I always maintained a set of personal "rules" to contain my own habit. Fortunately, I never smoked inside my house. My daughter (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 healthcare 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.
The past year has been far from easy - in fact, it's been a living hell at times.
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 even worse.
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 twelve months free of tobacco, the cravings still attack. Just three nights ago I experienced 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. 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. 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...
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 35. 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 A**hole 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. 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 gained about 50 pounds, so that's the next challenge.
Twelve months 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 just received a booklet of Marlboro coupons in the mail a couple of weeks ago. Nothing like a reminder to slap you in the face. That's like putting a mixed drink in an alcoholic's mailbox.
Twelve months 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 twelve months, but I never touched another smoke - and I never will again.
I'm posting this here on The Rock Father as a milestone for myself - and because I quit for my wife, my daughter, and our next "new release" that will arrive this June. 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.
One Year Smoke-Free: F.U. Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds, you owe me...Written by James Zahn
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 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.
James Zahn is not a journalist, nor a blogger, though he may be credited as such by others, or even accept the title... depending on the circumstance. Instead, he considers himself largely to be an "entertainment and lifestyle writer," bringing 25+ years of experience in the entertainment and publishing industries into the family realm as THE ROCK FATHER™.
As a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur, James now finds himself raising a pair young girls - The Rock Daughters™ - along with his wife from their Illinois home.
He is a member of The Toy Insider Parent Advisory Board, has contributed to The Toy Book and writes a regular Star Wars column - Transmissions from a Galaxy Far, Far Away for The Pop Insider. He also 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.
James and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, FOX Business, NBC, ABC, WGN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, BusinessWire, Babble, 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.
Learn more here.