One More Thing My Mother Doesn’t Know

October 22, 2007
By Diana Leslie, Waller, TX

I took my first puff on a cigarette when I was seven years old. I still vividly remember the way the rough, brown filter felt on my lips, and how violently I coughed when my seven year old lungs had their first encounter with tobacco. You may find the fact that I was so young when I partook of my first cigarette extremely strange and immoral, or you may be the type of person that is simply mortified by the fact that I’ve smoked at all. Regardless of your reaction at this moment in time, the smoking of my first cigarette was a monumental occurrence in my life.

I have always found the smell of a burning cigarette enticing, not unlike the warmth of a favorite blanket. I guess I can attribute this strange characteristic to my grandmother. My mother’s mother has smoked most of her life. I seldom have the opportunity to see her, as she lives in Mississippi, but when I do, she always has a cigarette in hand. There may be some connection in my subconscious to the comfort of my grandmother in tobacco smoke, but I am not a psychologist, so I wouldn’t know. While standing in one of the many venues I would often go to in order to listen to some band I deemed “amazing” at the time, I would smell a burning cigarette and long for it. I would crave it like a starving man craves a t-bone steak.

Last summer was the first time that I consciously and purposely picked up a cigarette and smoked it. One of my best friends and I hid behind a hay bale in an open field and nervously lit the ends of each other’s cigarettes. I cautiously inhaled and to my surprise, I didn’t cough. The smoke filled my lungs, and then I casually blew it out of my nose. The smoke spiraled out in gusts, and I felt like a true “bad ass”. Maybe the image was ultimately one of the reasons I picked up the habit. I felt empowered with the burning cigarette dangling from my fingers, emboldened.

Before I continue any further in my tale, I most inform you that neither of my parents smokes, and a severe punishment would ensue if they discovered that I had started. My newly acquired downfall was not the result of bad parenting, or a lack of parental supervision. I took extreme precautions in order insure that my parents never caught wind of my habit.

When school commenced once more for the 2006-2007 school year, I stopped smoking. None of my friends did, I was one of “the good kids”. No one would ever think that I would do something so daring as even think about putting a cigarette in my mouth. So I let them think. It was my secret, to be shared with no one.

This was also the year that I found my current boyfriend. He was, and is, my best friend, someone I could, and still can, trust completely. Corey and I went everywhere and did everything together. Taco eating contests, movie nights, visits to the mall, late-night trips to McDonalds, and corny jokes took my mind away from the thing that formerly haunted me. I no longer felt the insurmountable cravings that could only be satisfied by nicotine, or the raspy cough I seemed to have developed. I no longer needed cigarettes, I had him.

A fantastic school year ended and summer came yet again. Along with the sun came the expected late nights, shows, and endless fun. What I wasn’t expecting, was the return of my cravings. At first they were petty things, like a twitch in the pit of my stomach when I walked past a man smoking during his lunch break outside of a building, then they grew much larger. I once again began consuming cigarettes with my aforementioned friend. My boyfriend wasn’t informed. Both his parents smoke, and his grandmother who had smoked all of her life died from cancer. Plus, what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him. I started at two cigarettes once a week, then a pack. Before long, I was inhaling three packs of cigarettes into my lungs every week.

One more thing you must understand about my personality to fully comprehend and experience my story is the fact that it is extremely hard for me to keep a secret from someone I love. After two months of my once a week routine, I could hold it in no longer, I told him. Instead of being furious at me, he did something much worse. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and told me how disappointed he was, and how my smoking hurt him. I was devastated, yet I was in too deep, I could not stop. I continued consuming cigarettes for another month. Yes, my conscience burned with regret, but I managed to push my better judgment to the back of my mind and continue being selfish, only thinking about what I believed that I wanted. Surprisingly, no one but Corey ever suspected anything, even though my coughing seemed to increase, and my voice became slightly raspier.

After a month of this strong conviction, I could take it no longer. I thought of everyone I was hurting, directly and indirectly. Especially myself. I thought of the look on my mother’s face when, and if, I was found out. I thought of my boyfriend, who lived with his grandmother’s death due to cigarettes everyday. I slid one Marlboro Menthol Smooth out of its attractive blue box, stared at, placed it between my lips, and lit it. Inhaling deeply, I realized that the taste was different, bitter. I withdrew the cigarette from my mouth and gazed at it once more, then proceeded to hurl it and its blue home into a neighboring dumpster.

It has been almost three months since I have touched a cigarette, and I am more than proud of myself. You may ask whether it has been difficult, and I would promptly answer yes. I still shake when I am surrounding by smokers, and I sweat when nearing the cigarette counter while checking out at a grocery store or pharmacy. My fingernails dig into my arm when an individual who is smoking passes by me on the street, but it’s worth it. Since I have made the decision to discontinue my former habit, my health has improved, and more importantly, my character.

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