I was 12 years old, standing in a park with a group of my friends. I wasn’t necessarily someone who caused trouble, looked for trouble, but I didn’t hang around with the best crowd either. I hung with the “cool kids” and not because I thought I was cool by any means, but because it was the way to get more friends. You know, school is all about games in the social life. Games I wish I didn’t play. Games I hope I can teach my kids not to play.
So, there I was, hanging out in this park. It was an obscure park, in the middle of a housing track. Not some park that was out in the open. In fact, it was not far from a house I used to live in. And though it was a park, it didn’t have any toys. It was meant for the housing track to use to BBQ and sit in. Through it there was a small riding trail for bikes. One I used to use often to get between friend’s houses and mine.
It was also the park where my parents discovered my cat, dead, when I was just 4 years old. Her name was Joan Jett. Sammy Hagar, our other cat, would be found dead there a week later.
You see, this park has a lot of history for me. And though I’m about to tell you about one particular moment in this park, over the next few years this park would remain my stomping ground. This park is the stage for many important moments in my childhood. Though, in this moment, it would become my worst memory.
Many things happened during my childhood that can only be defined as “sucked.” My parents fought, a lot. Then they finally divorced, we lost my childhood home to foreclosure, and I went in to my teenager years like a bat out of hell. Finally, I moved out at just 17 years old. There are few fond memories. But, of all the things I have done in my life, I only have one regret.
Standing in that park, at just 12, I was with several friends. The leader of our group was Judy, a girl I should have never trusted. She hung out with all the wrong people, got drunk, and was probably the worst influence. And, she’s the one that handed me my first cigarette. It was a Marlboro Red.
Unlike a great deal of first time smokers, I immediately took to smoking. It was around me often as my family, now fallen away from the LDS church had a lot of smokers. My mom came home one day and just began smoking, my oldest brother was living at home, also smoking. My next door neighbor, that I hung out with a lot, also a smoker.
That first drag was nothing to me. I had been around it too long. I inhaled without cocking or coughing. And from that moment on, I smoked.
I went home that night with a pack of cigarettes, and I handed them to my oldest brother, Steve to hid from Mom for me. I went in his room, from time to time, to grab a cigarette but there he kept that pack for three days. That’s as long as it took for me to tell my mom, 3 days.
After telling my mom that I was smoking, and showing her my pack, she came to my room and said to me….
[quote]I have three words for you…
NO. MORE. SMOKING.[/quote]
She walked out of my room and that was the last time my mom would protest my smoking. She’ll tell you now that it was because she knew that I was going to do what I wanted to do, regardless of what she said. She’s right.
It was less than a week later that I began to smoke in front of the whole family. We were smoking in the house at the time and it was no big deal for me to join in and smoke with everyone else.
It took a couple of years but I finally became a pack a day smoker. And it was far too easy for me to get cigarettes. With the whole family smoking, I could always ask for one. I was never told no.
My brother, Doug, had begun having children and my charge for babysitting was packs of cigarettes. How many packs depended on how long I’d be babysitting. A few hours? Give me 2 packs. Overnight? Give me 4 packs.
In high school my mom began to ask everyday “do you want lunch money or a pack of cigarettes?” I always chose smokes, and shared them with my best friend who always chose lunch money from her mom. We were set.
My sister, Morgan, worked at RiteAid and her feet ached after standing on them all day long. A nightly massage and often a pedicure charge? A pack of cigarettes.
My neighbor had a little girl when I was just 14, I also charged her for babysitting in cigarettes. And, if that wasn’t enough cigarettes for me, I also babysat for a great deal of other people for cash which I, of course, used to purchase cigarettes.
Should I run into a situation where all my over 18 sources could not get me a pack of cigarettes, I was not above walking to the local convenient store to play a game of “Hey Mister.”
[quote]Hey, Mister! Excuse me. Would you mind buying me a pack of cigarettes?[/quote]
You’d be surprised how often this works.
At 17 years old, I moved out of the house. Getting my cigarettes remained easy as I was living with my best friend, who was already 18. From there, it was all downhill.
Cigarettes have dictated my life. I choose partners who smoked, as to not hear complaints and I have timed breaks at work to have a cigarette. I used to put on my work clothes only seconds before I walked out the door to not smell like smoke when I arrived at work.
Rarely did I run in to a situation where I couldn’t smoke. And even more rare was for me to be hanging out with a non-smoker. They are everywhere in my life, and they help me hold on to my worst habit.
It was only during my pregnancy, with the boys, that I began to realize how smoking controlled me, and that I didn’t have any control on the situation.
And that came after multiple attempts to quit. Many.
In the almost 21 years I have been a smoker I have tried to quit many times. I’ve been successful, once. But, I’m over it. And this time I believe I have the perfect storm to finally give up my worst habit.
Read: How I Quit Smoking