Bye-bye demon….hello life!!

Published 5:54 pm Tuesday, February 23, 2021

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It’s an inner demon that only you can conquer.

But I can tell you first hand, that demon put up a fight.

Last week – Feb. 12 to be exact – marked my one-year anniversary of being smoke-free.

It was on Feb. 12, 2020 that my doctored diagnosed me with the flu. I had felt like warmed-over death the day before….coughing, sneezing and my head felt like it weighed a ton.

So I hauled my sick butt to Roanoke-Chowan Community Health Center / Ahoskie Primary Care on that Wednesday (2-12-2020). After some prodding, poking, and shoving a swab (connected to a 2-by-4….just kidding about the size, but it sure felt that way) up my nose until it tickled my right eyebrow, the prognosis was the flu.

I was ordered to stay at home for five days, drink plenty of fluids, and get some rest.

I received a shot of something that was designed to help me with the flu symptoms.

Thirty minutes and one cigarette later, I was at home, in bed and stayed there for the next 32 hours…with the exception of guzzling down water and juice and visiting the sandbox.

I managed to drag myself out of bed that Friday, but it wasn’t a Happy Valentines Day for me, so I returned to the comfort of my mattress and pillow. I had no appetite and zero energy. I got winded just walking to the bathroom.

On Saturday, I rose at the crack of high noon. My sinuses were still packed full of crud, but my fever was gone and I felt a tad better.

Since my wife and daughter had opted to leave me to suffer alone and took off on one of their numerous shopping excursions to Greenville, I had the house to myself. I rifled through the fridge, trying to find something to make a sandwich with….finally giving up hope and settling for a PB&J.

Roughly 30 minutes later, I craved some nicotine (for the first time since mid-afternoon on Wednesday). I went out on the back porch (I don’t smoke inside the house), pulled out a single Winston from my pack and fired it up.

Upon inhaling that first drag, I thought I was going to die. I’ve never coughed that hard before…it felt as though my lungs were going to explode. And the smell of that smoke made me nauseous….I nearly lost a PB&J sandwich right there on the back porch.

Returning inside to my living room recliner, I found something on TV to watch (I don’t recall what it was). But I do remember having the urge to smoke during other occasions that day, but I talked myself out of it…recalling what happened earlier.

By the time Monday (2-17-2020) rolled around, I was feeling a lot better and returned to work. It was then I faced my biggest challenge to suppress my craving for a cigarette. This job, packed full of deadlines, is stressful and I found tobacco as a stress-reliever. But by this time – five days removed from my last cigarette – I had come to grips that if I wanted to quit, this was the time to do so.

I made a trip that day to my favorite store – Piggly Wiggly of Ahoskie – and filled a small bag with hard candy – especially “Red Hots” and Tootsie-Roll pops. They helped fill the void…they became my new cigarettes, only without the nicotine.

Meanwhile, my brain cells were screaming for the real thing. I had a few episodes at night….woke up in a sweat a couple of times; and felt lethargic and depressed, all at the same time.

But I vowed to not let the demon win.

The key to winning this battle and kicking my pack-a-day habit was having a strong mind….the willpower to overcome.

I’ll admit to popping a nicotine lozenge (I chose the weakest kind…2 mg) three times a day, but those cravings are slowly eroding as well as I keep my mind focused on kicking the habit.

At a pack a day, I was spending a shade over $1,800 per year on cigarettes, money better spent on other things I could enjoy. And then there was the fact of how tobacco dominated my life….things I wanted and needed to do all centered around me calling a brief “timeout” of life so I could spend six or so minutes smoking. That’s 120 minutes a day…two hours I could have used doing something constructive; like spending more time with my wife, my daughter, my grandson….even my co-workers.

I put my body, my health, at risk to satisfy my craving for nicotine. Thankfully, recent tests my doctor ordered did not show any trouble with my lungs…but if there was something there, I could only blame myself, not the tobacco companies. They didn’t hold a gun to my head and force me to smoke.

The only regret I have is waiting 50 years to kick the demon out of my life.

To those reading these words who still have that demon in control of their daily lives, there is no magic to ending your dependence on nicotine. It’s all about willpower….mind over matter. You’ll have to find what motivates you to kick the habit.

If you need encouragement, I can be contacted at the email and phone number listed below.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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