Have a blood vessel in your brain explode. Be taken to the ER in an ambulance. Have the docs send a slinky up your femoral artery to seal off the blood vessel. Spend about four or five weeks (who can remember? I'm brain-damaged after all) in ICU hooked up to various machines. One that took a direct reading of whatever from a nifty wire than they shoved down another artery in my neck to my heart. (It was called a Swann, for those of you who care to know.) Another pumped air into my lungs after the hospital shared not one, but three separate infectious diseases with me. Get food from a tube down your nose. Pee through one poked up your bladder. We won't even discuss any other eliminatory processes. Go through all of this, and be delivered six weeks later (after rehab, remember) back home, a non-smoker.
I started smoking when I was 15, and I don't have to tell you how long ago that was. I smoked about a pack a day for the next thirty or so years. I was a die-hard, love it love it love it smoker. My friend, Laurie, whose mother died of lung cancer, tried to get me to quit when she did. She went to SmokeEnders, and she would come home from a weekly meeting and give me a mini-version of what she'd learned. I remember having to list all the reasons why I wanted to quit smoking. None of them had to do with health. All of them had to do with odors--my breath, my car, my apartment, my clothes, even my body. Laurie went back to smoking, and I never quit.
Then she found an acupuncturist who had worked wonders with old-school smokers such as Jason Robards, Jr. The guy was an MD in Scarsdale New York, and he cured Laurie. So she made me go. And he cured me. I walked into his office a smoker, and walked out a non-smoker. It wasn't that hard. Evidently he knew the right pressure points to hit for endorphin rushes, and I recall being sort of blissed out for a week or so. I barely ate the sunflower seeds he had given me to assauge my need to keep my mouth busy.
Several years passed in which I (a) didn't smoke, and (b) didn't particularly want to smoke, and (c) was obnoxious about those smelly smokers in my path. Then, I don't know, one day I happened to notice that all the most interesting people were those smelly smokers. Non-smokers were up-tight, rigid, parsimoniously correct; smokers were creative, funny, fuck-the-world types. That was me, and I wanted to be outside with them.
So I analyzed my smoking versus non-smoking situation and came up with these rules: 1. Since smell was the major issue for me, I would never smoke inside. 2. I would not smoke mindlessly; I would make sure each cigarette I had was a wanted one. Because I lived in the Northeast, rule 2 was impacted by rule 1: standing in a freezing rain or blizzard is not condusive to enjoying one's smoke.
My rules worked well for me, and I ended up smoking about seven cigarettes a day. I had my last one about eleven o'clock on July 8. I sat on the porch and smoked before going to bed. Four hours later my cerebral aneurysm ruptured, which takes us right back to where this post started. When people asked me how I quit smoking, I would tell them the ICU is a good place to do it. Sheer coincidence, was the implication.
But then I read this article in the paper today, and I'm wondering if along with the other parts of my brain that the aneurysm flattened, did it get my insula as well?
EDIT: Ooops, forgot to put my tags on.