He was only 12 when he started smoking. <small> Cover image via Kaveena Ng Amirthalingam </small>
More than 50 years ago, a child started smoking while his friends were probably all studying and playing in school. He was only 12 then.
<a href="https://images.says.com/uploads/story_source/source_image/520145/8bd0.jpg" rel="segment-193674 noopener noreferrer" target="" title="Photo for illustration purposes only."> <img alt="Photo for illustration purposes only." src="https://images.says.com/uploads/story_source/source_image/520145/8bd0.jpg"></img></a> Photo for illustration purposes only. <small>Image via Mirror</small> This child was smoking up to 20 cigarettes a day then. This boy grew up, spending his childhood and teens as a smoker. <strong>He was smoking for more than 20 years until something made him stop.</strong>
Fast-forward to today, the boy has aged and is now a 64-year-old man.
This man recently went to a hospital in Negeri Sembilan to seek medical assistance. There, he met up with Kaveena Ng Amirthalingam, a final year student who was on her surgical posting.
That day, Kaveena was assigned to be in the ward to talk to patients and go through their files.
The Selangor-born sat there, listening and talking to this man who now suffers from kidney failure. He was in severe pain.
“He was grumpy and had mood swings throughout the conversation we had. I sat there for about two hours just to get an idea what was wrong with him and also to understand what was going through his mind,” Kaveena said.
The 23-year-old Kaveena learned that this man used to have some business but retired about eight years ago due to his health issues.
As they talked, the man opened up to her and told her many things, including his past smoking habits and how he managed to stop after more than 20 years.
The man told Kaveena that he was committed to stop smoking for one reason after being bonded by a habit that he innocently picked up when he was 12. He thought about his family.
Kaveena listened intently as he shared with her his life-transforming experience. <strong>He told her about how he was still smoking after he was married at 33 and how he would always walk away to take a puff because he didn't want to smoke in front of his wife.</strong>
Sometimes he would take a puff and return to the house to give his wife a hug. Deep down, he was disappointed that he was not setting a good example as a husband.
“Her (his wife’s) expression clearly shows that the smoke smell was not something she appreciated,” Kaveena said, recounting what the man told her.
But then one day someone came up to him and told him something that changed his life forever
<a href="https://images.says.com/uploads/story_source/source_image/520146/e7e7.jpg" rel="segment-193709 noopener noreferrer" target="" title="Photo for illustration purposes only."> <img alt="Photo for illustration purposes only." src="https://images.says.com/uploads/story_source/source_image/520146/e7e7.jpg"></img></a> Photo for illustration purposes only. <small>Image via SAMaternity</small> The person said to the man, "Your wife will get pregnant. Are you still going to smoke? Your kids will notice that you leave the house occasionally so that you can take a puff of cigarette."
“They’re going to wonder what is that smell that is always lingering on you. They’re going to learn about your bad habit and think that it’s okay. They might even come up to you and ask you what you are doing. Are you ready to answer to all of that?”
After that conversation, the man felt guilt almost instantly.
“Because I love my kids and I don’t want them to see me running out of the house every now and then to puff on the cigarette. I’m a man who respects my wife. I don’t want to go home from work hugging her, smelling like a cigarette,” the man told Kaveena.
"He felt so embarrassed and he didn't know how to react. When his friend brought up about his children, he said he felt it was the most powerful weapon to rethink his bad habit," Kaveena said.</p>
It wasn’t an easy process to break off his bad habit. He really struggled badly but he was determined to quit.
"Initially, he tried to immediately cut off smoking but the withdrawal symptoms were terrible. For a week, he couldn't sleep and he couldn't concentrate. His mood was fluctuating badly," Kaveena said.
He sought help from his friend who told him to take a day at a time.
“From about 20 cigarettes a day, he slowly cut to 17 per day . After two weeks he made it to 15. About months later it went down to 10. Then 7. Then 4. One day, he got up and told himself that he doesn’t need one anymore.”
That was the end of his smoking days.
Kaveena was inspired and encouraged after listening to this man’s story
<strong>"I was very amazed. Truly, I felt very happy. Although his health isn't very well now, but for someone to reflect and to be able to think the way he did. I was very proud of him,"</strong> Kaveena said.
“Because of that decision that day, I’m sure that’s probably why both his daughter and son had not picked up the habit of smoking.”
“I admired his guilt and embarrassment as a man towards his wife. I believe the first step to change is self-realisation and that realisation has made him a better human today. I was praising him that it’s never easy for someone to quit smoking.”
“People try for years and they struggle. They succeed but sometimes they relapse. And if everyone looks at the way he does about smoking, the world will have much lesser parents who puff away projecting bad examples to the younger generation,” she added.
Relating to how she personally know people who smoke due to external pressures, Kaveena said that it was this man’s thinking that changed his own life
<strong>"That's why this particular man made an impact on me, because how many people out there will have a thinking like his?" she remarked.</strong>
She was also very glad that the man was very transparent and willing to share his story with her.
“Most of the people I speak to are well above the age of 40, meaning good or bad, rich or poor, they have many years of life experiences ahead of me. And that’s why I sometimes love to sit and explore their experience so I can learn something from them.”
Living in the city ain’t a piece of cake but it could also be exciting and adventurous. How are you coping? How are you making the best out of things? Do you have a story or experience to share?
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Previously on Malaysian City Life #42, Dr Midhat Nabil Ahmad Salimi shared about how he experienced a series of failures before he finally found success:
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