I was going to write about how I have nothing to write about, when my olfactory senses detected that one of my apartment neighbors was smoking a cigarette.

I smoked from the age of 18 and a half all the way till almost age 32, roughly about 13 years, but I didn't REALLY keep track of the day I first smoked and the day I last smoked.

At first, cigarette smoking was generally pleasurable for me. I would experience a mild high from smoking one, though I could feel my heart racing and my nerves becoming just a little bit more sensitive more than anything. I kept my smoking to a minimum, and at this point 3 cigarettes a day was probably the most I would manage.

As time went on, I wound up going to 5, and then 10 cigarettes a day, but it took several years before I ever got close to a pack a day and even then it was 16-18 out of 20. I should mention at this point that I was smoking Marlboro Light 100's to start out, and due to friend always handing me cigarettes to smoke, I later went to Marlboro Reds, and then I backed down to Marlboro Mediums.

Then I joined the military (US Navy) and during my 2 months of boot camp, I wasn't allowed a single cigarette. It was during this period that I discovered that I could actually free myself from the need to smoke and that I figured 3 days was what it took to get the stuff out of my system, but the habit was more like 2-3 weeks.

Unfortunately, as soon as I graduated boot camp, I eagerly lit up (as it wasn't MY choice to quit at this point). I had to stay for an additional month for "apprentice training" as a seaman, but I was allowed off the base during certain hours of the day.

Most people took the train from Great Lakes, Illinois to Chicago and bought cigarettes, got wasted in a bar, and handed over money to strippers. I satisfied myself with going to the train station, buying cigarettes there, and after I was done, there was nearly always a bum ready to take my cigarettes as I wasn't able to have them on base.

When I got to my first duty station, I was told I could smoke in my barracks as long as my roommate was ok with it, and in general, he was, though he himself didn't smoke. I still tried to keep the window cracked open which was difficult considering where I was stationed.

I got out of the military and was pretty much still doing 10-15 cigarettes a day, one per hour max. By this point I had been smoking for 6 years and didn't really feel that bad. I started noticing that after I finished eating, I would cough a few times, and then almost immediately would finish with a cigarette.

Towards the end of the 13 some odd years, I was feeling like crap as a result of the smoking. I would wake up feeling as if I had Hervé Villechaize standing on my chest, and I would frequently cough with a dry irritated throat. I had decided I was going to quit but I had trouble managing the whole thing other than the time I was forced to quit.

Now I'm not exactly the most religious person, but I do believe in God, and I do make prayers, and this seemed a fitting time to do so. I made one of those prayers that you hear about in the movies. I said "If you'll help me quit smoking, I promise I will NEVER smoke another cigarette again."

Some would say it was coincidence, but almost immediately after that, I found that my finances were especially tight. I had a lot of bills to pay, I didn't have a very good paycheck at that time, and I literally had to try to decide "Do I want to smoke or would I rather eat?". I chose eating, since all my knowledge of how well smoking kept my hunger under control also involved lots of Coffee with sugar and cream. In fact, it's possible the sugar and cream was mostly responsible.

The first day was almost torture, but I made it through, but the 2nd day was even worse. I was seriously craving a cigarette, but of course I couldn't even afford one at this point. I could have gone to a friend and begged him for a cigarette but I didn't want to do that. I had asked for this, remember?

On the third day I felt angry, irritable, almost as if every nerve in my body was crying out in anguish for a damn cigarette... it was to the point where I would probably have gotten into a fist fight with someone if they asked me "how's it going?"

After the 3rd day the need for a cigarette dropped off... it was sorta still there, but I wasn't going to rip someone's head off for one. Most of what I felt at this point was just the need from habit. I was used to waking up and having a cigarette. I was used to having a cigarette in my mouth every couple of hours at least. I was used to having one after I finished eating. I sorta missed these times, but not enough to go back. Plus I still couldn't afford it.

After 2 weeks of noticing painfully every time where I WOULD be having a cigarette, I started noticing instead how much more I could do because I didn't need to stop for a cigarette break, and/or didn't need to step outside to a smoking area to have it.

So after almost a month, I was feeling truly "smoke free" and after a few months I started feeling better. After a year or so I noticed my sense of smell returning. After a couple of years, I noticed that I could no longer stand to be in a smokey room for more than a few minutes. And of course, I can now smell when my neighbor lights up a cigarette through the apartment walls.

I've been smoke free for 5 and a half years as of this writing. Supposedly after this much time, my risk of a stroke has gone back to normal. I still have 10 more years to go before my risk of heart attack is down to normal levels.

My dad smoked very nearly all his life (and filterless cigarettes to boot) and towards the end of his life, he had a heart attack, reduced lung function (I can't say for sure if it was emphysema) and I believe his lifespan was greatly decreased because of it.