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… I borrowed $5 from MoC so I could buy a pack of cigarettes. She handed it over without a word. We were in my cousin’s car, I didn’t have my wallet and I was about 2 words away from a homicidal rampage. I was in the process of moving from a rat hole to this fabulous apartment and my cousin was pinging my last nerve.

So MoC gave me the money, I bought the smokes and didn’t kill or maim my cousin (or anyone else). I smoked the last cigarette in that pack at 10:30 that evening – as a two-and-a-half packs a day smoker, I was pacing myself – and haven’t smoked a cigarette since. We moved and hauled and cleaned and argued until almost midnight and then everyone left me in my new place and I collapsed on a mattress in the bedroom. When I woke up, the cat was plastered to my side because it was freeeeeeezing cold. I didn’t even care. I’d lived so long with a window unit that didn’t work that I was happy to pay an outrageous electric bill to be chilly in July. Viva la central air!

I spent the rest of the weekend unpacking and rearranging furniture and I was too busy to dwell on not smoking. I guess I thought about it (I really don’t remember but I smoked for 25 years. I had to have thought about it) but quitting wasn’t nearly as hard as everyone said it would be. Because I had a nice new apartment with beautiful clean white walls (the rat hole had dark paneling), I didn’t want to smoke in the new place. I fully expected to be outside on the deck within a week. But a week passed and I still didn’t smoke. Then another week passed. Then it started getting hard.

I’ve written about the joys of emphysema before. It doesn’t affect me a lot today but back then I had a hard time breathing and couldn’t walk a flight of stairs without serious difficulty. Everyone told me that I would feel better when I quit smoking. I waited and waited, but I didn’t feel better. In fact, for months afterward, I think I felt worse. It was six months before I began to see even the tiniest of improvements. Those six months were the hardest because I couldn’t see any real reason not to smoke; if I wasn’t going to be able to run a mile on a whim, what was the point?

It took two years to get to the point – and the point is that today I can breathe. I still have problems (and always will) but I can do so much more than I ever thought possible. I can’t run a mile on a whim (nor do I really want to), but I can walk that mile. I can do it at a pretty brisk clip, too.

It still crosses my mind sometimes. Sitting at the computer, I have reached out only to realize there isn’t an ashtray there. Or after a meal, I still have that craving, that nagging feeling I’m missing something. It goes away.

But even if it never goes away … I’m not missing a damn thing.

My quit meter today reads: Two years, 12 hours, 41 minutes and 25 seconds. 36576 cigarettes not smoked, saving $5,760.79. Life saved: 18 weeks, 1 day, 0 minutes.

What I said a year ago