I quit smoking more than 35 years ago (1970) and I haven't touched a cigarette since, and I don't plan to. There are millions of Americans who struggle to quit smoking, only to take up the bad habit years later. Why would a person do this? Why would a person want to continue to put poison into their bodies?
I have written this piece, and let it be known, that I am not a crusader or an activist for quitting smoking or anything else. If a person wants to kill themselves...go ahead...I really don't care! My personal opinion, is that I have zero tolerance for smoking and smokers! I don't like them around me, and they can do their damage someplace else! Smokers know the risks in smoking, and I can't sympathize with somebody who voluntarily puts poison in their body!
Here in Albuquerque, New Mexico (where I live), this is where I-40 (old Route 66) and I-25 (Pan American Freeway) come together, and the huge intersection is known as the " Big I."
Albuquerque has a population of about 500,000, and as you might imagine, this is a very busy part of town. About a mile north of the Big I, a large sign was put up, and is an electric sign with big letters and numbers, which flash on and off...day and night! (I used to live about a mile from here)
The numbers on the sign are large and visable from a distance, and change every minute of the day. What the sign does, is to report the number of deaths by smoking all across the country, and the sign changes almost every minute. At the beginning of the year, the sign reads "0" and then the total of deaths begins to light up the sign! In any given year, the sign will read over 200,000 to 250,000 deaths at the end of the year, of people who die from smoking! Needless to say, these numbers are astonishing to me!
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A fellow employee, named Sabrina and I worked at the same company, and one day, we were out on the patio taking a break when she said, "Jerry, I hate you!" It didn't take long for me to do a double-take when she said that, and I asked her why she hated me. She said, "I'm 38 years old and my face looks like a dry river bed loaded with wrinkles and "crows feet," all around my eyes, and when I smile, I have all these gouges all over my face! And, you're 50 years old, and you do not have a single wrinkle on your face...no crows feet...nothing...that's why I hate you!"
Well...I've been hated by many people over the years, but not for not having any wrinkles, so all this I was hearing was new to me! I knew Sabrina was kidding, of course, and I told her that her being a heavy smoker for over 15 years has contributed to the lines in her face, and smoking affects the whole body...inside and out, etc.
Sabrina had finally quit smoking before I met her, but heavy smoking for 15 years, had finally began to take the toll on her, etc. Neither one of us knew at the time, but Sabrina's days were numbered. About a year later, the company closed, and everyone went their seperate ways, and Sabrina and I went our seperate ways as well.
My parents were divorced after 48 years of marriage...she was 66 years old at the time, and my father was 72 years old. My father helped to produce ten kids, and never cared for any of us and we all hated him in return. One day, my mother called and told me that my father had died, and I really didn't care because he was sinister and evil. My mother also told me that his name was in the obituary column in the newspaper...and again I really didn't care!
But, there was something bothering me, which told me to go to the newspaper anyway and take a look! Something I didn't want to do! But, I kept thinking about it through the morning hours! So, I finally picked up the newspaper, found the obituaries and scanned down the newspaper to find my father's name! When I came to his name...I felt nothing...empty! He didn't care about us...and we didn't care about him. He was just another name in the newspaper! But, something continued to bother me, and told me to scan downward in the obituaries...and so reluctantly...I did! "Oh my God!" I said to myself!
As I scanned down the newspaper, I came across a woman with the last name of "Pettis" which is not a common name. A chill came over me right away, as this was the last name of Sabrina! "Oh my God...could this be Sabrina?" I didn't want to look, so I closed the newspaper and went back to my chores for the day. But, it was bothering me, not knowing if it was Sabrina or not. A few minutes of turmoil in my head, and I didn't know what to do!
I wasn't going to be able to live with myself, unless I knew if it was Sabrina, so I grabbed the newspaper and looked at the obituary...and to my horror...it WAS Sabrina! "Oh no, what happened" I slumped down to the table and couldn't believe my eyes! "Sabrina's dead?" I was numb...out of breath...and with glassy eyes, I had to read it again. Yes, the newspaper said she lived in Los Lunas; yes she worked for the Sheriff's Dept; yes...she had a 14 year old son! It WAS Sabrina...Sabrina was dead! How could this happen?
The article didn't say what she died from...accident or illness...so I called a mutual friend and she told me what happened. The friend told me that Sabrina caught an ordinary cold one day; and then it quickly turned into the flu; and the next day, it turned into pnmenonia. She was rushed to the hospital where she died! I was told all of this happened very quickly in a matter of about four days! I was shocked...four days...and Sabrina was gone!
The death certificate probably said the cause was, "pneumonia," but in fact, it was smoking that contributed heavily to her death! As a heavy smoker for over 15 years, her body and defenseses were so weakened, that she couldn't fight back! There is not a doctor or a medication in the world that can save anyone, if that person cannot fight back...and Sabrina could not fight back! Everything in Sabrina's body was affected by her smoking and it finally got her...and she was so young. She had her whole life ahead of her...and worse yet...she left a 14 year old behind and she had recently gotten married!
The person who wants to quit smoking has two gigantic steps in front of them. First, they have to find the "mental toughness," to quit smoking and never start up again, which means you have to fight off temptation for years, etc. Second, there is a certain amount of time that the body needs to cleanse itself out of all the pollution and sludge that has gathered over the years! I'm not a doctor, but it would probably take a person like Sabrina between 5-10 years to clean out all the pollution in the body!
Remember, that Sabrina had already quit smoking 6 months before I met her, but she and her body were still vulnerable. Any cold, flu...could be the trigger...and it was! The pollution would stay in her body for a very long time.
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One day, I drove across to the north side of town, and I had not seen that sign with the smoking fatalities on it in over a year, and I came upon it by surprise! When I saw the sign, I immediately thought about Sabrina! How sad...I had a hallow feeling inside of me as I drove past the sign ...a terrible reminder of such a waste of a life to smoking! Sabrina had put a number out on that awful sign...her number! With glassy eyes and a lump in my throat, I knew I would never drive by that part of town again! Sabrina died in 1996, and I still think about her once in a while. She was special to me...as she was so good to me in my time of need.
I'll always have a place in my heart for her! God bless Sabrina...may she rest in peace.
The Red, White, and Blue affords us all the opportunity and the freedom to try to remain healthy and to stay away from cigarettes! The Red, White and Blue also affords us all the opportunity to do what Sabrina did...commit suicide...one puff at a time...THE CHOICE IS YOURS!