written before i actually quit smoking and originally posted on november 18, 2001, this is just what it says; a goodbye letter to my cigarettes. in it, i talk about the long-term relationship i'd had with cigarettes and why i now intend to break that relationship off.

goodbye letter to my cigarettes

2008 December 31

dear cigarettes:

it's over between us, this time for good. looking back, i realize that i was wrong about you, and about who was in control in our relationship. you always had it your way; now i realize that i can't afford to be with you any more.

we've had a long relationship; in fact, ours is one of the longest-lasting relationships i've had in my life - we've been together off and on for 35 years now. i know we've had our ups and downs, and there were times when i put you out of my life for a time; our longest break-up was over three years. but i've always come back to you; you have an almost irresistible quality for me. and you've been faithful; i could always count on you being there in a moment of crisis - you were there, by my side, through the good times and the bad.

i remember when we first met: it was in an alley, out of sight of the grown-ups - after all, i was only 10 years old; i shouldn't have been seeing you at all. but you already knew a lot of my friends, and you were my parents' constant companion as well. back then, nobody was talking about cancer, or emphysema, or any other smoking-related health issues; and even if they had been, i was immortal, wasn't i? (aren't we all immortal as children?)

besides, my brother bob had started hanging around with you (and even though, on the outside, we were the fiercest of rivals, i secretly looked up to him - even if i never let him know it); and, like countless times before and after this, i said to myself, "if bob can do it, so can i!" - this was my battle cry all through childhood, adolescence, and beyond.

a few years later, mom and dad decided to give me and bob permission to openly continue our relationship with you; they were tired of their friends and neighbors telling them they had seen us smoking in some back alley or on some street corner, and figured if we were allowed to smoke at home, they could at least monitor our usage... how "grown-up" i felt that day! here i was, only 13 years old and being allowed to smoke at home, just like the adults; boy, was i proud!

now that our relationship was out in the open, i started taking you with me everywhere i went; to the game, to the fishing hole, on dates; i was proud to let everybody know you were my friend. pretty soon, i couldn't imagine going anywhere without you. in fact, i started to avoid going anywhere where you weren't also welcome; how dare they tell me i couldn't bring my friend along?

eventually, people did start talking about lung cancer, and emphysema, and other smoking-related health issues, but i ignored them; after all, we'd already been together all these years, and i felt fine. besides, my parents still smoked, and so did bob, and they were all fine, too. and i was still immortal - what did i have to worry about?

i can't remember why, but after we'd been together around a dozen years, i decided to leave you. who knows, maybe the relationship had grown stale, maybe i was just feeling restless - or maybe all those people talking about how bad you were for me finally started to make an impression. i'm not sure. but i went through a program called 'smokenders', and i left you, i thought for good...

i got over you pretty quickly, and soon i didn't even think of you at all. what i didn't realize at the time was that you never got over me; you waited faithfully for me to come back to you, and a little over three years later, that's just what i did. i remember it very clearly: i was in a high-stress job that i didn't really like, working for people that i didn't really care for, and one day, one of my "buddies" from smokenders came into the place where i was working, and he had a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. he either didn't see me, or didn't recognize me - in any case, we didn't talk...

but after he left, i went to one of my co-workers who i knew smoked what used to be "my" brand and asked him for a cigarette. i smoked it, and thought, "this is ok; i can just smoke this one - it doesn't have to mean that i'm a smoker again"; but the next day, almost first thing in the morning, i went back to that same co-worker and asked him for another cigarette (which he gave me, and which i smoked). on my lunch hour that day, i went and bought a pack. i remember still thinking that this was ok; i could control the habit, only smoke when i "needed" to, etc., but i was wrong. that pack was gone in a couple of days, and the very next one i bought was gone in a single day; it was like i never left you - we picked up right where we'd left off.

i've left you a number of times since then, although never for that long again, and, as many times as we've broken up, we've always made up and gotten back together.

