15 Oct
Smoking Hot, But Still Smoke-Free


My husband and I met when we were twelve years old, and, unbeknownst to me, he was already smoking cigarettes. I have known him for six decades, and I adore him. In 1985, we had been married fifteen years, and he had a twenty-five-year smoking habit. In October of 2015, we celebrated his 30th Smoke-Free Anniversary.

When my husband was a boy, he worked at his father’s drug store, where he had easy access to cigarettes. From the store windows, he watched teenaged boys tuck their cigarette packages under their T-shirt sleeves, get into their cars, and squeal down Main Street. He could see himself being that cool.

He stole his first package of Black Cat cigarettes, at age eleven, from his father’s store. He placed them in a plastic bag and buried them in the park, halfway between the school and his home. He hid the cigarettes partly for convenience and partly to avoid the gaze of disapproving adults. 

By the time he was in high school, the boy was inhaling about ten smokes per week. Oddly, I remember actually liking the smell of his Old Spice aftershave mixed with cigarette smoke, as it lingered on the collar of his wool coat.

His cigarette addiction crept into our lives, slowly. In university, when he had to buy cigarettes, he was enjoying two packs a week, and during our early years married, he was smoking three packages a week.

By 1985, my husband needed an entire package of cigarettes each day. Lighting-up had become a necessary part of every business negotiation. Our house smelled smoky, to everyone but us, and our youngest daughter had developed respiratory issues. I was cautiously optimistic as he embarked on his third stop-smoking campaign. He had quit for six-month periods, previously, and resumed the habit.

There were several incidents that fuelled my husband’s gradual determination to quit smoking. On television, there were commercials depicting smoke-damaged lungs. Our youngest daughter was officially diagnosed with childhood asthma. The schools offered our children an energetic education program, enlightening them about the harmful effects of smoking, which caused our children to create a stop-dad-smoking campaign of their own.

My husband's final motivation came one evening at a party when he pulled out his pack of smokes and began offering one to each of his friends. He was stunned to discover that everyone in the room had quit. Soon afterward, he was hospitalized for a Crohn’s flare-up. He had to be smoke-free for ten days while in hospital. He had time, while recuperating, to think about how to quit smoking.  

When my husband arrived home, he told me he had a plan. He was, already, almost two weeks smoke-free. He would simply try to make it to three weeks. He developed a one more week philosophy. 

Quitting wasn’t easy for him. It affected the entire family. My usually good-natured husband, whom I adored, decided to quit smoking, with no helping aids and was often grumpy. He felt wretched most of the time. Quite soon, he noticed that our daughter’s asthma was starting to improve. That spurred him on. She wrote him many encouraging notes, always adding happy little drawings.

When my husband wanted to scream from the cravings, he would ride his bike multiple times around the crescent, where we lived. When he was soaking wet with sweat and too tired to care, he would return, smiling. I loved that smile. He reminded me of the main character in the children's book, The Little Engine that Could. Each year, we place a little train engine ornament on the Christmas tree. It bears the date 1985 on its side and reminds us of the uphill climb we made that year.

On October 19, 1986, my husband had been smoke-free for one year, and we celebrated. Each year, after that first anniversary, we acknowledged his accomplishments with special foods, designer cakes, or funny embroidered underwear and T-shirts. When he reached a smoke-free decade, I knew that our battle with smoking was over. To this day, we acknowledge my husband’s accomplishment each Christmas, when the little engine is placed on the tree.

I doubt if my husband would have remembered the significance of October 19, 2015, without my help. Yes, it was Election Day in Canada, but at our house, it was my husband’s 30th Smoke-Free Anniversary. His decision to quit has positively affected our lives. 

I thought about how I could adequately honour my husband’s accomplishment. I kept imagining his happy, pink lungs, and I decided to call the Saskatchewan Lung Association and donate $300, which is ten dollars for every smoke-free year. They sent him a tribute card and a Certificate of Excellence, which I glued into our scrapbook. I think this was a great way to commemorate such a milestone.

