Thursday, March 14 2013 00:51

Two-Years Smoke-Free Today, and MARLBORO is still harassing me...

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Last year, I celebrated one-year tobacco-free with a blog about my personal journey. Today, for the two-year anniversary of coming clean (cigarettes are a drug), I am re-posting that blog here on The Rock Father along with a few alterations and timely updates - particularly that Marlboro (under the Philip Morris or Altria name) is still harassing me...

March 14, 2011 is the day that I officially quit smoking. At some point on the night of March 13, I quietly took the last puff of the last cigarette in the last pack that I ever owned. Upon telling my wife that I was officially ''done,'' she took it upon herself to clean-up some of the ''smoker's mess'' that I'd created. The ashtrays of both cars were scoured. The sand-filled flowerpots that I'd strategically placed on my front porch and near my gardening shed were disposed of, along with a ton of stray butts that had made their way into the surrounding landscape over the winter months. The cleansing had begun.

I always maintained a set of personal "rules" to contain my own habit.  Fortunately, I never smoked inside my house. My oldest daughter, Addie (1½ when I quit), never saw Daddy smoke. When I'd return from stepping outside for "a smoke" - which was usually 2 or 3 due to my chain-smoking ways - I'd go through a ritual of washing the area around my mouth with anti-bacterial soap, along with my hands and forearms. Addiction will make you do strange things to continue justifying said addiction, and this was my way of pretending that I wouldn't pass any ickiness onto my young daughter. 

I loved smoking - or so my mind always told me throughout the course of our 14-year affair. What I didn't love was paying an increasingly high cost for it. Those $2-pack days were long gone, replaced with $7-$10 packs, not to mention the increased cost of health insurance. Kicking the habit was costly as well, getting suckered into failed attempts with pills, patches, or nicotine-laced gum. None of it worked. The pills made me crazy, the patch gave me a rash, and the gum was just a waste. The high price of being discouraged felt worse than that of keeping smoking, so I kept on buying those little white friends.

My wife beat the crap out of me verbally to quit. Even before we became parents, she was on my case. I'd promised to quit before our daughter was born, yet on the day of her birth I snuck a smoke in the parking lot of a hospital that was clearly marked as a "Non-Smoking Campus." Who was this authority that was gonna tell me what to do, especially seeing how many health-care professionals (especially Doctors and Nurses) preach the "tobacco-free" mantra, yet smoke heavily themselves due to the stress of the job? Sneaking a fix: another habit of the addict.

I'm not quite sure what finally pushed me into quitting, but for whatever reason, I made a conscious decision that I would not purchase another pack. Maybe it was how much I hate contributing to corporate greed and big government? Whatever the reason, on March 14, 2011, I just quit. (I hate the term "Cold Turkey")

The past two years have been far from easy - in fact, it's been a living hell at times. The first year was the worst.

My tobacco/nicotine/cigarette addiction was so powerful, that there were times that I'd actually fantasized about eating cigarettes. I'm not kidding. 

While the supposed "physical" withdrawal was allegedly over in a week or so, you'd have a hard time convincing me of it. The "psychological" aspects were devastating. 

As I sit here in my office, typing this entry as a form of celebratory therapy, what I can tell you is that the cravings have not gone away. Yes, even after two years free of tobacco, the cravings still attack, and I sometimes still experience what I can only describe as "a nicotine fit." How I've fought them lately is by sucking on Halls' Vitamin C Drops. 

There were countless reasons why I should've never smoked. But once you start, it just seems so right. My Grandpa Zahn was a lifelong smoker that died because of it. My Stepfather had lung cancer, and after surgery a few years back is still going strong. My Mom smoked for many years (she's since quit). My Sister smokes. My Dad is technically a non-smoker, but I do recall his occasional pipe-smoking for a few years during the mid-1980s... and rumor has it that he's taken to the occasional cigar these days. The influence was around me - the consequences were around me - but every time I'd see one of those paid-for-by-the-industry "Truth" ads, I'd just want to light up again. Work made it even worse - especially when I was working in the film and television industry on a regular basis.  I smoked at least two packs (40+ cigarettes) while filming one scene (view clip) for the movie LONELY JOE. I smoked so much on the set of PRISON BREAK that Robert Knepper (T-Bag) was bumming packs off of me. There's literally hundreds of photos of me floating around that show me with a cigarette in-hand...

