Smoke-Free View of Beauty

On my one month anniversary for quitting smoking (I know it’s only a month, but I’m proud of myself), I thought it only fitting to speak of smoking itself; my experience, struggles and different beliefs and perceptions I have encountered. I’m not going to plead with you to quit if you are currently smoking, hound you about all the reasons and benefits for quitting, you know all this, and another nagging individual is not what you need to overcome one of the most difficult challenges in life; Addiction.

For me, quitting cold turkey was the only option, a notion unfathomable to many. Methods to cope with nicotine addictions like gum, patches, and fake cigarettes never worked for me and only made me crave smoking more, allowing me to cling to my last nicotine fix for a longer period. After two very hard days the worst was over, and moving on 48hrs after initially quitting just became easier and easier with each breath. I replaced cigarettes with bottles of water, I’m not going to lie, I lived in the bathroom, but I wanted to not gain a tremendous amount of weight quitting smoking. In the end I can live with my 5 lbs increase, as 5lbs are worth their weight for the years I added back to my life. I was a heavy smoker and have been for some time, I have smoked since my early high school years, and I’m now 28 years old. I put in my time, and it’s not something I’m proud of, never have been and I never will be. Smoking was one of my biggest contributor to low self-esteem, lack of motivation and negative mental and physical health. I hated myself for each cigarette I lit, and every day that passed, that hate and resentment for my lack of strength and horrible choice grew. Like many, I was an ashamed to be a smoker, unless surrounded by many other smokers. I felt embarrassed and disgusted by my habit, and would often find myself berating myself for the habit. In one way I loved it, that it forced me to take a break in busy life, that moment to relax and distress, but for that one benefit (which is not really too accurate as I would just multitask while I smoked anyways, never relaxing) the lists of negatives were never ending.

I truly believe that people should be free to make their own choices to smoke or not to smoke, and all the other choices involving your life, I just feel that smoking is obviously not a smart choice. It’s harmful to your health and pocket book, and I would constantly find myself envious of those who quit and those who never started. Looking back, starting smoking was the worst decision I have made in my life, although it did give me the opportunity to find and prove my own strength, and there is beauty and reasons to be proud in that, but I would be hard pressed to believe a statement explaining how smoking benefits a person in almost any way. I feel that over the past decade or two, the shift of how smoking is perceived has changed drastically as well. Being a smoker during this time only made those ideas and changes more noticeable. Smoking at one point used to not be despised, it was almost cool in a rebellious sort of way. Smokers now a days are often sneered at by strangers, often joked about and even ridiculed. The areas in which you can smoke grow smaller and smaller as society recognizes more harmful aspects in its nature. To me the lack of smoking space was never an issue, I understood and respected the idea that people who choose not to smoke didn’t want to be breathing in harmful second hand smoke. I don’t think that being a smoker allows you to be mistreated by others though, respect goes both ways. When I smoked I felt hated, almost like an evil villain as strangers would walk within a 20 ft radius of me. I was a the type of person who would bend over backwards for others, I tried to be kind and understanding above all else, and if there is such a thing as a considerate smoker, it’s me. I’m the one who hides behind buildings and vehicles not to distrupt or disturb the non-smokers near or far, or who runs at the sight of a child a block away. I would struggle through long days at family outings not to embarrass my parents, by their child that was a smoker. This was never asked of me, just something I chose to do out of respect, and out of my own personal guilt. My father and many of my family members have quit smoking years ago, and the idea that I smoked and seemed to have learned nothing from them was an idea I struggled with daily. I pride myself on being an intelligent, reasonable woman, and my idiotic choices and blatant ignorance to their personal plights quiting smoking , only made me feel ashamed and honestly quite stubborn and stupid. Whether I would be a straight A student, an award winner, top sales performer, the number one mom, no matter how good of a person I was or am, that one burning cigarette will constantly impact the way I am viewed. Whether that is fair or not is not the point I’m making, just that this is how far the pendulum has swung. The once strong, seductive, sexual image that was tied to smoking, has been replaced with one of sickness, disgust, poor choices and even death. People are choosing health and wellness in various forms as the new idea of sexy, and that idea is beautiful to me! Even as a smoker I thought this evolving notion was incredible and I was proud of the growth our society was and is showing. I will forever wish healthy choices and lifestyles for my future children, family and friends, and never will there be a day that I wish they follow in my footsteps as a smoker.

