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This picture you see in front of you is me. It’s from the summer of 2009, when I was a little younger, a little lighter and a smoker.

Four years ago today that all changed.

I had smoked for nearly 10 years, I started right after I graduated High School. It was just something to do to pass time. And then it became something I needed to function during the day. To function at night, to function.

I’d say it’s not hurting me, it’s just a cigarette it’s not like I’m addicted to it.

But I was.

I smoked for fun, I smoked with friends. I smoked after dinner, I smoked before eating. I smoked while I updated my website. I smoked while I was driving. I smoked when I drank, I smoked when I woke up the next morning.

You see I didn’t think I was cool or anything, it was just something I did. I became a smoker. I didn’t think it affected me, but it did.

When I started they were under 5 dollars a pack, when I quit they were up near 10. And yes, money was a factor for my quitting.

I couldn’t tell you how many cigarettes I smoked, but I can tell you the number of different brands I had. I can’t tell you where I smoked, but I can tell you where I liked to smoke.

It was part of my life, but I never considered myself a smoker.

I thought I could quit whenever.

And then a few months after this picture was taken my mother passed away.

Mainly because of her smoking.

My mom thought it was cool we shared smoking. I did too. We would do it to connect. We would sneak off when visiting family because my family wasn’t aware, yet they were.

When I was low on money, she would lend me some cigarettes, or buy me a pack. And I would do the same for her.

It was something that connected a son and his mother.

And I would never take that away.

But I would take the smoking away.

For years after she had passed away, I kept smoking. I would say it’s remembering her. I would say it’s the time I still connect with her.

All I was doing was getting closer to joining her. With each puff I took. Every time I walked outside and smoked. I got closer and closer to her.

Yet in doing so I was leaving the rest of my family behind. Not knowing what those little cigarettes were doing to me To my body, to my mind, to my teeth, my fingers, to all of me.

New York state raised the price of cigarettes to help deter people from buying them. But I still bought.

As I was finally out on my own. I was paying for rent, a car, food and all those fantastic luxuries one would want.  I still bought a pack of cigarettes a day. More if I wanted to drink.

I was killing myself slowly. And I didn’t know it at all.

Then 2012 came around. And everything changed.

For a Christmas gift my dad gave me a book. Yeah, yuck, a book. Who wants a book? I want money or at least something cool I can play with for a few days until I either break it or forget about it.

This book though, it’s one of my favorite gifts of all time. I can’t tell you what the book is about. Because there isn’t a single page inside the book that I have actually read.

And no, it’s not because I can’t read.

The book is entitled The Easy Way To Stop Smoking by Allen Carr.

My dad had given me a clear sign he wanted me to quit. He wanted not to lose me. Like he had lost his wife. He didn’t want to have to go through that pain. He didn’t want to see his son go through that pain.

And it clicked inside me.

A week later on New Year’s Eve I smoked my last cigarette. On my way home from work I smoked it. I got home, took my sleep. And then when I woke up I didn’t smoke again. And still haven’t.

I hadn’t run out of cigarettes, I ran out of desire.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you quitting is easy. Because quitting is actually pretty tough. Especially if you have no desire.

But when I got that book, I realized that I wasn’t just hurting myself with smoking. I was hurting the ones around me.

I want to think I thanked my father for that gift. But if I haven’t, and he’s actually happened to read this. Thank you.

Now you might not smoke cigarettes. But there’s probably something going on in your life that you need to quit. Whether it be bad, good or whatever. It’s probably hurting someone you love more than you know.

Go ahead and be a quitter. It might actually make your life better.

And then again I have to ask myself. As 2016 has come, I wonder, what am I going to quit this year?