- Holly Searle
- London, United Kingdom
- Holly Searle is a writer who was born in Westminster in the middle of London. She shares her birthday with Jarvis Cocker and David Seaman and like Jarvis Cocker she wears glasses but has nothing whatsoever in common with David Seaman. She is fascinated by words, people and their stories, and regularly spends hours fantasising about being offered a weekly column. She has a degree in Film and Television which she gained from Brunel University in 1997. She has been blessed with two quite remarkable children whom she adores. She enjoys the company of her friends and the circus that is life. Long Walk to Forever by Kurt Vonnegut is her favourite short story. She is the author of the published children's tale The Story of Balan Singh, and is currently working on her first book.
Monday, 4 February 2013
Smoking and Me By Holly Searle
When I was a child, I absolutely hated people smoking around me.
Both of my parents smoked as did their parents, and as a result, my siblings and I, were raised in a cloudy toxic London environmentally unfriendly smog.
But of course, back then, no one really gave it a second thought. They all just smoked and smoked and smoked, and then smoked a bit more.
It was just part of every day life in the same way that say having a pint of milk delivered to your front door was by the milkman.
People just did it.
They smoked on the top decks of buses, in train carriages, on planes, in hospital wards, in the cinema, in libraries, at work, and of course in their own homes.
People just smoked anywhere and everywhere because they could.
Both indoors and out, it was always open season as far as smoking was concerned.
None of them gave this two minute exercise of puffing away in ignorance a second thought, as it was of no great concern to them as to why they shouldn't.
It was fine to smoke, wasn't it?
All those adverts said so didn't they?
You were never alone if you had a fag dangling out of the corner of your gob, whilst meandering around London after dark in a raincoat and a trilby.
Or you could you be all macho like one of those handsome cowboys who lived a healthy rural life on a cattle ranch somewhere in America.
Or maybe the sophisticated lifestyles of those that smoked could be bought for the price of a twenty pack encased in a gold box, or one that was named after the host city of not one, but two Winter Olympics.
You could be just like them and aspire to be associated with those lifestyles if you smoked this brand or that. The choices were almost limitless. One little white stick enabled you to imagine that you were part of an alternative reality, one that was very different from the one you were actually living.
Plus it was all cool and the gang to smoke wasn't it?.
All of those icons of the silver screen always had a fag wedge firmly between their lips. Fit and glamorous young men and women who demanded emulation from their audiences.
Didn't everyone want to be just like them?
Those ad men, those mad ad men. All of them spin doctors driven by wealth, who in their creative process would determine the future bad health of their targeted demographic, just so long as it made money.
Then in the late eighties, the general consensus towards smoking began to change.
And it didn't just happen over night.
Just like an addict being slowly weaned off of their choice of evil substance, changes began to take place slowly. Where once it had been okay to smoke on every part of a train, now there was only one carriage in which a smoker could puff away to their hearts detriment.
The international travelling smoker could now only smoke to the rear of a plane just like his terra firma counter part bus traveller.
All smokers were suddenly becoming a highlighted minority, targeted by spacial segregation.
Then smoking areas became a choice, rather than an accepted given, in restaurants and bars across the land.
Pretty soon, smokers became easier to spot than Wally. There they all were, outed and sneaking a quick fag break on the pavement, whilst leaning against the building they worked in.
For all the health risks associated with cigarettes, they were a pretty hardy bunch, braving all weathers for their few grams of nicotine.
And I was one of them.
I hated my parents smoking and yet when I first left home, the first thing I made a conscious effort to do, was to smoke.
It was, I thought, my own isolated independent rebellion.
But on reflection, nicotine was part of my genetic DNA. It was already there at my moment of conception and before I even came into the world. It fused its coding into mine without even giving me a choice.
And yet here was the first time in my life that I wasn't passively absorbing all of the toxins and poisons against my will. And what did I do, I filled the void with my own choice of brand and never gave it a second thought.
I was never affected by the ad man's subliminal marketing messages. I was part of the a third generation of smokers who systematically smoked, because their DNA demanded that they do so.
And yet, through it all, I hated it.
I attempted to beat off its unhealthy attachment to me several times, but I was always seduced into giving up, giving up, and gave in, and started again.
It has at times ruled my life.
Addiction is not unlike those cartoon versions of good and evil, that sit on each shoulder. A devil on the right and an angel on the left, my addiction often begged and pleaded with me.
"Go on, have one, just one, what harm can it do?"
"Say no, you are stronger than it is, don't give in, don't do it!"
But I did. I gave in, time and time again and always due to the mental deals I made with myself about smoking and not smoking.
And then it all starts to catch up with you, the actual consequence of the effects that it starts to have on your health. Those that as an addict you constantly make excuses for and blame on something else.
And then there are those that you cannot hide.
The lines it has left on your face. The teeth it has stained forever.
And that isn't cool, or a good look, or a lifestyle that you want to be living.
And then one day you realise that you left home thirty years ago and it is time to stop.
And so I did, and have.
There is too much at risk now, and besides I like not smoking.
It is easy to stop, it is the continuation of the stopping that is the hard bit.
But I made myself a promise this year, and I am sticking to it.
I promised myself I would be nicer to myself this year, and I am.
On the positive side, I have stopped getting migraines, I don't cough any more, my nose isn't continually stuffed up, and I smell nicer.
Thirty years of addiction isn't easy to wave farewell to.
It really isn't.
But ever time a smoker sits down beside me on public transport stinking fags, or I hear the familiarity of that hacking cough. It reminds me of all the reasons why I have stopped.
And I am both proud of myself and very, very, very glad.