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Burning Lungs

Why I Will Never Be Smoke-Free

Photo by Katarzyna Urbanek

This will all seem insignificant, small, to many. There are far greater griefs in the world and in my own life. This is not a grief, though, it is the harbouring of a burden. I know what I am about to say will upset some who are close to me but I no longer wish to lead the llama on to greener pastures. No longer do I wish to be burdened with the beast. It is only thanks to someone incredibly close and special to me that the actuality of my burden was alleviated at all in the first place. We all have our cruxes, our addictions, many of which we are unable to overcome. Mine was small and insignificant and yet even for its short lived naivety, it still weighs on me to this day.

In my younger years after my mother had successfully battled cancer and before I lost family to it, I was a smoker, with me easily burning through a 20-pack in an evening, smoking until my throat was sore, my voice rough, and my fingers yellow. I was not pushed in to it, I hooked myself on it all of my own accord, part wanting to experience, part seeing it as some form of adolescent graduation, the other part of me teasing on that disease. A disease I had tried to push down in my mind. While it didn't last long, it has lasted with me forever since. I would tell myself like any addict that they weren't needed, that I didn't need them, yet anytime I went to get milk or petrol, I would invariably end up with a packet in my hand. I couldn't even face my evening shifts at work without at least a half pack to hand. Even then, that was inadequate. I could quit when I wanted to. "I could" was what I told myself over and over. It is only thanks to that special individual that I ever eventually did—it was their belief, their own fears and their love that drove me on to defeat the habit and free myself of my own addiction but even now three years later, I do not feel free of it and I feel I never will.

I feel better, healthier, but even so anytime I go for a run and fill that pang of fatigue piercing my side, the fear rises but I push down those worries of the irreparable damage already done to my body. I hold the fear that I will never again be 100 percent. That while I wanted to face down the disease I so hate, teasing it on, I have forever damned myself to its hold. Even now free of those toxins, if I were ever to fall ill to cancer, I would never be able to forgive myself, no matter where it may originate within me. Be it completely unrelated to my ill advised habit, I would still damn myself. I hate the habit, I hate myself forever for having indulged. I judge those who smoke. I hold my breath as I pass those who spew like chimneys. I judge them because I see me and I am judging me. I hold my breath already far too familiar with that taste and smell.

It may have been years since I last dragged those toxins in to my body but I will never again feel like that me, the one I was then and the one that preceded him. Any pain in breathing or with my chest, my skin, I forever think back instantly to that first dumb decision, to my stupidity in believing I was some greater being that smoked to smoke, that it held no power over me, that if I wanted to stop, I could stop. I may have eventually quit but that was only thanks to support. I doubt myself as to whether it was something I ever would have been able to achieve on my own. I believe I would have remained adamant in my naivety. 

We all have our vices, our hooks—they will all take a lot to free ourselves of and sadly we may never be free of them. Those choices, decisions, will remain with us but that isn't reason not to try. Life can always be better. Our futures can always be brighter. We can't change our pasts and they will forever follow us. They will entwine themselves within us now and there is good reason we should allow them to. Every decision we make remakes us and reshapes us. Our decisions may lead us forward but they shouldn't be the constants that continue to define our futures. While we need to remember our failings and our missteps, we should neither fear them nor let them hinder our futures, we just need to be mindful of them. I may never feel like the person I was because of my choice but I am happy in this version of me and that's all that matters. There is no point trying to correct something that can not be changed. As long as we can find our happiness and while fears may still bite at our ankles and we may never be that version we once pictured, it doesn't mean we can't be ourselves. Paths will always change and converge and things will happen constantly that we can't control but we need to find the safety of the happiness behind it all, of remaining honest and true, of remaining us whoever that may be at that time. We are constantly ever-changing but we are still us, something of a juxtaposing idiom but it is the only way to put it.  

My "burden" may have been something small, something insignificant, but it has been important to me just like all of our triumphs are important to us no matter how small or insignificant they may seem to the rest of the world. For the simple fact that they are ours. It has been a burden that has weighed on me but I have used it to help shape my views, improve my mental strength, my self-belief, and my trust in others. There is always help, ever a positive, ever a solution, a reason. No matter how small or ordinary something may seem, if you are not happy then fight to be so no matter what the cost. No matter what is in the past or even what you believe is dictated in your future, you have the power to correct and control it all. I may never be smoke-free, I may still let it haunt me forever, but I have found the happiness beyond it all. I allow those worries to improve my thinking, my decisions, and I take comfort in the strength I found beyond it all and now know what I harbour within myself and is on offer and present in others. Never be afraid of who you were or who you believe you will be. Just make sure it is you and you are happy being you. 

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