Thursday, January 15, 2009


When wrestling with the decision to write or not to write, the first sentence can be difficult. I don't know where to start! I share bits and pieces of my life here but no one, not even me, likes to admit to owning a personal character defect for the world to judge. Damn. Maybe I should wait and write about this when the jitters are gone, but this is important and big for me. And writing is always good therapy when I need it.

You see, I had a friend that stayed with me for most of my adult life. I kept this friend close to me, always within reach. This friend, however, was weighing me down - a monkey on my back. I finally decided to let go of it and the intense love-hate relationship I had - with a cigarette.

To save face a little bit here, I was a courteous closet smoker, not one of those types who walk and talk with a cig stuck to their bottom lip, dropping ashes all over. Always, my designated area was outdoors where I ducked around corners to be out of view. Most people who know me casually didn’t even know I was a smoker. And, I spent lots of time popping breath mints and washing my hands to hide what was killing me.

There have been family, friends, and complete strangers who chastised me publicly about my habit. They spoke out of concern and made good sense, but boy, did I want to flatten them. Yeah, right out there in public view where I always took their jabs. Did they think I was stupid and needed repeated lectures? Whether I smoked five or twenty a day, it was too many and I knew it! I acknowledged my addiction.

The question I still struggle to answer is why I continued to jeopardize my health and didn’t stop smoking sooner than later. A tendency towards self destruction and addictions are subjects too deep to talk about here; however, having Quitting on my mind often, the first reaction was, “It’s too hard.” Second thought, "I might fail. I will fail.” Believe me, nicotine is a monster drug. It’s the bomb. It claims you.

I remember where my Mom’s lung disease took her during her last decade. Oh, she suffered a great deal and was near death a few times. In late April 2006, we had our last conscious conversation in a coronary care unit. I remember every word, how she looked, and the way she looked at me. The wonderful nurses in the CCU had rolled her, bathed her, changed her gown and bed linens, and reattached her syringes, tubes, and breathing apparatus. Everyone constantly watched her heart rate and blood gases on monitors behind her bed. We could talk and hear each other above the noise that horrible oxygen mask made, covering her mouth and nose, forcing air into her lungs to relieve her stressed heart. A few of our last words spoken,

“I’m comfortable. Those nurses wore me out. (smile) I’m going to take a nap now, Mary. Go home and check on Daddy.”

“Ok, Mom. Rest.”

“Don’t forget to quit that smoking.”

“I promise.”

A few weeks later, she died in the same hospital unit.

Almost three years later, I’m keeping the promise I made that day.

Four days ago, I buried my last cigarette butt in a bowl of kitty litter, looked toward the sky, and saw Cedar Waxwings overhead.



She sent me Cedar Waxwings.



Because I’m in "rehab", blogging will wait but I'll be back in a few days. I’m all out of sorts. The first week is the toughest, dealing with those habitual triggers. In several weeks, I’ll wean myself from the Nicotine gum that helps to keep me awake for all the buzzing around I do. Can’t be idle.

I’ve been nice and even-tempered this week, only slightly irritable, often off-task and lacking focus, but still laughing and feeling good. At a dreaded budget meeting on Tuesday morning, I did, however, pretend to light up my pencil and puff on baby carrots.

I’m winning :o)



(((hugs))) to you Mary - I've always thought that cigarettes must be a bear to quit. You've got a lot of people rooting for you!

Appalachian Lady said...

Just writing about it will help you quit for good. Please keep us posted. Think about all the money you will save and years you are adding to your life.

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Oh May!
I'm so very proud of you.
So is your Mom.

Kim said...

Congrats Mary!!! Shhhhh, don't tell anyone but I am a smoker. I too try and hide it, but it doesn't work. I have tried a few times to quit but I am always making up excuses and go back. I am going to try it again in the summer when I am not as down as I am now.

I will be so cheering you on because if you can quit than so can I. Your mother's gift of cedar waxwings was wonderful.

