I have a proud friend named Jess who said that he would never ask for help from any of us. We would always ask why, and he would always say that it was not because he was mad at us over something. “I have always been like this, even when my parents were still alive. You know that” he would add.
Of course, it was not for our lack of effort to offer a helping hand to our friend. Even if he would never admit it, his decision to never ask for help from his friends possibly stemmed from the fact that we had been very vocal about our dislike for his smoking habits.
Jess started smoking at the age of 15. He said that he found a half-smoked cigarette somewhere and thought of taking a puff. He did not feel anything on his first try, so you tried it again – and again – and again – until Jess could no longer get it out of his system.
When I met him in high school, Jess was often hanging out under the bleachers. As you might have guessed, he loved that area because it’s where he could smoke away from the prying eyes. Jess would continue to go there despite having new friends, but it was merely for smoking.
The thing was, Jess even attempted to share his passion for smoking with us. But we would frown at him and tell him to meet us when he was done. Even back then, we knew that second-hand smoking could lead to lung cancer, and we did not want that. As for Jess, he was not worried about that at all.
Being Adults And Having Adult Problems
Jess’s smoking habit magnified when he started working and had enough money to fund his addiction. From only three to five sticks a day, it became two to three packs of cigarettes every day. You would never see him without a cigarette between his fingers or in his mouth. Jess even learned how to use chopsticks for everything to eat with one hand and smoke with the other. The man was THAT hooked to smoking!
But then, when Jess joined one of our get-togethers, he came with sad news. The doctor found a tumor in his neck, and it had a high potential of becoming cancerous, so the doctor wanted to remove it at once. As he was talking about his woes, though, he was still smoking a cigarette. So, I was like, “Do you know that what’s in your mouth right is possibly the cause of that?”
“Yes, I know, of course,” Jess retorted, rolling his eyes. “But what can I do about it? I love cigarettes; I cannot live without them,” he uttered dramatically.
“Oh, honey, this possible cancer diagnosis should have served as a reality check for you. Smoking is awful for anybody, especially for you,” I uttered.
Jess looked down. “It’s just that whenever I see someone smoking, I feel like doing the same thing,” he reasoned.
I looked around; I see nobody with a cigarette, even if it was an outdoor restaurant. Sighing, I said, “This is all you now. You need to take care of yourself stat before your condition aggravates.
I could not believe how helpless Jess felt and sounded that day. I mean, he was one of the most intelligent guys I knew. He was excellent at handling money; he was even better at making it. More importantly, Jess was never the type of person to ask for help, and that one-word question sounded very much like it.
When I got over my initial shock, I said, “This is what will happen tomorrow. I will take you to a mental health facility; then, you will talk to a counselor who can help you understand how to stay away from cigarettes long-term. I can tell you everything you need to hear now, but you may not listen to me. Hence, it will do us both a favor if you hear the reality straight from a mental health professional.”
As Jess nodded, I dialed my other friend, who practiced psychology and counseling in the mental health facility downtown, to set up an appointment for him. I picked Jess up from work the next day, and he seemed tense. He was about to roll down my window during a traffic jam to smoke, but I stopped him. To my surprise, he listened. Maybe my friend is not as hopeless as I used to think.
Jess spent a total of two hours in the clinic. When he came out, he was more shaken than tensed, but he still managed to shake the counselor’s hand on his way out.
“So, how did it go?” I asked as soon as we drove away from the facility.
“Well, as a licensed psychologist and counselor, she was qualified to assess and diagnose my mental health, and it turned out that I had anxiety and dependency issues. I seemed to use smoking as a crutch for a long time, and I would need to stop doing that if I wanted to live more,” Jess uttered slowly.
“How do you feel about it?”
“Honestly, I am unsure yet, but I would like to go back for the real counseling session,” he said.
Counseling taught my friend that there were many ways to cope with anxiety and that none of them involved smoking or cigarettes. It came as a shock for him, but he got to embrace the truth eventually.
As of 2021, he has been living without a cigarette for more than five years now – a testament that it is possible to kick the habit.