The Soapbox: Better every day

Justin Crann
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A few months ago I was helping a friend move out of his third floor walk-up apartment on South Hill when I discovered how badly out of shape I had allowed myself to become.

Justin Crann

I've never been a heavily active or ridiculously fit person, but when I was younger, I always took pride in having more stamina than outright speed or strength.

In many ways, I thought of myself as the proverbial tortoise: slow, but steady. And I had every intention of winning the race.

For the year and a half before I moved to Moose Jaw, I was the fittest I had ever been. 

Before taking the reporting position with the Times-Herald, I was supplementing sparse income earned from rare writing opportunities in Toronto with what was basically a full-time position at a juice making factory.

The job was physically intense, involving frequent heavy lifting and hard, hands-on labour.

Once I transitioned into a reporter position where a large portion of my day was spent at a desk, but didn't shift my diet or introduce exercise into my routine, I was setting myself up for trouble.

That trouble was amplified when I, like 22.8 per cent of other Saskatchewan adults, took up smoking.

It started as an innocent habit at first: a cigarette here or there. A pack would last me long enough that I don't think I would have qualified for the label "smoker."

That changed early last summer when I took smoking up as a full-fledged addiction. Before long, I was up from one or two cigarettes a day to a pack every two days.

The day of the move, I was confident that I could chip in like I used to be able to: carrying large pieces of furniture and handling staircases with ease. By the second trip up and down the stairs, I was wheezing. 

That was when I decided it was time to make some changes.

The steps would have to be gradual if I was going to succeed, and the first — very big — step would have to be to quit smoking.

I elected to do it cold turkey, and after two failed attempts, I finally managed to make my non-smoking ways stick.

I am now a little more than a month cigarette-free, and happier for it.

While I don't breathe as easily as I did before and physical activity — especially cardio exercise — is a lot harder now than it used to be, things are getting better.

As is commonly said in the rooms of various 12-step programs, it's about progress, not perfection.

But I can't think about my struggle to quit without acknowledging the approximately one in five residents of this province still held in thrall by cigarettes.

I know what it's like to enjoy the taste but hate the smell and side-effects. I know what it's like to love the feeling the cigarette provides, but hate the act of smoking.

Most importantly, I know what sort of damage it can do — and in a very short time.

My most optimistic self is hopeful that one day smoking may become a thing of the past — a cultural tradition left long behind.

In the meanwhile, I'll keep fighting my battle and if anyone else reaches out, I'll be happy to offer them a hand.

With some willpower and support and a shred of luck, I plan on never paying someone else for the right to sell me something that kills me.

So far, that plan is working. Here's to hoping I can keep it going for another day.

You can follow Justin Crann on Twitter.

Organizations: Times-Herald

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Toronto, Saskatchewan

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