Keep the strength and chew that gum. I know how awful it tastes but it does give you that buzz you need when you are trying to kick the habit. ;o)

Betsy Banks Adams said...

I'm with you, Mary... I've never smoked but I am and have been addicted to FOOD. It's the same kind of thing.. Food like cigarettes are our friends. It's never easy---but we can both change our habits and lifestyle, one day at a time.

You need to read my blog entitled "Taint Funny"--which I wrote 3 days ago. You'll see some of what I've been through. Life can be hard---and it's all about loving ourselves and wanting a change within ourselves. Nobody else can do it for us. It's all up to us.

I'm proud of you for being able to write about it. That is a HUGE step. You'll find (as I did) that you have plenty of support, love and prayer --and HUGS.

Hang in there, Mary. I will pray for you --and for me.
P.S. Your mama is smiling down at you!

Anonymous said...

You rock, Mary! We are all cheering for you, so let us know how we can help

jason said...

Good luck, Mary. I wish you all the best. I've smoked off and on for 20 years and wish I had the discipline you're showing with this post, let alone the actual effort you've already put into it. Best wishes for your success!

Anonymous said...

Smoker here too. Wish I had your courage Mary!! You can do it!!


Wendy said...

Dear Mary, please continue to blog. Writing really helps. I know.
Wishing you all the best in "rehab". I know from watching dear hubby take off his oxygen hose, hang it on the doorknob of the bathroom, and light up, how difficult quitting smoking must be.

Hang in there, we're all cheering for you.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Go Mary Go. I know you can do it!! It won't be easy, but is anything worth doing easy?? Take care of yourself. I know you can.

possumlady said...

Big HUG to you Mary!! I have to admit that growing up in a family where both parents smoked (and hating it) I could never understand people who did smoke. I drew pictures of black lungs and stuck them on my parents' cigarettes to no avail.

I'm now wiser and much more tolerant. From all studies it seems that smoking and nicotine addiction is probably the hardest to give up.

Your smoking sounds like how my mom smoked. Never in front of anyone and only 3 a after each meal. She finally quit cold turkey when she was going to have minor oral surgery and her dentist told her she couldn't smoke for two weeks.

There are so many different programs out there. If this one doesn't stick, find another.

Best of luck and keep us posted. We will love you whatever the outcome.

A New England Life said...

Mary, my thoughts are with you. I know this has to be a very difficult addiction to break. You take as much time as you need away from blogging. Just take care of you : )


Mary said...

Thanks to everyone...

Oh, this is so good. People at the office have told me they don't want to mention my quitting for fear of reminding me that I'd love to "burn one" but I tell them, "Keep talking to me!" If they don't talk to me, I'll talk to myself :o) It takes constant brainwashing!

Kallen, the gum tastes great - Cinnamon flavored. It doesn't give a "buzz" or "high" as I'm on a low dose of 2mg every two hours.

Anonymous said...

I quit, over 12 years ago. I smoked three packs a day there at the end, I did it cold turkey, no gum, no patches. It was the best thing I ever did, in the beginning it was difficult, I gained 30 pounds eating a cookie every time I wanted a cigarette, I should have bought stock in Nabisco before I quit. I can't imagine smoking now, it doesn't even bother me to be around smokers, it just takes time. You can do it!

Dog_geek said...

Good for you, Mary! Congrats for taking that first big step. You can do it! (My word verification is "nestest" - kind of birdy, huh?)

jane augenstein said...

Good for you Mary!!! You can do it!!!

Heidi said...

Oh Mary! I just want to give you a great big hug and I'm not a hugger! I'm so proud of you for taking that step which is a doozy! Keep it up!

And keep looking at them birdies and looking for more of the Cedar Waxwings your Mom sends you, and a little extra coffee won't hurt :) Substitution is okay I hear! Plus, I just heard on the news, moderate coffee drinkers have a much lower tendency to get dementia or Alzheimer's.

Carol Michel said...

You go girl. I've never smoked but can only imagine how hard it is to give it up after all these years.

