My father started smoking at the young age of 16. At first, he merely wanted to be one of the cool kids at school who often broke the rules and acted as if they were bigger than any adult in the world. He could even remember almost choking on the nicotine-filled air that he inhaled the first few times. But the more my father smoked, the more he liked the feeling of puffing cigarettes.
When I came into the world, my father was already 26 years old. He had a job at the printing press, but his salary was not enough to buy baby formula and diapers and pay the house bills. Dad vowed to stop smoking as soon as my mother gave birth, but he picked up the hobby again after a couple of weeks due to financial stress. Worse, he began to burn through two packs of cigarettes every day – sometimes more on days that he could not seem to make ends meet.
From A Child’s Standpoint
As I was growing up, I remembered the den being filled with smoke all the time. It also smelled like cigarettes, even when my father was not there. But it was only when I turned five years old that I realized that Dad turned it into an impromptu man-cave since he did not want to be around me while he’s smoking and end up inhaling the carcinogenic substances in the air.
Ever since I entered elementary school and heard my teacher say that smoking was – and forever will be – bad for the health, I asked my father almost every day to quit smoking. I would look at him with my best imitation of puppy dog eyes and even try to hide a stick or two. Whenever I saw an ad or TV commercial that warned against smoking or second-hand smoking, I tend to point at it, too. Despite all that, Dad did not budge.
Running out of ideas, I asked, “Why can’t you quit, Daddy? Don’t you love Mommy and me?”
My father seemed to want to burst out laughing at my theatrics, but he schooled his face and replied, “I tried quitting before and after you arrived, honey. However, I went through an awful withdrawal phase, where I could not concentrate at work and was often irritated by everything. The only thing that I knew to do to fix the problem was to smoke again.”
How Smoking Affects Mental Health
It had since been my personal goal to see Dad’s smoking habits come to an end. I continued to coax my father to quit smoking, even if I knew it was a closed discussion on his part – something that we could never undo. So, I was glad when computers and later internet came as I got to do in-depth research on how smoking could affect mental health. After all, in Dad’s point of view, smoking made his mental health better than ever.
The first related keyword that I saw when I typed ‘smoking’ was addiction. Experts described addiction as the act of using or doing something excessively, and my father’s smoking habits fit the bill too well. The fact that he could not let a day pass without a burning cigarette in his mouth every 30 minutes or so was a clear indication of his smoking addiction.
The second thing I learned was that smokers showed signs of tension and anxiety, although they claim that the habit helped them relax. I noticed it when we were on a camping trip in the mountains, and Dad misplaced all three packs of cigarettes that he readied before driving away. He looked in every nook and cranny of our RV home frantically; when he could not find them, it seemed as if his nightmares came to life. My father was distracted all day; he was more fearful than ever of the wild, too. But once my mother found his cigarettes, he cheered up and agreed to stay overnight.
As I saw it, Dad also became narrow-minded when it came to how he dealt with stress. An average, non-addictive person would face it head-on or go out of town to relax, but my father heavily depended on his cigarettes. I once witnessed him light three cigarettes at a two-minute interval because of how much his project frustrated him. Though I kept on telling him that that’s not normal, he claimed it was effective.
Has my father stopped smoking?
Unfortunately, no. Although Dad often expressed his desire to quit smoking and live a long life, it was a constant battle. We tried everything from counseling to nicotine patches and candies to retreats, but every professional we consulted said healing was entirely up to my father. If he was not ready to leave his smoking addiction in the past, there was not much that we could do except to pray for it to happen someday.