but that's all over now; you've betrayed me. all that time i thought you were my friend, you were secretly working behind my back to make me sick, to take away my health, my enjoyment of life, to kill me! don't try to deny it. i found out last week that, after all the money i've spent on you, the countless hours i've devoted to you, the hardships and inconveniences i've had to put up with to accommodate you, you've given me emphysema! and the damage you've done is irreversible; i'll never have my full lung capacity again. i found it hard to believe that my friend could betray me this way, but there it is; it was you, and we both know it.

i've seen you do this before to others, but i ignored the red flags. and even though i knew you did even worse things to other people (like my father, who you killed by giving him lung cancer), i couldn't believe you'd ever do any of those bad things to me - after all, we've been friends almost all my life. now i see that i was wrong.

it's over between us, and this time it's for good. looking back, i realize that i was totally wrong about you, and about who was in control in our relationship. you always had it your way; now i realize that i can't afford to be with you any more. oh, i'll miss you for a while, no doubt, but i'll get over it. and every day, i'll remind myself of what you've done to me, and what you would've done if i'd allowed you to stay in my life.

you know, at my age (and with the life i've led), i wouldn't have thought that there was any innocence left to lose, any cherished myths that hadn't been exposed, any secret, long-buried dreams that hadn't already died - but you showed me i was wrong; last week, you forced me to stand face to face with my own mortality. i know i should probably thank you for that, and maybe someday i'll be able to, but i know that there will always be a part of me that hates you for it.

goodbye.

kevin

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25 responses leave one →
  1. 2003 June 9
    stopimust permalink

    That was the most beautifully written letter I have ever read. Very powerful. Today I decided I must stop, really must stop smoking, the five or six cigarettes a day I've cut down to, does not do the trick. I have the start of lung disease, it does not scare me, not enough, so it ended.
    Hope I can stick with it, as you said, they are not our friends.
    Very Very Nice Letter
    Thankyou for Posting it

  2. 2004 July 6
    Debbie permalink

    Kevin That was agreat letter you wrote, it was like giving up your best friend. I feel like Im giving up my best friend but I know it is not my friend but my worst enemy. I have been smoking reg. since I was 22 years old I wish I had never started,I guess it was a kid thing to do, I wish you all the luck in the world and GOD be wiyh you to do this have a nice day Debbie

  3. 2004 July 13
    amy permalink

    Whow Kevin that letter was great! I often say to myself, "nothing will happen to me if I smoke" but the reality is I have Asthma and the longer I smoke the worse it is getting. My quit smoking date is July 31. Best of luck to you and keep up the good work! Thank you for the reality check!

  4. 2004 July 22
    Barbara permalink

    WOW - Your letter was powerful - I can relate to EVERYTHING you said. But you know what they say - "with friends like that - you don't need any enemies" how true. I too have just been diagnosed with Emphysema. I went through life thinking - okay IF I don't get cancer it'll be okay - I can live with Emphysema IF I get it. Since being diagnosed I've done a lot of research about the disease - and Yes, you CAN live for while longer with Emphysema than you probably would with cancer, but WHAT kind of life would it be? And - most importantly what kind of death would it be - you slowly strangle to death. I don't WANT that! I don't want to be one of those pathetic individuals who have to lug an oxygen canister with me everywhere I go. I want to live a healthy and productive life - and I can't do it without letting go of my "friend".

    Thanks so much for your letter!

  5. 2004 July 26
    londa permalink

    Kevin: Boy did that hit home! That is exactly how I feel about cigarettes. My friend. But they are not truly your friend. You are right. They are out to destroy you. Your letter really impacted me. I can see why I need to keep browsing through this website and keep reading. It gives me hope. Hope that I can change and choose life. May God Bless you.