YOU can do it!

(I don't know how it is where you are, but here in Indianapolis, all workplaces and restaurants, other than bars are now smoke free, so I don't know where anyone would find a place to smoke other than at home.)

Beth in NYC said...

Congrats, Mary, on taking that first step. I've not had to do something like this but I know from hearsay that quitting smoking is a bear. Good luck and stay strong! :-)

Anonymous said...

Good For You, Mary!
Sending you lots of support, encouragement, and laughter for when the struggle seems like it's winning.

Wayne, PA

Corey said...

You go girl! I love that mom sent you waxwings . . seems that kind of message is going around.

Anonymous said...

I'm with possum lady- we love you, and we will all be here for you, no matter what the outcome.
love and hugs, gretchen

Susan Gets Native said...

*sticking head out of closet*

Me too, Mary. I started at age 16, got down to just a few a day while pregnant with Isabelle ( how's that guilt taste, Susan?), then it went back up and then I quit. For a year.
Then, during a really bad depressive fit, I bought a pack, thinking I could just have "some" and then not need any more. Kind of like the Junkie who says "just this once".
I've yo-yo'd for a long time, just waiting until I am ready to do it again.

1. Yes, keep those people talking to you. If that's what you need, it will work.
2. If you backslide, just get back up again.
3. I love you even more than I did yesterday.
(Okay, that last one isn't a tip, but you need to know it anyway.)

Mary said...

Susan, I quit while I was pregnant with Gina only because cigs made me sick. I still tried, though...

Three weeks after Gina was born, the colic got to me. My neighbor brought me a pack. And I hid them for several years. I've always been sneaky about it.

I love you too.

KGMom said...

But, it won't be easy.
Remember I used to work for the health department. Nicotine is a very very very addictive substance. And it will try to defeat you.
Don't let it.
All sorts of benefits--easier breathing (means longer walks, more stamina); food tastes better; skin looks younger (oooo--that's a good one); clothes smell fresher. Etc. etc. etc.
Anytime you need encouragement, you can send me an email--I have lots more bits to toss your way.
But HANG IN THERE. It is totally totally totally worth it.
Oh, forgot to mention--I am PROUD of you too.

Mary said...

Donna, it's only been four days and I feel great already. No wheezing, clear breathing, more pep in my step... When I feel a strong urge coming on, I get up and take a walk. It works.

Ruth said...

Good luck Mary. Your honesty in writing this post is a big step in your rehab.

Anonymous said...

Mary, that is wonderful news. You know there's big group of cheerleaders here for you.

p.s., my word verification on this comment is ednwing - a new bird to discover?

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your decision, Mary! GOOD FOR YOU!!! If I can offer some unsolicited advice . . . my sister quit smoking after 20 years of it. She started with the gum and was really struggling. I convinced her to go talk to her doctor. He had her taking gum and patch and taking antidepressants. It eased everything immensely. She has been off cigarettes for like 5 years now, I think. So, my advice is . . . if it gets too hard, get help. I've read that the anti-depressants can be essential for breaking the addiction part.

Dawn Fine said...

Good luck to you Mary! I hope this goes smoothly for you. The waxwings were a wonderful sign and as you can see we are all here for you.

LostRoses said...

Dear Mary, more power to you. My doctor prescribed Prozac to help me quit smoking 20 years ago. They made me so damned happy I didn't care if I quit or not. I kicked the anti-depressant, but not the nicotine. One of these days....and I'm glad your day has come!

Kerri Farley said...

OH Mary...I am so proud of you. I am crying right now because I'm sure this was a VERY hard thing to write about. I was a smoker too. I even snuck a few while I was pregnant....and still feel guilty about that. I tried quitting...or only smoking at certain times....after a meal....or in the car. In 2002 I lost a dear friend to lung cancer (54 years old) and I haven't had one since....but there is still a longing.

Keep on plugging away Mary! You will be in my thoughts.

Jayne said...

