My relationship with cigarettes began when I was 12 years old.
I took a drag of one at age 8, but I don’t count that. I was so young that it probably wasn’t even a drag.
But 12 years old.
I used to baby-sit for this woman who became addicted to morphine after having surgery on something or another. She had 3 children, a set of 6 year old twins and an 8 year old.
And there I was. Cooking. Cleaning. Bathing. Getting them off the bus. Helping with homework.
I was more of a mother to these children than their own. At 12 years old.
I even had to cut one of the twins’ hair off one day because her mother hadn’t bathed her since the last time I was there, and her hair was so knotted the only way to fix it was to cut it off. Poor girls. Poor, poor girls.
But that’s a story for another day.
The mother used to smoke Newport’s and kept them in her bedroom dresser. Sometimes she would be home while I babysat because she was so drugged up, her kids needed someone else there to take care of them.
One day, the oldest found her mother’s cigarettes and cried hysterically. The mother insisted they were not her cigarettes, but mine. The oldest daughter turned to me.
Oh yeah? Prove it.
I remember it clear as day. I was sitting on the edge of the mother’s bed, looking at myself in the mirror that was attached to the closet door directly across the room. I lit up the cigarette and smoked (well, as much as 12 year old knows how to) it. Staring at myself. I honestly thought I was the coolest kid on two feet. I sat there for the rest of the day, puffing on cigarettes in front of the mirror.
And then I was hooked.
The mother would leave me packs. In her drawer. Every day.
One day I was smoking in the bathroom while the mother was home, and I heard the cops bust through the door.
Scared to death, I threw Barbie toothpaste in my mouth and ran out to the police dragging the mother out the door. The husband had apparently filed a restraining order against her.
She fell asleep a few nights before. Smoking a cigarette. Almost burned the house down.
A danger to her family. And an unfaithful one at that. Her husband had caught her cheating on him with his stepfather.
That’s some Springer shit right there.
I’m guessing the restraining order was revenge on the mother. The father died a few years later of a heart attack.
To this day, I still wonder what happened to those little girls. I hope they made it through life okay. They’d be 20 and 22 right now.
But I’ll always remember, that’s where my addiction began.
And I’ve been spending the last 4 months weaning myself off of a pack a day. I’m down to 3.
And for my birthday gift to myself, I’ll be down to zero.
Happy Birthday, Lara! You’re saving your teeth! Your skin! Your lungs! Your life!
But let me tell you, it hasn’t been easy.
That’s why this is only part one.