This journey starts in my late twenties, when I moved from New York City, where I grew up and where it’s challenging to be an athlete, to Phoenix, where there was a climate of outdoorsy athleticism. In high school and college I had tried to escape physical education, so I knew nothing. And I smoked.
But when I moved to Phoenix, I fell in love with John Hardaway, a lifelong tennis player, and it became imperative that I quit smoking so we could move in together. Actually, I quit cold turkey, which no one is apparently able to do today, because I guess the nicotine percentage in the cigarettes has increased. Thank goodness I quit in 1969, because I probably wouldn’t be alive today if I hadn’t.
What made me quit was simple. I got out on the tennis court and even though I was 28, I was short of breath while running. John, who was twelve years older, was not. It was embarrassing. And it was scary. And just at that time the Surgeon General’s first report was released linking smoking to heart attacks and cancer.
That was enough for me. I endured about two weeks of not being able to concentrate on anything, hold a telephone conversation, think or read. And then the withdrawal symptoms abated, and I was down to about a ten-year craving that I was able to deny by chewing pack after pack of sugarless gum. In fact, the sugarless gum itself became a habit, but after a time, I gave that up, too.
In fact, the biggest thing I’ve learned about aging is that if you want to stay alive, you have to keep giving things up that you thought you could get away with in the past:-)