It is probably one of the hardest addictions Mary, and you should really pat yourself on the back for trying. You will succeed, I know you will. :c) I tell many of my patients that it is probably the single best thing they could do for their health, but still, it's monumentally difficult. Good luck my friend.

Unknown said...

We will all be thinking of you and lending our support. Hugs (((())))
you can do it. give yourself a mantra everyday as much as you need it "I am smoke free".

Angie said...

Oh Mary, Mary, Mary, thank you, my dear friend, for writing this!! 'They' are still my cross to bear at the moment---but if you can do it, can I??? Every night I go to bed saying "I won't pick one up in the morning", and every morning I pick one up. You have written EXACTLY my thoughts about those loving warnings --- I'm not stupid --- I know --- Thank you, thank you --- maybe I'll try this 'rehab' with you. :)

Rose said...

More power to you, Mary! If you have already gone four days, you've conquered the hardest hurdle already.
Those of us still "in the closet" know what you are going through and want so much for you to succeed. Well-meaning friends who try to give advice and those who try to scare you have no idea how powerful this addiction can be; as you say, we're not "stupid." You're an inspiration, Mary--today is not my day, but I AM going to look into a program soon.

Q said...

Dear Mary,
I do remember when I gave this gift to myself. My 50th birthday present. I declared, when I quit, "Nothing nor no-one was going to trick me back to smoking!" This was MY gift and I hung tight. The camera is a great help.
I am here if you want to chat.
She gave you Waxwings!
They are beautiful.
You already have won the first battle!

Gail said...

You can do it! You might want to have one again and be tempted but that's normal...You just have to make the decision not to when that happens. I quit over 30 yrs ago and am very glad for that...


beckie said...

Mary, I know what a tough decision you have made. That's the hardest part I think! As a smoker myself, I am wishing you success. And, this is important!! Be kind to yourself.

I wish you all the best!

Tina said...

Very proud you took this step, a very difficult one for sure but its a one day at a time fight. Celebrate ea day's accomplishments and do come here for encouragement..we will be here for you! Cedar wax wings..what a wonderful bird your Mother sent to you...great signs of strength and determination that you can do this!

Mary said...

You are all wonderful. I'm overwhelmed with so much kindness support. It's very challenging right now but: Funny thing - I'm not struggling as much as I thought I would. I have a strong will about this... And, I'm so happy! Sure, I still reach into my pocket for a lighter and cigarette a few times a day, only to remember I'm in a better place now.

Thanks. I appreciate all of you.

Mary said...

For those of you who are smoking and would like to quit, you'll know when it's time. I planned my last cigarette ceremony for weeks. I knew it was time.

Anonymous said...

Mary, may I add one more thing? Whenever you feel the urge to smoke, just repeat to yourself "She sent me cedar waxwings... She sent me cedar waxwings.."
hugs, gretchen

Rurality said...

Good luck! I have been through it, and in fact had to try several times before being able to make it stick. Sounds like you are on the right track - you're right, the first week is the hardest.

Laurie and company said...

You gooooooooo, Mary! I can only imagine how hard this is for you! You can do it and You will be glad you did it!
Such an encouraging post! Thanks for exposing yourself...we've all got our monkeys!
Have a great weekend, love your pictures, as always!

Robin's Nesting Place said...

My mom was in the hospital attached to monitors, preparing for open heart surgery the next morning. I was stunned when she ripped everything off and headed to the designated area to smoke. It took a few health scares, but she did quit! My dad still does it. He's been smoking since he was a teen. His sister has severe emphysema. He already has a chronic cough. It scares me.

I'm so proud of you, Mary! What a wonderful thing to do, not only for those you love, but for yourself as well. You can do it!

Anonymous said...

Good luck, Mary, kick the cig's ass! I had my first smoke at age 25, and smoked for another 8 years. Quitting was tough (all 30 times!), but I finally kicked it. App Lady's right: Writing about it will help a ton. And I'm sure you'll have lots of amusing anecdotes about quitting, which I'll enjoy tremendously. Think of it as quitting for the jokes.

