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Dad First, COPD Second
Dad First, COPD Second

Elizabeth provides support, insight and guidance for caregivers.

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A 12 Step Approach to Kicking the Habit

A street sign marked with the number 12. Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.comSmoking is an interesting thing. Some people become addicted, like my father, and others, like my mother, used it to relieve stress during tense situations.

As a child, my memories of my mother smoking were during really difficult times at home, especially when she had horrendous arguments with my father. We know now that alcoholism was at the root of their senseless fights, but back then, we felt we were victims who were stuck in a bad situation and that destiny had simply dealt us a bad hand.

I remember her nervous need to reach for my father’s cigarette pack – no, she didn’t have her own – as her hands shook the pack for a single. She would huff-and-puff hurriedly, almost rushing through it so she could light up again. Looking back, however, the cigarettes brought them together in a weird way because even though they were caught up fighting, when dad saw mom smoking, he took a break asking, “Where are my cigarettes?” Of course, a good wife, she would pass them to him. As they each relieved their tension, I’m sure neither realized how they were aggravating their bodies, given how emotionally and physically strained they were. They were lucky nothing worst happened.

Aside from stress-relief smoking, I can say my mother was a social smoker as well. When we got together with friends or family, my mother would smoke a cigarette or two. I do remember when she followed the trend with the cigarette holder; it was so Hollywood!  

Yet with her diabetes, I guess she kept the smoking at bay, aware of the increased health risks with just about everything.

But when my father stopped drinking, something clicked for her. As he relied on the principles of self-help teachings based on 12 steps, my mother had her own "aha" moment. She realized that she could stop smoking and that she didn’t need to use it as a crutch, even for social situations. Ironically, as I’ve shared before, my father was able to quit the drink but not smoking. He still needed the crutch, probably because giving up alcohol and smoking proved too much at once.

As they each celebrate their 27th anniversary of living a life based on 12 steps, dad is sober and mom is smoke-free…and dad is too.

Me? At 12, I smoked one of dad’s cigarettes with friends, not knowing how. And I freaked out.


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About the Author

Elizabeth cares for her mother, a diabetic, and for her father, who suffers from COPD.