A tobacco addict comes clean

It was an inauspicious Saturday morning; completely forgettable had it not been for that … one moment. A moment of innocence still seared in my brain and one I hope will change me for the rest of my life.

It was about 11am and the obligatory suburban errand run had reached its crescendo: bread, milk, eggs. This is life. I stood in line at the kiosk of my local supermarket, completely unprepared for what was about to happen.

I hadn’t even shaved, I was barely dressed up enough to leave the house. Hardly the right preparation for a life-changing moment, but there I was. Those ahead of me in the queue calmly placed their orders: bread, milk, eggs.

My five-year-old son, my constant companion, sometime nemesis and full-time iPad hog, stood next to me. He shuffled closer, clutched at my jeans, his head hovering around my hip.

He raised his brown eyes upwards towards me and said softly through a smile: “Dad, are you going to buy a Dunhill Ultra?”


There it was. That moment. It was innocently framed but his innocuous question meant something more.

I’m not sure what was worse: the feeling that I had somehow slipped into some brand-association hell or that my addiction had made me utterly predictable – even to my five-year-old.

It was that moment of truth all addicts know is coming. It’s out there. Waiting.

The embarrassment, revulsion, desperation, helplessness and finally despair all bundled into one. Enough is enough.

My rough journalistic calculation says I have probably smoked about 73 000 cigarettes, give or take a few hundred. It’s fair to say I have been there, done that and will probably pay for it later in life.

I will never run 10km again as I did 15 years ago and I will never swim with any semblance of comfort. Breathing had become a chore.

I’m not about to evangelise to anyone. I hate evangelists. By all means, smoke if you want to smoke. Lord knows, I’m certainly not out of the woods yet.

It’s only been five weeks. I have quit smoking before, many times, but each time I was tempted back.

The post-coital smoke, the post-mutton-curry smoke, the last-smoke-before-bed smoke, the breakfast smoke, and so it goes. It’s all fantasy, and I played my part.

And so, on April 12 2014, I bought my last Dunhill Ultra.

I decided to go cold turkey, without any help from gum or prescriptions or those dodgy e-cigarettes.

More than a month later, I no longer reek of cigarette smoke, my wife no longer recoils when I slink into bed, I sleep better, I breathe better, I hardly cough and, on Saturdays I will run with my son.

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Adrian Ephraim
Adrian Ephraim is a journalist and editor who has worked in print, radio and digital over the past 20 years – for The Star newspaper, IOL, Mail & Guardian and Eyewitness News. He has covered sport since 2005, when he won the SAB Newcomer of the Year Award. His work has focused on human interest stories in news and sport, and the triumph of hard work and determination over adversity.
Bhekisisa team
Bhekisisa Team
Health features and news from across Africa by Bhekisisa, the Mail & Guardian's health journalism centre.

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