My question to you, is how do you view smoking? The images shown below of beautiful women with lit cigarettes, is that beauty enhanced or disrupted by a cigarette? Has your view evolved, morphed or remained the same over the past few decades? No answer is wrong, remember beauty is in the eye of the beholder. While some may look past the cigarette to see the true beauty of the person behind it, others will be discouraged to promote or believe in an action so devastating to your health and your future, deeming it ugly in nature and appearance.
For me all woman are beautiful in their own unique way, but a healthy lifestyle will always be gorgeoustoo, and after years of smoking, I know personally that anything shown as sexy in those images are the exact opposite of what I experienced, and what a real life of smoking actually is. To me these images are not beautiful, they are dangerous and misleading, and I would never ever in my lifetime wish or promote the act of smoking to anyone; friend or foe. For those reasons, I vote that although the woman may be uniquely pretty, their actions shown and the promotion of a false idea is far more ugly. This may sound harsh, and keep in mind this is only an opinion, it doesn’t mean I’m right or wrong, I just hope for a society the believes in the promotion of health, life and wellness above financial gain. Some may consider me a dreamer, but I believe this dream is possible if we all work towards it and show our support. The best way I could show my belief in this idea, is to live it by being active, eating well and ultimately quitting smoking. I approve of and believe in a “lead by example” idea. I’ve never been more proud of one small action in my life, then the act of quitting smoking, and I hope my strength and determination inspires others to take their own steps towards a better, healthier life. My struggle will be long, but I’m excited to overcome each passing day on my way to recovery and a smoke-free life.

I would like to point out that never in my life did I consider myself a bad person for being a smoker, nor do I feel negatively about people who are smokers. Smoking is an action you make and in no way determines who you are as a person, good, bad, kind or otherwise. I don’t think smoking makes you unsuccessful, unfriendly or unimportant like some people may, it was just a choice you made a long time ago and a hard one to walk away from. Having said that, I will never condone the false promotion of smoking to non-smokers or anyone for that matter. In my opinion this is far worse than smoking on every level. If you have fallen victim to nicotine, know that you are worthy of a life of health and happiness. The road to becoming smoke free is difficult, but if you believe in yourself and your strength, know that you have the ability to overcome this obstacle in your life and create a new path to a healthier more fulfilling future and a happier you. Within two days of quitting smoking I felt stronger, happier, healthier, more beautiful and sexier than I have in my lifetime. It seems unthinkable that one small, yet honestly difficult step could impact my life in an overwhelmingly positive and rewarding way, and I imagine it will remain as one of my greatest accomplishments throughout my life.

I encourage you to explore your options to achieve a smoke-free life, and whether you’re ready to take that step today, two months or two years from now, know that your life will only be better and healthier for it. If you never reach that day, and this addiction is one you struggle with throughout life, please remember that this habit does not define you, it is only a habit. You are beautiful and worthy of the happiest life whether you smoke or not. I will hope that you find the strength to overcome your addiction, and if you can’t, that you find the courage to educate those around you of the dangers smoking, and through your experience and encouragement you will steer others down the path of a smoke free life and ultimately save lives in the process. Your knowledge and experience could save many, and you should be proud of that!

Please take a moment to express your opinions and views on this article. I would love to hear how images, experiences and the media involving smoking impact you and society. Maybe you feel it doesn’t make an impact at all, or maybe it upsets you beyond words, whatever the case, I want to hear about it. I believe growth surrounds us, that the acceptance of other choices should be embraced and never belittled, and that we should help to encourage others to be the best they can be. As a community we can encourage others and ourselves to find our best and happiest selves and that is what we should hope for. Change is often created through inspiration and not through forced agendas or negative actions, together we can create positive change.

I wish you well in your journey and struggle against your own personal addiction. I hope you find your inner confidence and strength, and battle back against the poor choices of your past. I hope that in the challenge of overcoming these obstacles you find inner peace and wellness, and that everyday forward is brighter, healthier, more promising, and mentally freeing than the last. Enjoy the freedom of your smoke-free future, I will be embracing the freedom of each clean breath along with you.

Yours,
Bee

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