written early in my second month of freedom from smoking and originally posted on december 25, 2001, this tale holds my christmas wishes for my online quitting family.

christmas wish

2009 January 20

when i was a kid, i always had a list of christmas wishes as long as your arm, and, in true childish fashion, every single one of those wishes was for me... it took me a long time to really understand the old saying, "'tis better to give than to receive". when i was a kid, that idea just made absolutely no sense at all to me; i mean, after all, what could be better than getting everything you'd asked for, and more? (not that i often got more than i asked for; i asked for a lot, and i was only one of five kids in my family. in fact, i very seldom got everything that i asked for, but that never stopped me from making that list as long as my arm...)

when my doctor told me that i'd given myself emphysema, and that if i didn't stop smoking it would kill me, it scared the hell out of me. for one thing, i didn't even know what emphysema was, except for that it was obviously something that i didn't want to have...

well, i'm older now; this is my 45th christmas. my "nuclear" family is a lot smaller than it used to be; dad's gone, and so is bob (god, i miss them both so much, especially now, in the darkest days of the year...), ken's youngest kid is about to go into college, and my "baby" sisters (twins) are both grown women with families of their own. the best part of christmas for me these days is getting stuff for my nieces and nephews, but it's a lot different when your oldest nephew is past 30 and the majority of them are old enough to vote...

but this year, my "extended" family has grown quite a bit... back in the middle of november, i found out that, as the direct result of feeding my demon for 35 years, i've given myself an advanced case of emphysema. it's not life-threatening, but i've pretty much destroyed both my lungs' capacity (down to about half of what would be considered "normal" for someone my size) and elasticity (barely more than 30% of what it should be). and maybe, for most people, this wouldn't be such a big deal (after all, it's not going to kill me), but my life-long passion is music. i have an advanced degree in it from one of the top conservatories in the world, and for a number of years made my living (among other musical activities) as a professional trombonist and singer; those days are gone forever now...

but i digress; i was talking about how my extended family has grown recently...

when my doctor told me that i'd given myself emphysema, and that if i didn't stop smoking it would kill me, it scared the hell out of me. for one thing, i didn't even know what emphysema was, except for that it was obviously something that i didn't want to have... when i came home from the doctor's office that day, i came here to my computer, launched my browser and typed in the address for google, where i ran a search on "emphysema"; the first site that came up in the listings was the american lung association site, and i went there to see what i could find out about this thing that wanted to kill me...

while i was there, i saw that they had an on-line smoking cessation program called "freedom from smoking"; i read the overview, and decided to take it. almost as soon as i'd posted my introduction on the message boards there, i met the first members of my new family; Debi W. and Chrissy. as i went through that program, i added more members to my extended family; people that had started before me and reached back to give me a hand (usually just when i needed it), others who started around the same time, and still others who had yet to start down the road we're all traveling (or getting ready to travel)...

Chrissy would often repost pieces from quitsmokingdiaries over there; they always said something like, "Life's Viewmaster by rubyread@quitsmokingdiaries.com" - and it was ruby's words that led me to that site, where my family continued to grow...

anyway, if that isn't about the longest damn introduction you've ever seen, i'll finally get to the wishes:

for those of us who are still smoking:

i wish that you could feel how great it feels to take control of your life back from the addiction that's been running you, like a puppet on a string, for all this time; that you could know how worth it it is to pay the price to get here, to taste freedom, no matter what the price is...

for those of us who have just started down the road of freedom, whether we've been walking it a day or a week or a month:

i wish that you would realize how much stronger your commitment could be if you'd regularly reach back and say an encouraging word or two to somebody who's just starting out on this road: it's so hard to get through those first few days and weeks, and you never know what will keep someone's spirits high enough to make that effort; how great would it feel to know that you've been instrumental in saving somebody's life???

and for those of us who've been on the road of freedom for a while; whether that time be measured in months or years:

i wish that you will always remember that you're "always a puff away from a pack a day"; that all it takes is to feed the demon a single puff to return yourself to total and abject slavery to your addiction... half a lifetime ago, i walked the road for over three years, and then, in a moment of arrogance, stupidity, or just plain forgetfulness, i took that first puff and delivered myself back into bondage to my addiction, and it took me over 20 years to break free again. in the meantime, i gave myself emphysema, and destroyed any chance of continuing to pursue the career that has brought me the most fulfillment i've ever known...

finally, for all who are reading this message:

i wish you peace, and love, and every good thing in your life; i wish you the best holiday season that you've ever experienced, whatever holiday you're celebrating, and the happiest of new years when the clock ticks over into 2002.

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2 responses leave one →
  1. 2004 August 20
    Marvel permalink

    Bravo. And thank you for constant inspiration.

  2. 2009 January 20

    note: the comment above was left on the original tale at the date and time indicated.

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