  6. 2004 August 1
    Denice permalink

    Ok....I thought there was something strange about me wanting to write a good bye letter to my cigarettes. My faithful friend for 33 years but you amazingly put into words what I was thinking. I am not strange after all......many if not all of you feel the same way. While I have not shown any signs of ill health at all(1 of my many excuses to keep smoking) I know somewhere in my body the ill effects are there.Maybe I can repair the damage and maybe they won't show up til later in life. Regardless I am tired of my "long time friend" While I feel a sense of loss(sick huh) I know I can no longer let this addiction control my life. Good bye my friend....may you and the people who made you be banned to hell for all damage you have caused to so many of us.

  7. 2005 January 13

    Kevin

    I thought your letter was brilliant. I am not a smoker but I am trying to help people quit and I will give them your letter to read. I have my own website http://www.escapesmoking.com which contains humorous but hopefully insightful poems on smoking.

  8. 2005 January 19
    Tabitha permalink

    Kevin, thank you for sharing this. I am working on my goodbye letter for the freedom from smoking modules. I could never write it as eloquently as you did. It's really like we are all identical. God bless you for being a supporter of those going through what you have been through. Thank you!!

  9. 2005 January 24

    Kevin Thank you so much for sharing your story. I just finished my good bye letter. I will be checking your site often in the days and weeks to come. My quite date is the 27 of January.Thanks again. Darlene

  10. 2005 March 10
    anonymous permalink

    Kevin

    Great letter. I stopped smoking (10th time) January 1, 2005. I have smoked for 39 years, and intend not to use tobacco products again. As early and 1963 I knew that smoking was a negative health issue, however that never influenced me to stop. I stopped because of unfair taxation. The US and local governments continue to damn smokers with unfair laws and takes while collecting more than 74 million dollars a day from smokers. If the theroy is tax them in to quitting it worked for me, I'll not pay the tyrants another tobacco cent.
    In the early 60's there were approximately 42 million smokers in the US, in 2003 there were approximatley 42 million smokers in the US, percentages are smaller today but 42 million is 42 million. Keep 42 million citizens addicted, and keep 74 million a day comming in. Who loves ya now babby?
    Find a reason, pick a day, get some nicotine replaement and STOP. Spend the rest of your days being a smoker that does not smoke.

    Thank's for the therapy
    Randy

  11. 2006 March 23
    nilam permalink

    I was very wrong....I dont know how to extend it is right....many people say it but...i dont want to leave the cigrette.I dont know how i came to have a company with a cigrette..i dont want to say good bye to cigrette but i am compelled to do like that ....

  12. 2006 August 11
    Chakrapani permalink

    This is rearly nice one. Come after for Daru....

  13. 2006 November 9
    cheermom permalink

    I am sending this link to my husband as he considers his cigs his best friend. We had quit together in June and he decided to start back up in August saying it "wasnt for me". Maybe this will help him see what others see and from another man's perspective. Thanks Kevin for a wonderful goodbye letter to cigarettes.

  14. 2008 February 29
    anonymous permalink

    Fab , real insperational and so true , your website is great , honest and soo helpful

  15. 2008 July 26
    anonymous permalink

    What I would like to know is Kevin still a nonsmoker

  16. 2008 July 26

    yes, he is. :)

  17. 2008 July 27
    Evie permalink

    Thanks Kevin, this letter sums up excatly how I feel. I've been trying to stop on and off for 10 years and have smoked for 30 years since the age of 13. The first 10 weeks are always easy for me and it's after that when I feel like I've lsot my friend so I will be visiting this sight daily in order to make some sense of this addiction.I've just relapsed again after a couple of months of abstaining. Back on day 1 today.

  18. 2008 November 7
    anonymous permalink

    ive only been smoking for 2 years now, but in that two years it has managed cause a lot of trouble. it will ruin my relationship with my girlfriend and best friend find out im doing it again after promising them i would quit. im back at day 1, but this time, im going to do it for me, because i know i am in control. ive never talked about this before, but i think talking about it(even to a message board) will help me sort some things out in my life. hopefully ill be back

    Day1

  19. 2008 December 31

    note: the comments above were left on the original tale at the date and time indicated.