Not anymore.

Philip Morris (currently hiding behind the Altria Group, Inc. name) and R.J. Reynolds are my enemies. If both companies' namesake founders were still alive today, I'd gladly punch both in the face repeatedly. Their products cost me tens of thousands of dollars, and perhaps have seeded me with future health problems. Thankfully, none have been experienced yet - but I'm 36. There's no guarantee that I won't develop a smoking-related illness years down the line. What's worse, is that they knowingly sold me a product that was intended to keep me addicted. The process of breaking said addiction has caused great emotional harm to myself and others. My withdrawal caused me to be a complete and utter Asshole to loved ones, friends, and business associates. I vented publicly on Facebook, and at times, the cravings would become so painful that I'd nearly cause physical harm to myself or others. It's a drug addiction. Thank you Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds for that. I like eating bread on occasion, but a lack of it isn't going to make me interested in punching someone. Speaking of bread, weight gain after quitting is a real phenomenon. I've gained about 70 pounds, so that's the next challenge.

Two years after quitting, and Philip Morris is really pushing it. As a part of my cleansing, I made sure to remove myself from all tobacco-related mailing lists. Upon doing so, they always give you some "please allow 8-10 weeks to stop receiving these mailings" b.s. (and that's just what it is), yet somehow I keep receiving booklets of Marlboro coupons in the mail. Two showed up in February, and they're stashed in a desk drawer awaiting the right moment to shove them up a Philip Morris/Altria employee's ass. Nothing like a reminder to slap you in the face. That's like putting a mixed drink in an alcoholic's mailbox. I've requested removal on more than one occasion, and now it's just on them. 

Two years clean, and I've come to the conclusion that both Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds owe me... not for the 14 years that I purchased their products (started with Camel Wides, then bounced between brands), but for the crap I went through in order to quit. There have been some very rough patches in the past two years, but I never touched another smoke - and I never will again. It would be easier for me to just run out to 7-11 and buy a pack right now, light-up and enjoy. But I won't do it.

I'm posting this here on The Rock Father as a milestone for myself - and because I quit for my wife and my two daughters. I will not preach to others, nor do I care if anyone else chooses to smoke - you do what's right for you. But for me? Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds have become targets for my wrath - and I wish to see them destroyed. Actually, would you like to see a list of some of the biggest pieces of human garbage on the planet? Check out the management team of Altria, parent company of Philip Morris USA, makers of Marlboro. When you think about "The Evils of Corporate America," these are the poster children. People like Martin J. Barrington and his band of despicable human beings.

To Victory!

Rock \m/ \m/ 

James Zahn

James Zahn is best-known as The Rock Father™, a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur. He is the Owner, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief of THE ROCK FATHER™ Magazine. In January, 2019, after nearly a decade of publishing The Rock Father™ Magazine, he joined Adventure Media and Events as Senior Editor of The Toy Book—the leading trade publication for the toy industry since 1984, as well as The Pop Insider — a destination for all things pop culture, and The Toy Insider — the leading consumer guide for toys and games. He is also editor of The Toy Report, a weekly newsletter published by The Toy Book each Thursday. Zahn has over 27 years of experience in the entertainment, retail and publishing industries.

He regularly serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers. 

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for PRODUCT OF HATE, whose debut album was released by Napalm Records in 2016, distributed by ADA/Warner Music in the U.S. with Universal Music handling global. A new album has been completed and is set for release this year.

Zahn and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, ABC, WGN, CBS, GCTN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch, Reuters, BusinessWire, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for the Netflix Stream Team,  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

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