From Addiction to Creativity and Self Esteem
Copyright 2002 by Emma L. Willey
Dummy me! When I was in the army and only 21, I thought it necessary to do what other people around me were doing. I armed myself with a package of Lucky Strikes and a book of matches and hauled myself off to my private room in the barracks. Diligently, I taught myself the art of smoking a cigarette, to the extent that I could inhale a big puff of the smoke. I gagged, coughed and almost threw up but was compelled to learn it to fit in with the crowd. I practiced and practiced until I got very good at it. I could drag, puff, inhale and blow smoke out of my nose with the best of them. I was hooked, but I told myself I could quit anytime I wanted to. Dummy me!
After many years of addiction to cigarettes, I decided to quit for the sake of my health. I knew it wouldn't be easy because I tried many times to give them up, but the addiction had control of me and I gave up in despair saying "That's it. I'm never gonna quit!"
Something disturbing was going on in my body. I began to have chest pains regularly. Trying to ignore them, I went on with my life, helping my husband in our sign business, enjoying my work, but still having to stop for a smoke occasionally. Finally, one morning I stopped at the clinic on the way to work because chest pains had awakened me the night before. After doing a thorough examination including an electrocardiogram and some blood work, the doctor told me I was having some heart problems and gave me some nitroglycerin pills to put under my tongue if I had further pains. Of course he advised me to stop smoking.
Now I had no choice. I had to give up tobacco or suffer the consequences. On television that night I heard the American Lung Association's ad about their "Twenty Days to Freedom from Smoking". I had already proven I couldn't do this on my own and I sent for the pamphlet. I followed the step by step program word for word, kept a diary as suggested. I smoked my last cigarette on the 18th day and have never lit up another one. I was finally free of those nasty little white devils that controlled my life for too many years. It has been twenty years and I haven't wanted to smoke again.
I felt so proud of myself for accomplishing a feat I had wanted to do for may years. Free of the addiction, I couldn't believe how wonderful the food tasted again. My house, my clothing, my car and everything around me smelled fresh again. I had much more ambition too. Nicotine had controlled me long enough! Now I knew If I could give up smoking, I could do anything else I set my mind to do.
At age 70 1 began my career of needle craft designing. My designs were published in over thirty magazines, twelve books and several pamphlets, some with my designs exclusively. After ten years I have seen more than 170 of my crochet, knitting and plastic canvas designs published.
Now my eyesight was beginning to deteriorate with macular degeneration and I had to give up the fine needle work. But I remembered, now that I was able to give up cigarettes, I could do anything else I set my mind to. I got myself a computer with a large monitor and I started writing. I have been successful in that field also, having things published locally and in some in national magazines.
I have written my memoirs titled Prairie Rattlers, Long Johns and
Chokecherry Wine. It's my tale of growing up on the prairie in South Dakota, born in a sod house, the eleventh of twelve children. Papa and Mama and my seven brothers and four sisters made me who I am today.
Life in the 1920s and the Depression years explains all the new innovations in those decades, from the washboard and sore knuckles to the hand operated contraption to the electric washing machine. Similarly, readers will learn how we milked the cows, separated the milk from the cream, churned the butter and separated it from the buttermilk. We butchered our own beef, hogs and chickens, and did a lot of canning because there were no freezers in those days. We grew out own vegetables and harvested the wild fruit that grew along the creek, chokecherries, buffalo berries, currants and wild plums.
In winter, we walked to school following the fence to keep from getting lost in a blizzard. We put up ice out of the stock dams in the winter to use in our ice box. We carried coal into the house to keep the fires going and hauled out the ashes.
In summer, we herded the cows out on the open prairie for a day at a time to save the grass in the pasture for winter. We picked potato bugs, harvested and shocked the grain in the fields, and did many other tasks around the farm. We killed many rattlesnakes and saved the rattles in a jar in the medicine cabinet.
Our family gathered together to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas. On Decoration Day every year the cemetery on the prairie was decorated and cleaned. Afterwards we grouped around the upright piano to sing hymns while my oldest sister played.
Our one room country school gave us many pleasures as well as a good education. Our teachers were dedicated, and we learned through spelling and declamatory contests, by decorating the schoolroom for Art, and the Palmer Method of penmanship, writing in rhythm to the music from the Victrola record player.
Life in those days was far from easy, but we didn't know the difference and we had a wonderful life out there on the prairie sixty miles from the nearest little town.
If I could quit smoking, I believe with all my heart I can make anything happen! The confidence and self esteem I gained from that has helped me every step of the way since. At age 81, 1 believe I can interest a publisher, even though I am unknown.
Footnote: Now itís two years later, I have reached the age of 83, and my book Prairie Rattlers, Long Johns and Chokecherry Wine, Memoirs of the Silent Prairie, is on the shelves of the book stores. I can now call myself a published book author.