  20. 2009 May 9
    Bernie permalink

    Kevin,

    Thanks for sharing this, it really hit home. I have been a smoker for 25 years I thought enough is enough luckily I still have health, I have stopped for 3 months know and will try my hardest not be a friend of your friend!! (sic)

    B.McGurk

  21. 2009 October 28
    susan permalink

    oh, woe is me and my miserable existence.
    i know, smoking is bad. quitting is good.
    how i loved leaving work, looking forward to my cigarettes and my michelob ultra lime catus beer. not a lot of either, but i so looked forward to joining them for cocktail hour. what a delightfully entertaining pair.
    you lose one friend and suddenly, the other one seems dull with out it's match. drinking a beer gives me heartburn now.
    i am so forelorn. those around me that have not fallen in love with this bad boy, ...they just don't know how fun it was.
    but it became messy, and smelly and damaging. it made me sick when i had too much, and anxious when i had too little.
    but now that i think i've quit, cause i never know, it is a moment by moment creep pass the 7/eleven, pass, pass! go! go! ahhh, made it one more time.
    i can't start now. it cost almost 10 bucks here in chicago. even if i only want one, it's been two week without, and i'll hate the first cigarette. i'll be high and nauseated. yuck, i hate that feeling.
    so i would just keep smoking to get back to the way "it was"?
    no, alas, i've quit.
    oh woe is me. i've quit. that wonderful, addicting,. dirty little friend, that could always turn a boring evening into something special.
    why does everything fun cost so much? humph.
    i refuse to tell all the good that comes from this tramatic ending.
    some day maybe i will be able to...but for now, i'm too depressed about my little friend.

  22. 2009 October 29
    Rebecca permalink

    Thank you so much for this letter!
    I am on a smoking programme and have a quit date of 2nd Nov 2009.
    I have spent this week preparing for becoming a non smoker and your tales have been a fantastic support!
    I am quite nervous about monday but also really excited about becoming a non-smoker!!
    Thanks again for sharing your tales and I will be sure to read them again as I reach each of the stages of being a non-smoker.
    Thanks and here's to a smoke free life from Monday!!x

  23. 2009 November 1
    Yvonne permalink

    That real life story was fantastic

  24. 2009 November 4
    Moira permalink

    Hi, Rebecca

    Good luck with your quit, I am on day 20 and it is really only today that I feel I have some control over the insidious little white demons. I discovered a great trick today by accident and maybe it can help you. I had tried to quit many times by getting rid of all my butts and it never worked. So this time I had just opened a pack of cigarettes when I quit and I stuck it in a drawer and swore I would ALWAYS have that pack with 19 cigarettes on it. Well, yesterday I opened the drawer to get something else out of it and the overwhelming STENCH of cigarettes wafted out of it. I almost gagged and then I realized two things: I could smell it for the first time (the cigarettes were always in that same drawer) and it smelled really vile! So I took a cigarette out and took a deep inhale of the smell and thought about the rat poison and formaldehyde that was causing that horrible smell and I felt really calm! Calm that I was no longer breathing that smell and poison into my lungs! Calm that my brain finally gave in and let me take care of my poor lungs that have been so abused for so many years! Calm that I COULD do this!

    So maybe that will help, in any event believe that it will get better, just last week I was turning to this website for support and now I feel strong enough to offer some advice!

    Keep not smoking day by day and it WILL get better!

  25. 2010 October 27
    Patti permalink

    Reply to Barbra,
    I resent the comment you made of the "pathetic individuals" who "lug" around the o2 canisters. These are not "pathetic Individuals" but are ex smokers just like you and I who struggled with quitting just like you and I. Some have been quit as much as 25 years before the emphezyma attacked them. Some of these "individuals" never touched a cigarette in their life but were forced to enhale our second hand smoke and some 15 to 30 years later are diagnosed with COPD. I know this because I am a health care worker who deals with these people on a daily basis. They are not pathetic individuals, but people who are embracing their life and the most quality of it that they can. So please be kind when you speak of people and choose gentle words. The folks out there that are struggling with their o2 tanks have computers, and feelings too.

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