Mel over at Stirrup Queens wrong a PSA on smoking this morning. I started writing a comment but it turned into a novel, so I decided I’d write a post instead.

The PSA is about a guy she was near at Starbucks who was proud of the fact that he’s hid his smoking from his kids. She is sitting a few feet away and can smell the smoke, which means that his kids can definitely smell it. I was writing about my dad and my MIL, and my comment got away from me. This is what I started writing.

I always knew my dad smoked – he smoked in the house and never tried to hide it. Once I learned the dangers in school, I started pestering him to quit. I found pamphlets at doc offices and put them on the table by his chair. I made posters in school that I brought home. I pointed out anti-smoking ads on TV. I begged him to stop.

And he did…when I was 18 and out of the house. He ended up in the hospital for something unrelated, but he couldn’t get out of bed to walk down the hall and go outside to smoke (this was almost 2 decades ago, when you could smoke on hospital grounds). He was there for a week…and when he got out, my mom said “You’ve gone a week without a smoke. I wonder how long you can go?” My dad smoked from age 13 until he was 48. He is now 66 and hasn’t picked the habit back up.

My MIL, on the other hand…she has stopped and started repeatedly. She stopped for about 4 years…until we moved in with them, at their request. I asked her to smoke outside, as I didn’t want to be exposed to it with my asthma. And she did…most of the time. She would tell me ALL of the time, but I could smell it in the air when she tried to be sneaky. Do you know, I couldn’t get pregnant the entire time they lived here? Smoke does the same thing to the cilia on your ovaries as it does to the cilia in your nose. Do you know that 2 years after they moved out I got pregnant with the Boy, completely on “accident”? (We all know that infertility means you are simultaneously trying and not trying after you give up.) Gee, I wonder why that happened? Could it be that all the exposure made it so that the eggs couldn’t actually travel down the tubes, thus preventing me from being able to give her the grandchild she so desperately wanted? And yes, I DID point that out to her while she was here, that her smoking (and that of my FIL, lest you think she was alone in her habit) was damaging both my fallopian tubes AND Aaron’s sperm. That was the only thing that got her outside.

If I’d had my way, I’d have been able to hold to my threat to her…that so long as she smoked, she would never see her grandchild because I don’t want him exposed to smoke. I needed her, though, to help me with the Boy because I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t be alone very much as he got older. I wasn’t prepared, I was crazy, I was sleep deprived, and I didn’t know what I was doing. Then school started and I didn’t want to put him in daycare much, and being with the Boy was good for her, so she babysat once a week in both Fall and Spring semesters. She would go outside to smoke, yes, but that meant she was leaving the Boy inside and unattended, which did NOT make me happy. Even if he was napping, which is not the point. At any rate, I haven’t been able to hold to that threat.

She did quit (again…) just before he was born. Her dad died a few days later and she picked it back up again because of stress. It is totally her crutch. She quit again about a year ago, for a few months. Then FIL got worse and she started back up. He was on oxygen and they were BOTH smoking…volatile to say the least. At Christmas we got them both the e-cigs because we didn’t want them blowing up the house. They were too strong for FIL and MIL said it wasn’t the same, but she was trying. In February or so, FIL managed to set himself on fire because he was smoking in bed and hot ash or something dropped onto the oxygen tube and melted it into his face, burned the sheets and his hand and face. He quit smoking shortly thereafter, only to die in April. MIL had quit but…you guessed it…started back up again. She promised it was only short term (we’ve heard that so many times I’ve lost count) but I highly doubt it. I know she knows the risks, but she seems to not care all that much. She wants to spend all this time with the Boy, but she’s shortening her life with every smoke she takes. She bemoans the fact that the Boy will never get to know FIL…but she’s willing to kill herself slowly and make it so he doesn’t get to spend another 20-30 years with her. It angers me so much I could scream, but I can’t do a damn thing about it.

So people, if you smoke, be honest about it. Don’t hide it. Don’t lie and claim you’re quitting when you aren’t. If you quit, don’t start back up. If you need a crutch (and we all do, in one form or another), pick up something else that is less damaging both to you AND to the people around you. Let you family have you for as long as you can, because when you die it leaves a giant hole that nothing can fill.

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  1. This made me feel weepy: both because of the smokers in my life and because it creates such a complicated situation as you say.

  2. I hear you on the MIL issue. My mom is good and doesn’t smoke around the kids but .. yeah, you can still smell it. Duh. Pisses me off because of how she won’t even try anymore. Oh, no sweat, you only almost died and had none in your system, but I know, your mom died a smoking-related death so totally light up at the wake, that’s cool.

    I used to ask, beg, plead for her to quit. Threaten to keep the kids away from her. None of it matters though, we can’t not allow the kids to see their grandmother. Someday maybe it will help drive home the “do not smoke” message to the kids, but … at what cost.

  3. This is so sad. My MIL has said she will quit this coming month (going on Champix) and FIL is starting to talk about it. BIL quit some months ago and I think he is still “quit.” Rest of family doesn’t smoke, but these are dear to us and we do want them around to enjoy their grandkids, whenever and however that happens. 🙂

  4. This is a very powerful post as to how addictions can wreak havoc in families. What else can you call it but an addiction as “a bad habit” doesn’t seem to be enough of a reason to ignore the consequences.


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