I started smoking at the age of 16.
No one came right out and pressured me, teased me, or just plain shoved it in my face. I just started. It was a way for an insecure kid to fit in with new people at a new school. One day, I just bummed a smoke from a kid I got along with. It was a way to create a somewhat different part of my identity that I knew of myself from the kids that knew me from Grades 1 – 9. A bad choice, yes, we all know that. I did, too. My dad quit for me and my siblings when I was 4. I knew it was unhealthy but I did it anyway.
Somehow, 22 years and thousands spent on cigarettes passed and I was suddenly looking at a 4 year old copy of me. The one day that I decided that I had to make a change was the day that I went with my Dad to the cemetery in the parish where he grew up and where my parents had decided to move back to retire. Dad had volunteered to tend to some of the grounds keeping as a way of contributing to the parish and also to look after some family plots. I decided it was good time to show my youngest son some of his family history and where his great grandparents, aunts and uncle were buried.
We went by some and I discussed with my Dad and son who these people were, read their names and how they passed. But one grave marker really stood out and made me take pause as I read it from over my young son’s shoulder. My Dad’s older brother, who passed of a massive heart attack at the age of 43 just months before I was born . He left behind several children who were young and a wife. I was only 5 years younger than that. He was a heavy smoker, as was I at 2 packs a day, overweight ( i still am) and he enjoyed his drink. I enjoyed mine, too but less volume than he, I found out later. The similarities were a little too much for me to ignore, so I decided that some kind of change had to happen. The first one was that I had to quit smoking.
As with most smokers, I had attempted to quit before. I actually tried twice with smoking cessation products but to no avail. This time – cold turkey – and I needed a quitting buddy. Junior was a very willing recruit. I knew I’d have my weak moments and made a deal with the little devil – If Daddy wanted a smoke, I had to ask him if it was OK. His job was to say No. It was my job to not have any cigarettes or feel like a complete ass for breaking a promise to a 4 year old even if he did say yes just to be a little turd (its genetic – mother’s side). I still have nightmares that I started again and he’s found out. It wakes me from a dead sleep to this day.
Not really a spoiler alert but I did quit and have been smoke free since. 6 years and counting.
I started doing voice overs when my son was just coming up on the age of 1. His birth more or less prompted me to go for it and start making some money at what some people said I should be doing. So, I did. As you all know, when you wear headphones while recording, you gain an intimate knowledge of the sounds that come out of your mouth and into the mic, be it from vocal chords resonating down below or the sounds that the moisture makes in your mouth as you shape the words you’re paid to say. You also hear up close the sound of your breaths as it passes in and out of your mouth and windpipe to power your money maker. As a longtime smoker, this is where I started to understand the damage of my tobacco habit. The rumble of the phlegmmy gunk and the slight sound of wheeze crept into my recordings and were forever in my headphones when I wasn’t reading or when I was gathering breath to read the next bit of copy. It was always there. I was a little alarmed by this, at first, but after I had seen my uncle’s gravestone, those sounds of gunk and contaminants that were being captured by the microphone, I knew had to make this quitting thing happen and soon.
I haven’t had a smoke in 6 years, surprisingly no cravings and all those gross sounds are nowhere to be found unless I’m fighting off a cold. Every edit where I can simply erase a bit a breathing that doesn’t sound like it needed some kind of pipe cleaner to clean up is another reminder I made a good choice and that it was worth it. Did quitting help improve my sound or performance? I can’t really attest to that but I would really like to think so. What I can attest to is that I feel more confident in what I sound like, how i feel when I’m performing and happy that I don’t hear those unhealthy breath noises in the spaces between the words.
There’s also the nice feeling of knowing that you don’t reek of smoke when meeting a client for the first time. (Sorry, that’s the quitter in me 😉 )