Somewhere in that video, my fellow Seymour, Indiana, celebrity, John Mellencamp, talks about his smoking habit.

One of those funny little coincidences, that interview airing this week. See, today marks the 13th anniversary of me quitting smoking for good.

Technically, July 1, 2004, was my quit date. But I was working the copy desk shift three nights later and couldn’t help but bum one last smoke from my co-worker, Joe.

So, July 4, 2004, is my own little “Independence Day.”

I “smoked” my first cigarette in the woods behind my childhood church, a few friends and I passing around a couple smokes one of them stole out of his dad’s pack, some summer day in between 7th and 8th grade.

I use the quotation marks there because there wasn’t a lot of real smoking going on, just some kids puffing on the cigarette, blowing the hot air out quickly and spitting. A lot of spitting.

It was an off and on thing for me for a couple years until an older friend saw me “smoking” and told me, “Dude, you got to hold it in.”

So I did. Hello, nicotine addiction.

I was 15. Save for a few weeks here and there when I “quit,” I smoked for another 16 years or so. Most of that time was a pack a day, give or take–a lot more if I was drinking. Marlboro Lights, Marlboro Reds, Camel Lights, Basics when I was broke, Marlboro Menthols when I was sick.

When I first met the wife, she didn’t even know I smoked. To her credit, Bessie never gave me an ultimatum about quitting, even though she didn’t smoke herself and hated the smell. She recognized that I was an addict and that, if I was going to quit, I had to want to do it myself.

Lord knows I tried. Nicotine patches and Starlite mints would help for a little bit, but eventually I’d be back at the convenience store, buying a pack.

Quitting’s easy. I did it a million times.

So, 2004. I don’t know that there was any one thing that made me decide to quit (yet again) but I decided I wanted to. This time was going to be different, though.

I didn’t approach the process at first as QUITTING. Too much pressure. Can you imagine, the idea of giving up something that’s been such a part of you, giving it up for THE REST OF YOUR LIFE?

Nah, that wasn’t going to work.

So I approached it differently. One day at a time. Just take it one day at a time. “I’m not going to smoke a cigarette today.” Easy peasy. There’s that built-in out: if I make it through today, tomorrow comes and maybe I can have what I want.

But you get through that first day and the second day dawns and you think, nah, I’m good. Day 3 passes, no problem. You get through the fourth day and the fifth day and the sixth day and you think, hey, wouldn’t it be nice to go a whole week? So the seventh day passes and then the eighth day and then the days start to accumulate more and you start thinking less and less about those foul, loathsome, stinking cancer sticks that cost so much money. And then it’s winter and you’re sitting at Walmart waiting for an oil change, and a couple comes in who clearly have been smoking in a closed car and the stench is overwhelming and you’re like, yeah, I’m done.

One day at a time. Seems like a fitting approach to a lot of things, eh?

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