bye1.gifI said goodbye to an old friend a few weeks ago. We’ve known each other almost thirty years, ever since I started high school really.

We were together on my first date, first kiss, and first trip overseas. We were hand in hand when I left home to go to university.

My friend was there when I started my first real grown-up job, has seen girlfriends come and go, and has been my solace when I had nobody to turn to.

We briefly parted ways from time to time but always managed to find each other. We laughed, we danced, we stressed and we wept together.

We shared our ups and downs. Some times we exercised together and every now and then we even bathed together. That’s a lot of togetherness.

In the past few months I have slowly wakened up to the fact that this friend of mine, who I thought had always been there for me, has slowly been poisoning me from the inside out.

My friend has been digging into my pocketbook on a daily basis for the past 30 years, and stealing my money at the same time as he’s been stealing minutes from my life. My friend has not really been my friend at all.

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My friend has been blackening my lungs, stinking up my clothes and shortening my breath.

There is more to creating or destroying health than diet. If you are still smoking tobacco, or are concerned about a loved one who is then read on. Even if you are a non-smoker or x-smoker remembers the rule of polluted air – if you can smell it you are inhaling it.

Some people say that giving up smoking is one of the hardest things they have ever done. For me, cigarettes have been the punctuation in my life. They have provided the pauses, full stops and exclamations. They have defined moments.

They have marked the end of meals, the beginnings of conversations and the middle of periods of waiting. They have taken up random moments that I needed to occupy. I associate just about everything with smoking.

And yet quitting smoking has been surprisingly easy this time around. Last time I quit I found each day was a battle. I finally gave up on the fight after six months. That was five years ago.

I have known for some time that my relationship with smoking was on a downhill slope. It’s not that we haven’t been getting along. It’s just that I’ve been starting to realise how much more I was giving than receiving.

For the past few months, as I woke up and hacked up a lung while wheezing down my first smoke of the day, I told myself that I needed to quit smoking. I guess I was just mentally preparing myself.

Then one day I just snapped and realised that I’d had enough. I told myself that my next day off I would quit. And I did.

It’s been three weeks now and I’m mostly fine. Sometimes I pause what I’m doing and realise that the old me would be lighting up a cigarette right then. So I just find something else to occupy my thoughts and my hands.

Even though I know that I’m better off without them, I still do grieve a little for my old friend. We were together a long time and shared many important moments.

This has all left me with a few questions though. What do non-smokers use to punctuate their lives? Maybe quitting smoking is less about the cigarettes and more about learning to fill those moments.

Maybe it’s about not needing to define moments at all. Either way I suppose I am freer now than when I was tied down to my pack of smokes. I have to do it all alone, but at least I can breathe easy as I do. And of course not to forget the money I am going to save.

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