Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Kicking The Habit

Do you have any bad habit? Do you want to kick some of them off? Smoking to some who are not yet a nicotine dependent, can stll be considered as a habit, a bad and wasting habit. You may have reasons to support the habit with proof to say that it is not the ultimate killer by exposing your lung to not only nicotine but also to a small degree of poisonous carbon monoxide. You can tell the world that your girlfriend/boyfriend or even your spouse don't mind the ashtray like smell emitting from your mouth when you speak. What more when you open your gap to yawn.
Ask a non smoking person beside you, he will try not to breathe when you are doing that. That is how foul the breath of a smoker especially one who inhaled all the smoke as I did during my over twenty years of smoking since 1971.
I never smoke cigarettes though both of my parents did. They were tobacco farmers and produce the tembakau kampong (local tobacco) for sale in the village. I was involved in the production of the tobacco by helping my parents to strip the central veins of the leaf using a string loop placed between the toes of my feet. That was what I used to do on most nights till I went to sleep. My mum and dad would roll the leaves minus the central vein to form a large long roll of about 3 inches diameter and using a wooden gadget with a hole to poke the rolled tobacco through in a horizontal position, a sharp long knife with a 3 inches blade would be used to slice across the rolled leaves to form strips of tobacco. These strips off sliced tobacco would be made into a small loosely arranged tobacco spread and sun dried until the moisture content was suitable for storage. The dried tobacco was then ready for use with dried nipah leaves.
Tembakau kampung and nipah leaves.

When I grow up I hate smoking. I always chided my friends who smoke and told them that it was a waste of money and a risk to health. That was until I was sent to a Felda land scheme in Ulu Terengganu for a three months practical training in an oil palm scheme. That three month turned me into a smoker. My colleague Tengku Ahmad Salleh introduced me to the world of smoking. He was smoking the milder Peter Stuyvesant brand. He had no wheels to move around and since I had wheels in the form of a small Yamaha 80 motorbike, he bribed me by offering me cigarettes to secure a ride. That was how I started smoking, much to the surprise of fellow friends whom I used to chide before.

That was 36 years ago and in between I did manage to stop smoking for a couple of month and once for more than 3 years only to continue the habit again until 1997. It was that easy to pick up the habit once you were a smoker.

My friend Ah Kong enjoying a smoke using rokok daun

The earlier stop from smoking was due to ill health. Maybe my lung had suffered enough from the regular exposure to the warm and noxious tobacco smoke. So it protested by making it tough for me to breath and produces all sort of sound to show that it was not well. The taste of cigarette then was very bitter and any light up of the cigarette made me hate the taste. That condition continued for a month until a friend came with a pack of the imported cigar the size of a normal cigarette. I remember the brand as Henry Wintermann. I think it was made in Holland. Hey man that ciggy was smooth. I could smoke again. So the habit continued with a change to this kind of cigarette. A pack of six sticks cost about RM3.00 then. That was about RM0.50 per stick. Quite expensive then it being 1981. The whole pack could last me the whole day as being expensive cigarette, I had to smoke less. I started facing problem when somebody else saw my new brand and they wanted to have a try. Oh dear my supply for the day was depleted before midday approach. How to survive the next 10 hours or so before I get to sleep? Will I get to sleep unless I get a smoke? The solution..back to normal cigarettes (Dunhill then).

Smoking a ciggarette

Another attempt at stopping to smoke was after I develop another bout of bronchitis. An X ray showed that I was having lung effusion. My doctor friend told me that the condition was dangerous and I must seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Hey when it was life threatening who would dare to continue smoking? That stoppage lasted me more than 3 years. A close friend move house to a house next to mine. He smoke the mentholated Salem. Every night he will come over for chit chat at my house and offered me a stick a night. Just for old time sake. That once a night stick led me to a very long smoking period until the total stop in 1994.

Why did I stop this time? This time the reason was not life threatening. It was a dare. My son Azuan was schooling in one of the premier Mara Science Junior College in Jasin Malacca. He was caught smoking in school. He was in form 4 then. The college authority did the right thing by sending him back to us. Initially they wanted to escort hm back to Pasir Mas Kelantan to ensure that he wont stray away from home. I gave assurance to the college authority that it would be OK to send him home on his own and I spoke to my son to come back on his own. He said he would come back.

We talked like a father and a son. Man to man. He didn't answer back at all to what I said and he admitted to the smoking. My final offer was that we both stop smoking. Me the father who had been smoking for more than 20 years will stop smoking and he being a smoker of just a few years must also stop smoking. We agreed and we shook hands on that and h asked for our forgiveness and we forgave him.

I was so happy that till now I have managed to stop smoking. I just took the cold turkey treatment and suffered the few agonizing weeks of withdrawal that followed. That step to quit smoking saved me quite a sum of money as the price of cigarette spiralled like the price of oil on the world market.

We didn't know that Azuan reneged on his gentleman agreement until that fateful day when he had that nasty accident that nearly killed his life. Among the items they found in his pocket was a lighter and a packet of cigarette. Read more of his near fatal accident here


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