking (and it was after I graduated high school, so I was old enough to know better) a carton of cigarettes cost $2.20. Yes, you read that right. Even at 1970s minimum wage, that was peanuts.

I was good about annual check-ups with the family doc, and somewhere in that era he was after me to quit smoking.

"Don't you know what you're doing to your lungs?"

I probably heaved a dramatic sigh.

"Yeh, yeh, I know, black with tar, coated in gunk, etc etc etc."

"Tell you what: how about I arrange for you--"

I remember this clearly. In an instant, I flashed to the certainty he was going to set me up for a chest x-ray, so he could actually show me cloudy patches or something in my lungs.

"--to tour one of the emphysema and lung cancer wards?"

Oh - Em - Gee. "Um, no, thank you, no, really, I have a pretty good idea..."

I did have a pretty good idea. I'd seen plenty of gruesome pictures, and read those early reports and "the surgeon-general warnings," and I knew far too many "old people" (probably younger than I am now) who were slowly but surely hacking their lives away.

Did I quit?

I did not.

I quit when I had my children, and I stayed quit (as it were) for several years.

Then, what with one thing and another - separation, back to work, nerves and screwy eating patterns and whatever - I started in again, not quitting for good until just before I came to the UK.

And the reason I quit was because cigarettes had become even more expensive here than they were (are, perhaps) in the US. I didn't want to give up the habit - I much preferred to think of it as a habit of choice, rather than an addiction - but I hated the idea of setting fire to a sawbuck daily.

Health didn't convince me to quit; money convinced me to quit.

Now, the thing is, you don't have to have tobacco to survive. It's not a basic necessity, like food, water, shelter, warmth. You actively have to seek it out, and these days, you might have to work even harder at seeking out places to indulge.

But if you don't buy tobacco products, you can bypass them. You can exist in smoke-free environments, you can forbid them in your home, you can avoid them totally, or near enough.

You can't do that with food.

You have to - HAVE TO - control it. You have to control the menu, the purchase, the preparation, the meal schedule, the amount...


I'd like to say "Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt, all over."

Of course, it's never over.

Every day, each and ever' blessed day, I have to get up and do it all over again.

In the kitchen, fixing breakfast, waiting for the hot water to boil for tea:

--Grapes. Grapes in the bowl.

Take a drink of water.

--Bananas. One banana. Half a banana.

C'mon, water, boil...

--Just this morning, just this once - granola, there's granola in the cupboard.

C'mon, water, BOIL--!!!

And on it goes.

Lunch. Supper. Evening. Bedtime.

Measure. Weigh. Calculate. Portion - portion - portion.

And why? why do I do it?

Health didn't convince me to change. Fear convinced me to change.

At 22, I wasn't afraid of lung cancer or emphysema or COPD. Who, me? Not me. I'm gonna live forever.

But at 55, I became deathly afraid of going blind. Of requiring dialysis. Of losing a limb - remember Totie Fields, the comedienne? I suddenly realized the possibility of heart attack or stroke was very, very real.

There are a lot of people, both in my real life and here on Spark, who praise my (shall we say) recovery.

They say things like "Oh, I wish I had your willpower!" and "I need to lose weight, but I wouldn't have your determination!" and "I should use you as my example! But I just can't give up--" chocolate or soda or potato chips or candy or nachos or MickeyD's or...

Yeh. I know. Me too.

But when you're presented with choice-of-two, instead of the huge buffet spread - when your two choices come down to "sight" or "blindness," "walking" or "wheelchair," "active" or "bedridden," I figure the choice is simple.

There are so many people who draw an unlucky hand. They end up with heart disease, or lose their sight, or develop renal failure, not through having made unhealthy choices but simply because.

While I can still make that choice, every day. Each and ever' blessed day.

I choose health.

You can too.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Wow. I think you knocked it.
    2846 days ago

    Preach! And when I start feeling lethargic about exercise, I remember friends of friends who have suffered strokes and who *can not* run. I remember my supervisor with breast cancer who can not lift her work bag (too much pain in her arm and chest). I remember how someday I will be 'old'(er) and I will wish that I could move the way I can now.

