May 10, 2011

Dearest E.,

It has been a good month so far.  I say that because I often find myself being a pessimist and dwelling on the negative.  Since I began this letter writing project I have notice I seek more positive stories throughout the week and life is happier when you don't dwell on all that is wrong in the world.  Do you remember last week when I told you about how your Dad and I met?  After writing the story I realized I needed to tell you about a major change in our house this year.  On January 8th this year Dad stopped smoking.  

It wasn't the first time he had tried to quit.  Several years ago he decided to cut back and went from the Camel wides he was smoking when I met him to Camel Wide lights and then eventually light 100s and then plain old Camel lights.  He would try again and again to switch to ultra lights thinking it would be easier to quit if he could get down another tar level but he just couldn't handle it.  The stress would get to him and soon he would be through a pack twice as fast as he was when he smoked wides.  It was hard watching him struggle again and again.  He knew his habit was expensive and causing financial strain on our family but he was so addicted.

Dad and Burrito 2009
He told me that he had his first puff of a cigarette at age 12.  I believe he stole it from his grandfather.  At 15 he was smoking fairly regularly and one day Grandma Lala caught him smoking. She was furious and told Grandpa Ramon.  He went out and bought a carton and told Dad he was going to smoke the entire carton.  He thought it would make him sick and he would throw up and never smoke again.  Dad was just as stubborn and smoked the entire carton and became completely addicted. 

When your dad was in high school he wasn't very smart.  He had a friend that started messing around with heroin and then he started doing it.  Soon he forgot about smoking (except for social reasons) and focused on doing drugs.  When he was a senior his best friend was killed in a drug deal.  The experience sobered him up and he knew he needed to get clean.  Then and there he quit heroin and replaced his chemical need for heroin with nicotine.  Smoking saved his life.

Why I am telling you this?  Well this is a very important part of our family history.  See not many people are successful in sobering up after using heroin.  Dad has never relapsed because he was smart about quitting.  He found a replacement and managed to complete high school.  Years later he met your mother.  Together they were a somewhat toxic couple.  Just last week he was telling me when they were together he remembers waking up and smoking in bed and drinking a morning shot of whiskey to get going.  He was drunk all the time.  When they started fighting and choose to separate he really struggled, sensing a relapse he did the only thing he knew would prevent it. He moved thousands of miles to a place he knew no one, to Salt Lake City, Utah. 

When he moved you were only 9 months old, your mother had run away and left you with Grandma Lala. He found a two-bedroom apartment and went to claim residency and switch over his CDL.  Due to a clerical error in Texas he was not eligible for a CDL in Utah.  Without a CDL he lost his job and he was unable to return to Texas to get you and bring you to him.  He was stranded.

Dad and Taco 2004
Years passed and he met me. I smoked briefly when we met to get to know him, but quit when I discovered I was pregnant. We married in the Summer of 2004, just before your fifth birthday. Taco was born in the fall of 2004 and Burrito in the Winter of 2007.  In 2008 we learned Taco had asthma, and that even as careful as Dad was to not smoke around him, the smell of smoke on his clothes was still causing problems.  At this time he tried to quit by weaning himself off.  He replaced cigarettes with suckers and struggled after a terrible week of withdrawal and being sick he gave up.  Instead he tried started striping work clothes off and putting them straight into the washer and only smoking at work.  He tried again and again, but each attempt the withdrawal symptoms were too much for him.

So in January when he announced he was quitting I was prepared for the worst. I knew he was serious about it and wanted it badly, but I also knew what his previous attempts at quitting had been like.  This time it was different.  He didn't try to slowly wean off.  He announced to me on that Saturday when he had only a few left in his pack.  And he said he had been thinking about it a long time.  On Sunday he announced to the kids and my family.  And on Monday he announced to his friends via Facebook and he agreed to meet with his doctor and have medical support with his journey.  He was prescribed Chantix, but it took our insurance over a week to approve it so by the time he got his prescription he had already been a week without a cigarette.

Chantix is meant to be started while you are finishing that final pack.  He didn't really get the full benefits of the medication.  But the insurance quitting coach was still there.  They called once a week to see how he was doing and talk.  After chatting with her he decided to also call Grandma Lala once a week and update his progress with her.  Then he asked me to hold the bank cards and not send him to the store alone for the first month or so.  The first month was the big milestone and soon he stopped really counting the days and started enjoying things like being able to chase the boys without coughing and smell things again.  For us the hardest transition was walking the dog.  In the past walking the dog was an excuse to go smoke.  We got Taco involved in walking the dog and after a while walking the dog was just walking the dog.  

Dad and Bean-Dip
The times I was the most nervous for him were when we were outside and other people were smoking.  It wasn't a factor we could control.  I remember the first time he turned to me after talking to a lady at a grocery store that reeked of smoke.  When she was safely out of earshot he said, "I can't believe I used to smell like that.  That is the worst smell in the world."  I was so glad.  I was worried he would want to smoke after being around her, instead he was repulsed.  When he started his new job last week he came home the first day and said, "You will be so proud of me.  Today one of my coworkers offered me a smoke and I turned them down."  

I know that Heavenly Father eased his burden and allowed your Dad to successfully quit smoking with minimal withdrawal symptoms this year.  I know that the outpouring of support and love from family and friends helped immensely and the prayers of those loved ones has strengthened him.  I am so proud of his accomplishment.  Our anniversary this year will mark his six-month mark and I have no doubt that he will make it easily.  I know that he made this decision for all of his kids.  Because he wanted to be there for you and play with grandkids and grow old.  I leave you with his Facebook announcement to his friends:

Well everyone. I did a lot of thinking on this and finally admitted to myself that it was time I came out of the smokers closet and quit doing something that is going to take me away from my loved ones. I told my wife (Kira) on Saturday I was quitting. told my in laws on Sunday. Tonight I am telling everyone else. After 18 years of smoking I am quitting the habit. I will try to update everyone on Fb about how I am handling this. Everyone i love and care for is 100% behind me on it and willing to support me on my decision.
With love,

No comments: