ADDICTION KILLS

Leonard Nimoy, Dr. Spock from Star Trek, died yesterday from COPD; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.  Smoking tobacco is the most common cause of COPD.  Smoking is an awful addiction, just like alcohol.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette smoking results in more than 480,000 premature deaths in the United States each year—about 1 in every 5 U.S. deaths—and an additional 16 million people suffer with a serious illness caused by smoking. In fact, for every one person who dies from smoking, about 30 more suffer from at least one serious tobacco-related illness.

Leonard Nimoy took to social media after his diagnosis to let people know how bad smoking is.

Smokers, please understand. If you quit after you’re diagnosed with lung damage it’s too late. Grandpa says learn my lesson. Quit now. LLAP.

When I was addicted to cigarettes I ignored good medical advice. Addicts have lying ears. LLAP

Cigarettes don’t make anything better. Nicotine taken in any form is addictive. Look into mindful meditation instead. LLAP

Breaking the smoking habit is tough. Worth the struggle. Save the lungs. Living with COPD is no joke. LLAP

Nicotine is the hook. Smoke is the dagger. LLAP

My mother was diagnosed on October 2, 2013 with Stage IV lung cancer.  She also had chronic heart failure, emphysema, and COPD.  She was a smoker for 60 years.

Over the years my mother had a series of surgeries.  I was with her for intake processing for each one.  When the nurse would get to the question of smoking, my mother would get irritated, and answer in an unpleasant tone; “Yes, I smoke, but not much, three or four a day.”  This was a lie, a big one.  My mother smoked close to a pack a day for 60 years.

As with most addicts, my mother lied constantly about her smoking. I could hear her smoking when we talked on the telephone, I would question her, “Mom, are you having a cigarette?”, she would always say no.  My children and I lived with her briefly in 2007.  We walked in after school one day, and the place stunk like cigarette smoke.  I said, “Hey mom, were you smoking in here?”  Once again she denied it, even when I told her I could smell it, and the kids found her hidden stash of cigarettes.

She never smoked in front of me, but she would in front of my older brother.  He stayed with her two years ago, and told me her condominium smelled like a bar after closing time.  I guess she thought she could hide it from me, as though my brother and I didn’t talk.

When my daughter and I packed her and helped her move in 2013, everything was coated with cigarette smoke dust, especially the curtains.  It was awful.

She finally quit smoking when she moved to Virginia at the end of 2013.  It was too late. As she had never had any preventative testing because none of her doctors ever knew the full extent of her addiction, we had no idea how much damage had been done.  Not until the horrible day In October when we received the news of impending death.

I hid my sobriety from my mother for almost a year.  I glossed over it by saying that I had to get some blood work done, and was taking a break for a while.  Even when I stayed with her in August, she didn’t know I was attending an AA meeting every Saturday.  On Saturday mornings I would tell her I was going for a long run, I would run to the meeting, and run back, I was sweaty, so there were no questions asked.

In November, I went to visit her in her new assisted living apartment in Missouri.  It was the visit before I left for Florida for two months, I thought it might be the last time I saw her alive -it was- so I finally told her the whole truth.  Yes, I have quit drinking because my liver enzymes were elevated, but there is more to it then that, I have a problem. I drink too much, I consumed a huge bottle of wine every night.  I told her I was going to AA, I showed her my 3,6,8 and 9 month chips.  We had a long discussion about our family history of alcoholism, and how I had the bad luck of having genetic markers on both sides.  It felt good to finally tell her the whole truth.

As we discussed addiction, she shared with me that if someone walked in the door right at that moment and offered her a cigarette, she would want to smoke it, and probably would.  Even knowing that she had ravaged her body with the killing effects of cigarette smoke, she still felt the pull of that addiction, and the certainty of giving in to it.  I understood completely.

During one of our last telephone conversations, she told me that she was so proud of me for admitting I have a problem with alcohol and doing something about it.  She also mentioned that she had really cut back on her alcohol consumption as well.  I choose to believe that was not because she was so sick, but because she was making a conscious decision to make a change.

As my brother and I were undertaking the horrendous task of cleaning out her apartment, I asked him where her wine and bourbon were, she always had one she was working on and a spare.  It was very noticeable that there was none there.  He told me he had gone over very early that morning to remove it all, just in case the devastation of her death caused me to decide to pick up. I was overwhelmed with his thoughtfulness and thanked him for that.  He then shared with me that she really admired what I have done, and he felt that if she had lived a bit longer, she too would have quit drinking.  We will never know.

Cigarettes killed my mother on February 4, 2014.  If I had continued to drink, alcohol would have killed me.

Addiction is horrible, addiction kills.  I choose to live, no matter how hard sobriety is, it isn’t harder than no longer having a mother.

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7 thoughts on “ADDICTION KILLS

  1. Addiction is a bitch. It is amazing when you give up and you start looking around your family just how many other addicts you can find amongst your own. I think back now to when I moved into my poppa’s home and remember finding whiskey bottles stashed. I see in my own mother the addiction gene but thankfully she was aware of it and stopped. With my brother living with me at the moment I watch the torture of his addiction with alcohol and drugs every night and yet he says he doesn’t have a problem. I was going to say funny how I didn’t even notice these things when I was drinking but its not it’s just sad 😦
    I read your posts and am so proud of the huge steps you have taken and love sitting on the side line watching your strength grow. I am sure your mother passed very proud of you and even envious of the progress you made and I am glad you got to tell her about it and she didn’t pass not aware of it.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing. Addiction comes in so many varieties and touches folks in so many ways. Although I am not a medical doctor (nor do I play one on TV), I have always considered tobacco the hardest addiction I had to break with physically. I also think it is the drug that perhaps has had the most residual long-term impact.

  3. What a reminder that however much we minimise an addiction whilst in it, the effects can be utterly devastating. I am so glad that you were able to talk so honestly with your mom before she died, and am so sorry for your loss. I was touched by the actions of your brother & how he showed such deep caring and thoughtfulness. xx

  4. I am so happy you had that time with your mom. To bring peace and a little bit of closure to your relationship is such a blessing. Hold on to that while you get through this next year…in a lot of ways it’s like the first year of sobriety. Each “first” will be sharp and painful but you’ll have that last conversation in your heart and know how proud she is of you.

    Addiction is not for the weak.

    Sherry

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