    Embrace it. Choose it. Live it.
    2846 days ago

    Comment edited on: 1/15/2013 4:20:12 PM
    Great blog. My son smokes and chooses to spend over $5 per pack! We calculated how much money he'd save... almost $2000 per year! But I haven't calculated how much money I waste (waist?) on foods that aren't good for me. Yuk.
    Guess I will now. I am monetarily motivated. Need to get Health motivated.
    2846 days ago
    Great blog, Kasey! As a former smoker, I can relate to what you're saying. I was able to put aside cigarettes and never pick up another one, but we are all constantly bombarded with food. Every decision of what we put in our mouths has to become a conscious one. I am still battling mindless eating that is usually stress or depression-generated. But at age 61, with no health insurance, I am remind myself countless times a day that, of all the things that are NOT within my power to control, eating right, staying active, and getting enough rest are three things I CAN do. You are one strong, determined woman, and I know you will do whatever it takes to stay healthy.
    2846 days ago
    Great blog.....
    I never bought smookes by the carton in the 70's but I do remember them being 20c for a pkt of so.....
    OMGosh..thats showing my age...lol....
    2846 days ago
    I stopped smoking out of laziness... hm, you just gave me my blog for the day! Good one, thanks!
    2846 days ago
    YES! The road to the bedridden and wheelchair for me was so close I could see it. That thought and a family member currently in the hospital for liver failure from drinking have smacked me upside the head! You said exactly what I've been thinking. Best wishes to you!

    2846 days ago
    Amen, Kasey, amen!

    When I look at my sister in law, who has no choice of active/inactive... with her ALS... I am humbled and incredibly grateful that my body responded to choices I have been graced to be given!

    Here's to doing WHAT we can, WHEN we can... because not everyone is blessed enough to be ABLE to do these things.

    Spark on and rest well... emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2847 days ago
    Thank goodness as we age we realize we aren't immortal and how precious our life/health is. Whatever the motivating factor, giving up the cigarettes is great. Like you said about quitting, wish it were like that with food...gotta have it, it's around us 24-7, there's no giving up food. But, we CAN give up our old food behaviors and excesses and learn to have a balanced relationship with food...one step, one choice atta time! emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2847 days ago
    emoticon You are so right, It is NEVER. EVER. OVER.
    We make the Choice Every Day, and we Deal with those who say we are Obsessed, or that we can "Relax" a little or that we "Should" act like "Normal" people.
    emoticon emoticon So, yes, I WILL go to the Gym AGAIN, and I WILL Go out and Walk when the Temperature is Freezing, and I will eat The Fresh Fruit & Vegetables (with a Teeny Bit of Chocolate for Dessert occasionally) because the Options ARE. NOT. ACCEPTABLE.
    2847 days ago
  • no profile photo CD9922996
    Health is a great motivator; so is wanting to age with a little dignity. It doesn't always win the argument, but it's slowly pulling away to win the race.

    2847 days ago
    Great blog today and so true!
    2847 days ago
  • POPSY190
    And the healthier food tends to be more expensive than the cheaper options! :( But, like you, fear drives me on to the better path. My family tree is riddled with heart problems and some cancers, and I have a good friend, with her brain as alert as ever, immured in care because of a total lack of mobility and bowel issues - and long-term obesity. There are others I know in similar situations and I don't want to spend my latter years sick of life.
    You are so right about the simple, uncomplicated choice; difficult as it might be to control food intake, there's only one way to go for health and longevity.
    Great blog and should be read by all aspiring Sparkers.
    2847 days ago
    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2847 days ago
    Great, great blog!! Smoking is close to over eating. At least it was for me. But, if you eat a healthy diet, you can fill up with good foods. Save those things you "can't give up" for a special treat once in awhile. They will mean much more to you then!! You have done so well and are an inspiration to many. Keep on keeping on with what you've been doing and blogging in such a positive way! i am so proud of you!!
    2847 days ago
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