Cheryl said...

Hi have my respect....although I have never smoked, I always admire those that quit the habit......only they know what they are going through....

Sending you positive thoughts and Mary, your Mum would be proud of you..........

Peg Silloway said...

Good for you, Mary! You maybe don't know what an inspiration you are - in your honest blogging, your photography, and now your courage to shed cigarettes. You know there's a virtual community that is cheering for you every minutes. Feel that warmth? It's all the hugs being sent your way.

I like your idea of a ceremony, and I'm actually planning one for myself on Tuesday - my own inauguration to a new way. It's food, not cigarettes, but an addiction is an addiction.

Keep up the good fight! There will be stressful times when the craving will be whispering at you, but we're all here in your corner cheering to drown it out!

Andrea said...

You should be so proud of yourself!!! I'm rooting for you! Keep us posted. :)

jalynn01 said...

Oh Mary!! I was a smoker and I know how difficult this can be. You have to be amount of brainwashing works unless you are. It sure sounds like you are ready. I will be praying for your success. Everyday as I care for my 82 yr. old father who has COPD I Thank God that I gave up cigarettes years ago. Everytime I see someone smoking or anything to do with cigarettes I will PRAY for YOU. We're all pulling for you.

Anonymous said...

Somewhere in this long string of comments, I leave my best wishes. I know that this comment will be burried deeper than that last butt by your many well wishers comments that are sure to follow. Do well, Mary, do well! Love you Cedar Waxwings. One of my favorites.

Ramblings of a Villas Girl said...

Hi Mary! Good for you. Smoking is a bad habit that I know all too well. And a hard habit to break. You'll do it. You have great determination. Lisa

Beth said...

I wish you the best in kicking this addiction, Mary. I'm proud of you and you must be proud of you, too. I watched my boyfriend many years ago die of lung cancer - a slow and painful death. And now I watch my mom struggle with COPD from smoking. I know your mom is sending you healing energy and strength. Keep us posted -


Anonymous said...

Mary, as you know I was obsessed with a computer game for 5 months and the game became an addiction to me. I know it isn't like smoking but I had many wonderful bloggers like your self be supportive and everyone was here for me once I returned. Take all the time you need and we will be here to help you anyways you need! BTW: love your Waxwings and keep up with one of the hardest things you will ever have to do!

Heather said...

Congrats, Mary! This was a very personal thing that you have decided to share with us, and I applaud you for the strength to share and the strength to quit. We are all here for you. My aunt quit smoking about a year ago when she was diagnosed with COPD, but my uncle still smokes. No one can convince him to quit, for his own health or for my aunt's. I don't know how she does it with another smoker in the house, but she does. I'm proud of her, and I'm proud of you.

Debbie said...

Way to go, Mary! I just know you can kick it. I will pray for you and your success and journey to better health.

Elaine Cougler Author said...

Yay! Good for you, Mary. I have never smoked, thank God, but have found a similar addiction to eating. At the moment, I, too, am winning with Weight Watchers' help. Here's to winning permanently!

Minerva said...

Congratulations and good luck.

I lost my Mom in the 90's. Cedar Waxwings were her favorite. She refused to let my Dad chop down our pyracantha bush while I was growing up, because the C.W.W.'s would fly through during migration and stop there for a few days every year. Your post brought me to tears, and dug up some good memories for me.

Mary C said...

Mary, 59 supporters ahead of me and counting. What a great support group you have here. Something tells me you can feel all the hugs and encouragement you are receiving. Way to go, my friend!

Annie in Austin said...

Best of luck and a hug from Texas, Mary - some people in my family struggled but managed to quit and think it was the battle.

I'm imagining you in pain, breathing hard and using a Cedar Waxwing as a focus point, working to deliver a smoke free future.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Anonymous said...

Mary, I hope all is well with your journey. You seem like a strong person and I know you will make this happen.

nina at Nature Remains. said...

