I’m a smoker. Oh no! you say, Not one of those. It’s true. I started smoking in nursing school, of all places. Between the stress, and the fact that my best friends in nursing school smoked got me hooked. And most of the night shift nurses I’ve worked with over the years smoked. Back in 1993, when I started nursing, you could smoke in the nurse’s lounge. Before that, from what I was told, you could smoke at the nurse’s station. Slowly, but surely, smoking was moved to an indoor lounge, and then outside the building. Now you can’t smoke in the parking lot of our local hospital.
But now I’m disabled and home all day. It’s a lot easier to smoke in your house than anywhere else. I used to smoke a half-pack a day; now I’m up to about one and a half packs a day. And it’s time to quit. But here’s the problem: I love to smoke. I enjoy it. I don’t care if my clothes smell like smoke. They smell ok to me. My doctors don’t know that I smoke. I lied and told them I quit a year ago, or a month ago, whatever works. I say my husband still smokes, if they ask me why my clothes smell like smoke. Even my pulmonologist, who is working hard to figure out why I’m so short of breath despite my lungs being healthy, doesn’t know I smoke.
I’ve decided to make some changes in my life, big changes, actually. I turn fifty in February and my forties haven’t been very good to me. I’ve been in the hospital three times with respiratory failure. I’ve gained over 100 pounds. I never exercised, or walked. I get short of breath climbing the steps of our house to the second floor. Because my doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong, they want to wait and see what will happen when I lose weight. So I started on Nutrisystem, and so far I’ve lost thirty-six pounds. I hate being overweight. My doctors have sympathy for my weight, since I’m on twenty miligrams of prednisone a day for Lupus. My rheumatologist is determined to get me off prednisone, which is ok with me. He says once I’m off prednisone, I’ll lose weight easily. We’ll see.
As for smoking, I’ve picked October 17th to quit—my Mom’s birthday. I’m hoping her spirit will help me. I’ve got Nicoderm patches all ready, sitting on my bedside table. I tried Chantix twice, but it was a disaster. The first two times I tried it was when I ended up in the hospital. The third time, I became “hostile” as the ads on TV say. Actually, I was homicidal, threatening to kill my husband over something minor. I really don’t want to end up in jail. They don’t allow smoking there, either, which I don’t think is very fair. There you are, stuck in an 8 × 10 foot cell with nothing to do and you can’t even smoke. That sucks.
So, I’ll try the patches, again. I tried them when I was a Flight nurse, some fifteen years ago, and developed migraine headaches, including one that came on when I was at the rear of the helicopter while loading a patient. That was a little too close to getting my head shredded off by the tail rotor. I went back to smoking, figuring it was a better way to die. But then, my blood pressure was higher and the patches exacerbated it. Now my BP runs around 100/50, so I have a little wiggle room. And my diet is better, so that can’t hurt.
With all the anti-smoking campaigns out there, soon there will be just a few smokers. Plus the fact that a pack of cigarettes cost $7.00 in New Jersey. My husband and I pay over $400 a month for cigarettes. That will pay for my Nutrisystem, with a hundred dollars or so left over. So what will the next bad habit targeted? I’d like to see alcohol go next.
Alcohol causes a lot more deaths per year than you’d expect. Between alcoholics with cirrhotic livers, and drunk driving accidents, it does a lot more damage and a lot more hospital stays than one would think. Drunk driving is being cracked down upon, but more should be done. There’s bills out there in some states that would require those who have been convicted of DUI’s to have a breathalyzer attached to the starter of their cars. They’d have to do it before they turn the car on. That’s a good idea, I think. But would the car companies go for it? Or would the taxpayers have to foot the bill? Since three of four drivers on the road on weekends are legally drunk, I’d be happy to chip in my share to have them installed.
Nurses hate taking care of drunks in the ER, or the ICU, if they make it that far. In Florida, we had our share of alcoholics who didn’t realize they were alcoholics. My in-laws were perfect examples. A couple or more glasses of wine with dinner, then cocktails after dinner. Beer with any sporting events. Then, when they’d end up in DT’s in the ICU a day later, no one could believe it. There are a lot of elderly alcoholics, they live alone in adult communities where “happy hours” are the only socialization they have. Then they have a heart attack, or some other illness that brings them to the hospital and a day later, they’re climbing out of bed, screaming at the top of their old lungs, scratching, biting, spitting. You name it. And the little old ladies were the worst: they’re a lot stronger than you’d think. I’ve had more problems with the LOLs in DTs than the big old men.
I think alcohol commercials should be banned from television. Alcohol kills as much as cigarettes. And second-hand alcoholism kills as much as second-hand smoke. Think of the family who is killed by a drunk driver. I’m sure you can think of one person who has been killed by a drunk driver. And alcohol commercials are enticing to young people, even with the “drink responsibly” written somewhere on the ad. When did you drink responsibly at twenty-one or twenty-two? I didn’t. And I’m glad to be forty-nine going on fifty. This will be the decade I get my life back. If it doesn’t kill me first.