UP-N-SMOKE - Suicide:
A Universal Right of Passage
BY SHARI SCHREIBER, M.A.
This litigious climate we're living in, seems really crazy to me. The notion that it’s somebody else’s fault, if you don’t have the will or desire to stop using substances that are known to be harmful, is ludicrous--yet our society seems intent on supporting such nonsense! I got sick and tired of all those anti-smoking campaigns years ago, portraying sick people as victims of the tobacco industry. To my mind, it's utterly ridiculous that these "victims" have filed lawsuits to compensate them for their addictive compulsions, and have gotten away with it! Next thing you know, liquor distillers could be defending themselves in court for having given us cirrhosis of the liver, and God knows how many other alcohol-related diseases.
Along these lines, should you be permitted to sue a knife or gun maker, or the owner of a tall building you decide to take a dive off of, next time you’re feeling depressed? How about suing that drug company who manufactured the handful of over-the-counter aspirin you’re about to swallow--just in case someone finds you in the nick of time, has your stomach pumped, and aborts your attempt to do away with yourself? Jeez . . . get a grip, will ya?
Some years back, my mother died of emphysema a little past her eightieth birthday. She’d smoked since her early twenties--and to tell the truth, I was amazed she hadn’t succumbed to some form of cancer years before. I’d given up trying to get her to quit--it was a frustrating and fruitless effort. She was real cute about it though--had this notion she could convince me she didn’t inhale, and adamantly denied it for ages. Yeah, like I was blind.
I don't know if you understand how emphysema affects the human body, and I'm not going technical on ya, but what happens, is you suffocate--literally. If you've ever been afraid of drowning, or smothering with a plastic bag over your head, that's pretty close to what this death feels like. The damage from smoking is cumulative. By the time you notice any symptoms, it's too late to recover.
Male smokers are especially prone to developing bladder cancer. All smokers are susceptible to bone loss in the mouth, which can mean that you lose your teeth, especially the ones in front~ you know, where your smile used to be if/when it happens to you. My mother had to be fitted for dentures years before her death, due to bone loss.
I’m not proposing you stop smoking, mind you. I think we all have the right to exercise dominion over how and when we're gonna check-out, so if you're prepared to have no regrets when you get bladder cancer or you're hooked up to an oxygen tank, it's none of my business. On the other hand, if you want to sue somebody for it, nobody's held a gun to your head and made you puff on that thing year after year--and if they have, you shoulda called the cops!
Okay, so tobacco companies put harmful, toxic, substances into their 'death sticks' to make them more irresistible, more addictive, more whatever-it'll-take-to-get-you-and-keep-you hooked. A former guy friend always insisted that the diameter of a cigarette is exactly the size of a woman's nipple. He convinced himself this was by deliberate design to enhance their subliminal allure! From a psychoanalytic perspective, we're all seeking the 'good breast' and that symbiotic attachment we missed out on in infancy, right??
Hey, I smoked about a million years ago, and boldly went for the hard stuff; Camels and Chesterfields. Unfiltered. Gave me a rush in my twenties, and I guess that's what we're looking for in our youth, when we're experimenting. At some point I stopped getting “the rush,” and cigarettes lost their novelty. I took up pipe smoking after that, presumably more for the attention than anything else, which worked just great--until I bought a car with a manual transmission. I’m pretty good at multi-tasking, but all that tamping, lighting and filling the bowl were a bit too tricky while driving. Still, Amphora Black Cavendish smelled so divine, I wanted to line my bureau drawers with it. I still have my pipes, and have contemplated a revival once or twice--but I’m pretty sure my bronchials would stage a revolt.
I’m thrilled that California's instituted non-smoking laws in restaurants and bars, so I can enjoy being out for an evening jaunt that doesn't end in deep, foghorn-like rasping. I still reserve the right to be disgruntled when dining on an outdoor patio, and cigarette smoke from a few tables away is wending its way up my nostrils and into my (hyper-sensitized) lungs. But while I might grumble about it or nicely ask someone to curb their smoke, I’ll be damned if I’m gonna vilify ‘em for being cavalier about welcoming a slowly encroaching death. I simply pity them.
I have one close friend who'd smoked until she developed lung cancer, and had to have the major part of one lobe removed. The remaining tumors they couldn't get to, episodically grow faster, and occasionally don't. At the time I've edited this piece in 2016, she's dead from bone cancer that metastasized from her lungs. Another gal (and former friend) has convinced herself that if she smokes those skinny little cigarettes, she's safe from future consequences. She's roughly fifty pounds overweight, has high blood pressure, and takes two breaths to my one. So you tell me, if I shouldn't have been emotionally preparing myself to lose her for many years.
I’ve always felt that if we really want to orchestrate our own demise, that’s our business, and no one else’s--and that treating suicide as a crime is just plain stupid. What is a crime though, is making our kids live with real fears that they may lose us, long before they should! We're sending the message; "don't get too comfortable with this attachment, because I'm not invested in sticking around for you, or your needs." Isn't that a bit selfish?
Let's try to understand, accept and like ourselves and our kids, because this is where their addictions actually get started! Some serious attention to them in this area is crucial--especially when youngsters think that "smoking is cool,"because it makes them seem more adult. And by the way, can we give some thought to why they're wanting to escape their childhood by doing stupid, harmful things to themselves? Are they just following in Your footsteps? Is that what you did to self-medicate and escape your pain, while growing up??
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