I also commissioned artist Audra Balion to create a sketch depicting the size of the addiction my husband had carried around. I framed it for his office.

I made him a little award card of my own, and I will place it beside a batch of his favourite cookies.

Above all, I thank him for making such a wise choice so many years ago, and darling, if you are reading this, I believe you are still smoking hot, but I am glad you are smoke-free. Quitting smoking was your second-best decision. As you know, marrying me was your best!


Comments (13)

  • Michael Hrycay
    April 22, 2017 at 09:43 pm

    Inspirational story and great blog!

  • Michelle Pavloff
    October 18, 2015 at 09:15 am

    What an incredible accomplishment!! I adore all of the support...he wouldn't have been able to do it without you!! So you need a certificate too ;) Loved reading this today! :)

  • ralph johnstone
    October 17, 2015 at 09:26 am

    Well done Maureen. It was great to read about Gord`s smoke free journey. Your encouragement through this time would have been pivotal as well. Gord was my inspiration to do the same. I wanted to keep my bike which he had eyes for. Two lungs up!

  • Isabelle Mills
    October 16, 2015 at 10:29 pm

    Congratulations, Gord and family for a superb accomplishment. I have just come home from seeing my doctor and receiving an all clear for my infected sinuses. A smoking couple had been moved four floors directly under me before Christmas. Without the proper ventilation smoke came pouring up in every way and caused me real problems. They were moved and my place thoroughly cleaned as well as the vents. It has taken excellent care to have me reach this result and I am most grateful. It has given me insights into the problem and an understanding that smoking is the most difficult addiction to shake, So a special congratulation. Gord, for winning the battle.

  • Mary Anne Yeo
    October 16, 2015 at 09:24 pm

    Interesting read Maureen! Congratulations to Gord and "good on ya" for celebrating his accomplishment. I saw a "smoker's lung (black) in a lab once and it was not a pretty sight. So great that Gord quit! Good date as well - my birthday! Tee! Hee!

  • Nicki Ault
    October 16, 2015 at 08:43 pm

    Congratulations to Gord on this inspiring anniversary and accomplishment!

  • Carol Senger
    October 16, 2015 at 08:42 pm

    Always love reading your blog Maureen! Congratulations on 30 years smoke free Gord. I also quit smoking August 14 1982, 33 years ago. We have been married 33 years as well.

  • Marion Murawsky
    October 16, 2015 at 07:46 pm

    Congrats to Gord for his 30 yr anniversary -- What an accomplishment. Fun reading about the journey!!!! The pics are great!! Love, Marion

  • Phyllis Kube
    October 16, 2015 at 02:00 pm

    How inspirational. I am so glad that I never developed that bad habit. I love reading your stories.

  • Helen Davis
    October 16, 2015 at 11:54 am

    Doing something to improve one's health..and those around us...priceless! Congratulations, Gord on the 30th anniversary of kicking a habit that way too many die before making that choice..or from the damage done already. My Dad passed away from lung cancer (a smoker) in 1966 at the age of 58 years old. My brother passed away from a heart attack at the age of 56 ( once a smoker). I never had the habit, my husband did. He passed away at the age of 61. Having worked in a bar for 23 years with smoking allowed on premises...my poor lungs have taken in their share of smoke..second hand...which we now know is as bad for us. Now I am removed from smoke..can smell it even if someone is driving down the street with their window open...yukky! Love this story..so good to celebrate it. Thanks for sharing.

  • Patricia Coulter
    October 16, 2015 at 11:49 am

    What a great account you are relaying about the ginormous grip tobacco has on our loved ones! You show your compassionate side with honesty and this shows us all how to support others. You also demonstrate how we need to celebrate the achievements in our lives, especially the ones that add to our longevity, and more celebrations!

  • Anna Addy
    October 16, 2015 at 11:36 am

    What an anniversary to celebrate - well done Maureen super read. Keep on writing you brightened up my day! Anna x

    October 16, 2015 at 11:24 am

    David has been smoke free for 41 years. We have been married for 41 years!!!!!!!!!

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