Sandra L.

Most theories state that it takes about seven tries to quit smoking. I don’t really know if that's true, but I do know that it took me seven years of trying to quit, with some success each time, before I was able to quit permanently.

Since I was born I've been around 2nd hand smoke. My mom smoked while she was pregnant with me, and my dad smoked for a while and then quit. Most of my aunties and uncles smoked as well. I started stealing cigarettes from my Mom when I was nine. It was like a high drama: stealing and smoking. I got caught a few times, which wasn't a nice scene. When I was twelve, my parents told me that if I could buy my own cigarettes, I was free to smoke. I got a paper route and began smoking with my parents. I was quite proud to be able to smoke with the adults. I was finally able to smoke without any repercussions — or so I thought.

At first a pack of cigarettes lasted me several days. I tried every kind of smoking product, from cigars, cigarillos and pipes to illegal substances with consequences ranging from headache and nausea to feeling high. It wasn't too long before I was up to smoking two packs a day, and when I'd drink — sometimes two and half packs to three packs. I smoked in the morning when I got up, I smoked with coffee, I smoked after sex, I smoked after meals, I smoked during breaks and (the most weird one)…I'd get up to smoke in the middle of the night. When I was sick with a cold I'd change my brand to menthol because I rationalized that it would help me recover. That’s pretty sick in itself!

By the time I was eighteen, I needed an asthma pump to deal with chronic bronchial problems. I didn't make the direct connection with smoking. When I was 21, I changed my sex from being a male to a female. When I was 29, I changed my lifestyle and went to school to become a Registered Psychiatric Nurse. I began to feel guilty about smoking since we had to deal with smoke related problems at work.

So in 1990-91 I stopped cold turkey. That was hard. I got really sick, and was throwing up, had headaches, didn't eat well, and was just a plain bitch. This freedom from smoking lasted until 1992 and then I began smoking again. I beat myself up for doing it. This time around I was getting a high from smoking and it was helping me keep a small waist.

So I smoked again until 1993, and then I quit cold turkey one more time for another 6 months. This time I did a sweat lodge ceremony, which is a native healing ceremony, then I did another one four days later. It didn’t last, and shortly after I had to quit again. Each time that I quit I realized that I started to feel better, and that my shortness of breath was going away and that I could start running. During that time period, my friend Robbie helped me a lot as we went jogging along the Sea Wall in Vancouver. We talked about using a 12-step program to quit smoking. This freedom from smoking lasted for another two years, and then I smoked again for another two years.

The last time I butted out was in 1997, thanks to my adopted Navajo Grandfather. He's a traditional healer in the Aboriginal communities and was up here visiting me. He attended a ceremony that I was running and he said, "I was watching you folks and how you use the tobacco, and I thought I was going to learn something at the age of 72. I saw this guy take a piece of tobacco and offer it in the seven directions, pray really hard and put the tobacco in the sacred fire. Then I saw him take a cigarette and smoke. That shocked me. How could you use something so sacred and then violate it by smoking?"

I quit right there and then for the last time, and those words reverberate inside of me until this day. Every opportunity that I have in a sacred ceremony I speak of that moment. For First Nations people, tobacco is sacred and is used to create smoke to send up our prayers to the Creator. And because it is sacred, we shouldn't abuse it. We can’t use our sacred ceremonies as an excuse to smoke commercial cigarettes.

It’s not easy to quit. But it's worth it.


Stephen W.

Believing in myself was a process of understanding that I’m bigger than this monster that resides inside me.

Mark W.

Reducing the amount I smoke is a more feasible a starting point for me than quitting altogether.

Mandy & Leigh

Leigh quit smoking when she had the stroke, so I know she can do it. When the cost was too high, she quit.

TroyJackson, Singer

I started smoking socially because I had a lot of leftover social anxiety from years of denying the fact that I was gay.

Gina G.

Now being healthy is all about breath. I've been practicing yoga for many years now and it really makes a difference in my life.


Sandra L.

For First Nations people, tobacco is sacred and shouldn't be abused by us.

Jonathan C., the Artist

It’s great when you suddenly realize that you’ve always had the power to change your life in anything you strive to do.

Princess XXVII,Golden Eagle IV
Greater Vancouver Native Cultural Society

Because I had reached a point of desperation in which the pain out weighed the gratifications, I was able to make some life changing decisions that have molded who I am today–clean, sober and smoke-free.

Avel J.

Smoking isn't as cool as it used to be. It's kind of dirty and anti-social.

Berend M.

Smoking is so taboo now. It seems like a strange time to be picking up smoking again, almost surreal, like it's not me. I feel so disappointed in myself. It felt like I was a little kid again, keeping a nasty secret.


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