Gego zagaswaasiin: I am not Smoking!!!

by Jim Northrup
News From Indian Country

I quit smoking over 70 days ago and didn’t die. Prior to that time I smoked straight Camels, no filters, for about 50 years. Patricia and I decided to quit smoking for our health.

We quit at the same time so we could help each other through the nicotine craving stage. A couple of years ago my wife and I tried to quit using the cold turkey method. Both of us began smoking again after a couple weeks. I used to say I could quit smoking but couldn’t quit starting again.

For me I began puffing when I was about 14, just hanging on the street corner with my friends. I am sure we thought we looked older, looked more glamorous. In my family my mother and father smoked. My aunts and uncles smoked cigarettes. Almost everyone I lived around smoked tobacco, I noticed the only ones who didn’t smoke were those who chewed snuff. I tried snoose a couple of times and hated it.

So it was back to Camels which soon became my constant companion, my friend even. At that time I think I paid a quarter for a pack of butts.

When I was 15, I was sent to the Minnesota State Training School for boys because I didn’t follow society’s rules.

At Red Wing we were allowed to smoke if we behaved. We were rationed to four cigarettes a day, one after each meal and one in the evening. If we didn't have money for cigarettes the State provided them. They weren’t always Camels but they worked, they gave me the dose of nicotine I was craving.

Joined The Marine Corps
Later when I joined the Marine Corps there were a lot of smokers. In Boot Camp the Drill Instructor would reward us by letting us smoke. Sometimes the DI would say, “The smoking lamp is lit for one cigarette, and I’m going to have that one.” But mostly it was,“Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.”

At that time I carried my Camels in my right sock. It was real cheap to buy cigarettes at the PX, I remember paying a dime a pack there.

Smoking felt good and gave me a lot of satisfaction. I particularly liked that first one in the morning after a long night in Vietnam, or after a firefight or at the end of a long march. Cigarettes were my friend.

When I carried that Camel cigarette pack I began to hear little jokes and stories about the things depicted on the package. For example, if you squinted at the camel shown on the front you could see the outline of a woman or a lion.

Also if you held the Camel package up to a mirror, the words Choice Quality on the side of the package looked funny. Quality looked like a mirror image but the word Choice looked normal. I still don’t know why that is, just one of life’s great mysteries.

On the back of the package there are five lines of text talking about the tobacco used in Camels. It was always fun to ask someone to count the letter E, how many E’s were in that paragraph. For some unknown reason most people got it wrong. They would say there are eight or nine E’s in that paragraph. Actually there were eleven E’s. Another mystery.

For fun I would show someone the front of the package and say if you and your camel were in the picture and it was getting dark, where would you spend the night? Most would say under that palm tree. I would flip the pack around showing the buildings on the back, not me, I’d go around the corner to town would be my reply.

I Was a Jogger
When I was in my thirties I was a jogger. I used to run two miles every morning, something I learned in the Marine Corps. I discovered it was easier to make that run if I could breathe good. I quit smoking for two years. Then I quit running and went back to smoking.

Now in my sixties I decided that I had enough of those Camels. I used to say that the coughing was my only exercise program. I wasn’t getting enough air so I became an open mouth breather. Patricia was getting tired of her cigarettes too. She used to smoke Winston Ultra Lights.

Patricia and I decided to quit again. The Fond du Lac Reservation has a Quit Smoking program. We went to the clinic and met the counselor.

Among many things I learned was that the urge to smoke goes away in ten minutes whether you light up or not. I learned the many health benefits one gets by quitting smoking. The counselor offered many options to assist us. There was hypnosis, acupuncture, and drugs.

There were two drugs that had worked with other smokers. Patricia chose one called Welbutin and I chose Chantix.

I learned that Chantix blocks the nicotine receptors in the brain. One is allowed to smoke cigarettes for a week while beginning the Quit Smoking program. While I was still smoking I flew back from California, ordinarily during a layover in Minneapolis I would have pushed my way through the crowds to get outside to smoke. With Chantix I didn’t care if I smoked or not. One side effect of Chantix is I can better remember my dreams.

It has been over forty days since we quit buying cigarettes. I’d estimate we have saved over 700 bucks by not buying smokes.

I don’t know what will happen tomorrow but today I am smoke free.


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