Daily Prompt: You need to make a major change in your life. Do you make it all at once, cold turkey style, or incrementally?
I think this depends on what kind of change we are talking about. Overall, if given the choice, I prefer to make changes gradually. I think all people are different though and some people just prefer to make changes cold turkey. One example comes to mind.
My mother was a heavy smoker. She grew up in the 30s and 40s when smoking was I think somehow glamorized for women. She began smoking at an early age and by the time she was in her 40s and 50s, she was smoking 3 packs of Pall Mall cigarettes a day. She bought them by the carton and I rarely can remember her when she didn’t have a cigarette in her hand. She had tar and nicotine stains on her fingers from her constant smoking. Her three daughter’s clothes reeked of cigarette smoke wherever they went.
My mother tried many times to cut back or stop smoking and wasn’t successful. Then in 1985, she was diagnosed with colon cancer. When she went in the hospital for her resection and anastomosis, she was put in the room with an elderly woman who was dying from lung cancer. This woman had tubes that were suctioning bright red blood from her lungs and chest to a container on the wall. She was on oxygen and struggling to breathe. My mother said this woman begged her more than once to please light a cigarette for her. My mother refused (for obvious reasons, one of which was all the oxygen in the room). I remember coming home from veterinary school on the night of my mother’s surgery to visit her in the hospital and the woman asking me PLEASE to light a cigarette for her so that she could just have a few puffs. My eyes looked at the blood coming from her lungs. I shook my head no, and told her I was sorry.
One day, a pulmonologist walked in the room to talk to this lung cancer patient. There was a curtain between my mother and this woman’s bed, and the doctor sat on the patient’s bed and proceeded to pull the curtain. My mother heard every word he said to this woman. This doctor laid it on the line for her and boldly told her that she was plain and simply killing herself with her cigarettes. He gave her quite a lecture about her grave situation, the anatomy and physiology of the lungs, and described in detail, the lung pathology she had incurred by smoking. My mother heard every word, and though she said she knew the lecture was meant for this other patient on the other side of the curtain, she took it very personal and felt that it had been directed right at her. In short, my mother decided that day, that she was never going to pick up another cigarette. She never did. My mother lived 21 years after this hospital incident and never touched a cigarette again. She always said that she believed that stopping cold turkey was the only way to go when it came to smoking. I also heard her say many times during that 21 years, that she wished she knew the name of that doctor, because she would have liked to have personally thanked him. Unfortunately, the lung cancer patient continued to beg everyone who entered the room for a cigarette. My mother recalled reading the woman’s obituary in the paper shortly after she got out of the hospital.
I’ve known lots of people who have tried to quit smoking. Some have been successful, others haven’t been. The ones I’ve known who have been successful at it have usually been the ones like my mother, who quit cold turkey– who just one day decide they’re never picking up another cigarette.