Sunday, August 12, 2012


About 21 years ago, I quit smoking on the last day of August. I felt euphoric for the first few days, then I had to move, and I mean move, constantly. At my office job I offered to deliver mail, run errands, do the heavy lifting. In my car I chewed gum, sang with the radio, rolled up the windows and screamed. With friends I opted for things like dancing, babysitting, swimming--anything active.

But I still had down times that had to be filled. The best thing was walking. I lived in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles, and I did all possible errands on foot. One day, I got the idea to drive up to Pasadena to a hiking trail I'd read about.

I don't know how hot it was, but it was hot, and it was noon, and I had no experience with mountain hiking. About three miles up the trail, when I saw no cover from the sun and I was so thirsty I could have chewed a cactus, I noticed no one was out there but me and decided maybe I had picked the wrong day. I stopped, looked out over the San Gabriel Valley and told myself I didn't have to kill myself to quit smoking. In fact, that was missing the point.

Years later, hiking the Sam Merrill Trail, recognition tapped me gently on the shoulder and I realized I was on the same trail, in the same spot where I'd turned around that day. It was not three miles, not even one mile up the trail. With the shape my lungs were in back then, it had only felt like I'd gone that far.

21 years later and by no means an athlete, I can still outdo my younger, smoking self. I'll prove it when the weather cools.


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Latino Heritage said...

A sage decision in so many directions. Happy you made the choice.

Book Dragon said...

I think you already have

Valladolid Daily Photo said...

I quit smoking 10 years ago, and is one of the wisest decisions I ever made in my life. Now I look back and I get the impression that it was easier than it actually was, there were difficult times in which as you've said, needed to be busy all the time to stop thinking about smoking a cigarette.Congratulations to both of us!

dive said...

From someone who has never smoked … er … tobacco, all I can do is stand back and applaud, Petrea.
Latino Heritage got it right on the button.
If ever I reach LA, let's hike that trail; it looks fun.

Petrea Burchard said...

I'm happy, too, LH, and glad I know better than to hike that trail today.

Thanks, BD.

Sometimes I forget how hard it was, Valladolid. But I don't want to scare off people who still smoke and want to quit. It was also one of the most powerful things I've ever done, and by that I mean it brought me great rewards. Did it do the same for you?

It is fun, Dive. It's got challenges and rewards. You'd better get here before we both get too old to do it.

Desiree said...

heh heh heh--

Bellis said...

You showed great willpower to stick with it. It's a really difficult addiction to give up, as the brain has to adapt to not having its regular nicotine fix. I was shocked by how many members of the movie crews that filmed at Caltech smoked - especially the actors. No wonder we always see them smoking on screen - it's not just product placement. One of the most ridiculous recent examples of someone smoking in a movie was Sigourney Weaver, the scientist in Avatar. Real-life scientists don't smoke, and even if they did, they couldn't do it it in lab.

That was quite some rockfall on the way up to Echo mountain!

Adele said...

That's a great story. Love the ironic twist at the end. Such a great accomplishment.

Petrea Burchard said...

Not a rockfall, Bellis. This picture's from a couple of years ago, soon after volunteers had dug out some stops for mountain bikers. This is the switchback just before the first towers. I had stopped right below this on the east face.

Thanks, Adele. Quitting smoking has made everything else possible. I think Desiree liked the twist as well.

Laurie said...

You go, Ms. P. I remember quitting smoking and standing downwind of smokers thinking "OH SMOKE GODDESS HOW I STILL PRAY AT YOUR ASHY ALTER!

Now I wonder how I did it for so long!

I still couldn't hike that trail. Then OR now.

Petrea Burchard said...

Oh yes you could, Laurie, it's a matter of pacing. And weather.

I remember those thoughts. They came and went for a long time. Even now, occasionally the urge shows up in a dream. But it's long gone in real life, thank goodness.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

My date was July 12 2000. Smoked my last Native Spirit at 2:pm - put on the patch and climbed the Claremont Hills Wilderness loop (1/2 way). The next year I did the full loop. And on subsequent anniversaries, I made that hike.

Petrea Burchard said...

PA, congratulations on commemorating a great achievement with something that reiterates your power.

Ms M said...

Wonderful post -- and congrats on your determination and persistence in quitting the smokes.

Petrea Burchard said...

Thanks, Ms. M. I hope we're all easy on smokers when they're trying to quit. It takes the determination and persistence you mention, it's hard to do.