Do I believe that what William James said in the above quote about how changing your attitude can change your life? Absolutely. Because that’s exactly what I did. Let me tell you how.I was a smoker for twenty-six years, ever since I had been sixteen years of age. The funny thing was, I began smoking the night my father died, having finally succumbed to the effects of metastatic lung cancer. Life does have its ironies.I grew up in a family of smokers. Both my mother, my father, almost all my aunts and uncles, and just about every adult relative that we ever came into contact with smoked. My six siblings and Iwere used to the smell of cigarette smoke, and it never bothered me, not in the least, not even after my father died. My mother didn’t even quit smoking after my father died.I enjoyed smoking. As a matter of fact, I felt that smoking helped me with my stress. Isn’t that what all smokers say? But it’s true; it’s exactly how I felt. Every time I was in the middle of a stressful situation or I had a difficult decision to make, it seemed that smoking a cigarette always made me feel better. Cigarettes were like my friends. It seemed that all I had to do was light up and I immediately felt better. Then I met my husband. He didn’t smoke, nor did he approve of smoking. Neither one of his parents smoked, nor did any of his siblings. It just was not done in his family, and he made it very clear to me how he felt about me smoking the first time we met. He absolutely hated the fact that I smoked, so much so that I didn’t smoke in front of him. I was known as a “closet smoker,” at least at home. When he wasn’t at home, I smoked freely, but when he was there, never did I light up, not even once. I knew that even though I smoked, and I knew that my husband knew I that smoked, he still would love me, no matter what. This is the one thing that remained true.
I mostly saved my smoking for while I was at work during break time or when I was with a friend or with one of my sisters. It was at those times when I smoked like a fiend. I am sure that ifIhad been allowed to smoke freely, I probably would have been a two-pack per day smoker, easily. But at the rate I was smoking, I was only a one-pack per day smoker, which was bad enough.However, smoking was quickly becoming “not the cool thing” to do anymore. As a matter of fact, there was practically a stigma attached to the whole habit of smoking. Soon smokingwas outlawed in workplaces and restaurants, and before you knew it, we smokers were not considered very good role models. But I didn’t care. I continued to smoke, believing it was my right to do as I pleased, and nothing anyone else said was going to keep me from doing what I enjoyed. Besides, I figured there was no way they could ever stop me from smoking on the premises at work, as long as I was outside, in the smoking area just like everyone else. At the time, I didn’t realize that eventually there would no longer be outside smoking areas.Enter our children. We have three beautiful children, a son and two daughters. Our son had been begging me to quit smoking for years, ever since he was a little boy. He would come home from school with information about all the bad effects of smoking and all the statistics about cancer, heart disease, lung disease, and shortened life expectancy from smoking. He would burst into tears, begging me to quit, pleading with me that he didn’t want me to die. I didn’t listen to him. The same thing happened with our two daughters. I didn’t listen to them, either. I figured it was just a phase they were going through and that they would get over it soon enough. And they did.
Then our children became teenagers. One Saturday night, after my husband and I had been to bed for an hour or so, for some reason I woke up from a sound sleep. The smell of cigarette smoke was very strong as it came wafting into our bedroom. With my husband still asleep, I arose from our bed and donned my bathrobe and slippers. After I closed the bedroom door behind me, I quietly crept down the hallway towards the living room where I knew our son was sitting, watching late night television.As I drew nearer to the living room, one of the hallway floorboards creaked, alerting my sixteen-year-old son that someone was coming down the hallway towards where he was. Then I heard the dull sound of glass in the living room as it made contact with the wood floor boards in the living room. When I entered the living room, the first thing I noticed was a wreath of smoke circling the air above my son’s head where he was sitting on the recliner. He had a guilty look on his face. There, beside him on the floor towards the wall where he thought it was hidden so I could not see, was a glass ashtray, with a still-smoking butt of a cigarette.I looked at him in shock, dismay, and disappointment. I never thought I would ever see my son smoking. He was always the one who had lectured so vehemently against it — ever since he was a little boy. What had happened?”Are you kidding me? Here, in the house? When your Dad and I are sleeping?” I asked in disbelief.”So! You do it all the time!” my son shot back at me, accusingly.My son’s accusation rang through the air. That was the moment when I knew. It was time for me to finally quit, once and for all. I needed to adjust my attitude, and I needed to adjust it fast. If I didn’t quit smoking, I couldn’t very well tell my teenager not to smoke. That would be like preaching to the choir.
So I changed my attitude, constantly reminding myself of all the reasons for quitting smoking
that outweighed my reasons to continue smoking. I changed my attitude by reminding myself that if I did not set a good example for my children that they, too, would soon be chain smokers. I changed my attitude by reminding myself that since I quit smoking, I was slowly beginning to breathe easier. I changed my attitude by reminding myself that since I quit smoking, food began to taste much better and I could smell things I had never smelled before. I changed my attitude by reminding myself that since I quit smoking, my clothes and hair didn’t smell like stale cigarettes anymore. I changed my attitude by reminding myself that if I did not quit smoking, I would die at a young age, just as my father had before me. I changed my attitude, reminding myself that I wanted to live to see my grandchildren. I changed my attitude, reminding myself that I really was not ready to die.
Did it work? Did changing my attitude change my life? Yes it did. I am now proud to say that I have been an ex-smoker since December 20, 1999, a date which I celebrate every single year. I thank my son for forcing me to kick that deadly habit. And who knows? God willing, I may be able to see those grandchildren after all! Yes, attitude is everything!