I never thought that my best friends would have been objects instead of people, but here we are.
I liked to smoke. I loved to smoke. My favorite time of the day was early morning, with cup of coffee in hand, pack of cigarettes on the table, and an hour to leisurely peruse Facebook and Twitter before my caregiving responsibilities came into play.
I cherished the twin jolts of caffeine and nicotine, and to a lesser extent, the solitude to indulge in those old friends. Of course, at night, there was nothing better than a few beers, a lot more smokes, and hitting the hay with a pleasant buzz.
Then, the virus happened. It started like my usual infection that happens every year at the same time: sore throat, headache, nasty asthmatic cough. I took my usual store meds to keep the symptoms to a dull roar and continued to do my usual, albeit with the added stress of Thanksgiving just a couple of days away. I powered through, prepping for the big day, hacking and blowing my nose, smoking less and drinking more. Alcohol is a disinfectant. The logic seemed impeccable, really.
Then, my roommate started sniffling. Started wheezing. By Friday, she was puffing like a steam engine. I was somewhat concerned, but not unduly so. Although she indulged in the same habits, her smoking took a big hit. She just couldn’t draw a deep breath.
By Saturday morning, she sounded like Darth Vader and looked like him without the helmet; grey, sickly, weak around the eyes. Her stubbornness would not let her even touch her rescue inhaler until it was too late to do any good. Off we go to the ER. She spent six days in the hospital, struggling to draw a breath, taking breathing treatments and injections every two hours. I had another day of self-recrimination and smoking, until I gave it up, too. There was no way I could continue to smoke after what I saw her go through, even though I hadn’t planned to quit, exactly. It just happened.
So, this Saturday, she will be two weeks smoke-free, on a strict heart-healthy diet, one drink limit, and as much walking as she can handle, which is to say, not much right now. my drinking is down to one beer a night. I didn’t plan that, either, but it happened. Sunday will be two weeks smoke-free for me.
My so-called best friends ended up not being my best friends after all. They didn’t care about my wellbeing. They just wanted to kill me. With friends like that, who needs enemies? I can live without them and I have more free hours to do what I really want to do. I thought I would be depressed, but the opposite has happened. I feel more energetic, more positive, and I cook a whole lot more because I feel like it again. I’ve noticed that my back no longer aches when I walk a lot. I don’t get in a hurry to finish something so I can have a cigarette and a beer.
My roommate still has breathing treatments for the next few months, but she sounds better now breathing-wise than she has in years.
As for me, I’m still taking doctor-prescribed meds, still sniffling, still keeping a headache, and still smoke-free. The gut-punch of wanting a cigarette happens and I let it come and go. If I could train myself to not smoke in the car or the truck and be happy with it, I can train myself to not smoke anywhere, anytime. I thoroughly enjoy my one beer and don’t miss the other five or six at all.
I once thought that being an adult meant doing what I want when it turns out that real maturity means doing what is necessary and liking it for the sheer joy of having the choice to make good decisions.