Yay, Mary!
And though I've never been a smoker, I can imagine the struggle it is and will be to stay the course.
I'm proud of you for taking that first step and admire you for mentioning it here--where you know you'll be pestered to keep on keeping on.
Good luck!
I know this is something you will be very glad you've done.

Seabrooke said...

Congrats on making the decision, Mary - that's the biggest, hardest step of the whole thing. I've never smoked, but my boyfriend does, and has for the five years I've known him. I never used to appreciate how hard it was to make that decision and follow through on it, but now that I've lived with a smoker who wants to quit but can't (yet), I have much more respect for those smokers who do take that huge, difficult step. It will be a tough road, but you've already accomplished the hardest part. I wish you all the best in sticking to it.

LauraHinNJ said...

(Maybe no one will notice this way down here at the bottom.)


(Closet-smoker, too.)


When you've done it Mary, maybe you'll help me quit?

(Fellow hand-washer and gum-chewer.)



Anonymous said...

Way to go Mary!
My husband is a smoker and I sure wish he's quit too!

Wsprsweetly Of Cottages said...

We had a year to retirement. I would hear him coughing in the bathroom. Deep inside, I just knew. One afternoon I got on my knees in front of him and said "I am begging you. Please stop smoking. You are killing yourself. I want to grow old with you. I want us to travel, enjoy our retirement. Our children are grown and this is our time. PLEASE!" He tried. He really did.
This was in August. That December he had a massive stroke and died within ten days. No warning. They told me he had lung cancer and it went to his brain and caused a stroke. Our life together was over. He never saw his grandchildren grow up. He missed it all. I adored him and I still do. That was eleven years ago.
Mary, you have a chance. I know you know all of this stuff..but have a chance. I will be thinking of you and hoping something gives you the strength to do it!!

The Quacks of Life said...

my friend Trish (who is a blogger0 gave up this year.

I suggested that she stick the money towards the camera fund.

by the way WHEN you suceed you'll be virulently anti-ciggies!! amazing how those he give up are most anti-smoking

TR Ryan said...

Yeah Mary!!! I am so proud of you. Now you will have to give us updates. I can imagine its tough but how many people quit smoking while 68 blog fans cheer you on? We'll celebrate your four month anniversary in W.V.!!!

And in those really tough times when the cigarette is in your hand - remember Mona's story (two comments up) and remember your mother and then put the cigarette down and go make yourself a hot fudge sundae.

NatureWoman said...

Wow, Mary, I give you a lot of credit. Keep up the great work.

Julie Zickefoose said...

Out of pain comes great writing. I can completely identify with what a struggle it must have been to come "out" here and make your quitting public. I love you and can't wait to give you an extra hug for doing this for you and for all those who love you.

The images you wove in this post will stay with me a long time.

RuthieJ said...

Way to go Mary! I'm as happy to hear this news from you as I was when my Sissy told me a couple months ago that she was quitting too. I can totally understand how hard it would be to give up the addiction.....if someone told me I had to stop knitting, I don't think I could do it because after 40 years, it's just such a huge part of my life.
It will be tough, but I know you're tougher! Hang in there girlfriend! We're all rooting for you!

JeanMac said...

Yeah, Mary. Drink lots of ice water and have cinnamon toothpicks handy. How do I know- yup, quit in '78 - only smoked 2 years but I was majorly hooked. Lots of exercise,too. It go so our German Shepherd would try to hide when I reached for her leash - normally she was crazy to walk. Yeah, Mary!!!

Larry said...

Good for you Mary!I smoked from the time I was 12 until about 30 before quitting for good.-Don't let that addiction sneak up on you.

Kathie Brown said...

Mary, hang in there! Though I have not fought this addiction, I have friends and family who have and I know how hard it is. We are all rooting for you. Remember this when that little white stick calls to you. I hope our blogging voices are louder and encourage you to say no! Let us stand in the gap for you and help you through this difficult time. We'd all like to have you around for a long time to come! And no matters what, we love you!

Anonymous said...