It was a cold and grey January morning. The sun was rising over the thick, white clouds and causing the sky to glow a dark shade of red. A loud and high pitched snore from his wife woke Neal up. Neal was a 40 year old railway engineer; he had been married for 20 years, and smoking for fifteen. Usually, after getting up Neal would go and have a cigarette, but today was going to be different. Neal was going to give up; he was going to be clean.
As he slowly opened his eyes, Neal put his hand on his bed side table, as he did every day, and searched for the pack of cigarettes. Today however, there were no cigarettes; last night they had all been thrown away. Neal thought to himself, how could he possibly get up without having a fag? How would he be able to last all day, forever without smoking again? He raised his head and felt a large thumping sensation, it was the sort of feeling you get when you’re hungry,, and Neal was hungry, but only for one thing, tobacco.
Once dressed, he walked down the stainless steel spiral staircase that took Neal from his bedroom to his ultra-modern kitchen. Once in the kitchen, he put the kettle on, got a glass of water, and then went outside. The damp morning air was fresh; he could hear the birds and smell the newly-potted plants in the garden. Usually at this point, Neal would have his second cigarette of the day, and without it he felt confused and unfocused. Neal craved a cigarette, he craved the warm smoke rushing down his throat and the relaxation of slowly breathing and out. How was he going to survive?
Once in his car on the way to work, he was really suffering. The car smelt like it had been in a huge scale fire, the seats had stains of them from when the ends of cigarettes had accidentally burnt the fabric, the dash board was badly scolded too, as Neal had occasionally used it as an ash tray when in need. All these reminders of cigarettes were driving Neal mad; he needed to get out of the car, go somewhere where he could get rid of cigarettes, and get them out of his head. How was he going to be able to do this when he worked as a teacher at the run down, and dodgy local comprehensive school? Where older students smoke behind sheds, where his classroom has posters about the dangers of smoking and where once in the staff room, it was more like being in the local pub, due to the amount of smoke in the air.
As Neal attempted to park his car in a space that you could barely see, as the lines that used to be yellow, were now virtually camouflaged onto the broken tarmac, he could sense that this day was going to be one of the hardest ever. His head was still pounding as if he had been punched and all his muscles still ached due to the lack of nicotine. As Neal approached the main entrance to the school one of the students shouted something that sounded like “chimney” to him. This happened every day, because as teacher that smoked, he had a reputation and many rumours circulated daily about him, especially as he spent many of his lessons teaching about the dangers of it. Neal looked forward to telling all his students he was clean, he looked forward to getting a better reputation in school. It was thoughts like this that kept him going.
Once he had dropped his ragged briefcase in the staffroom, he decided to go straight to his classroom to get away from the smell. Lesson one was year ten for him. Year ten were a hard year, they were not yet old enough to be treated like full adults, but were too old to be treated like children. This issue was always challenging for Neal, and to make it worse the topic for the lesson was ‘drugs and smoking’. As the students walked into his class in an un-orderly manner, and still hyper from pre-school activities, Neal could smell the smoke on some of the student’s clothes. As he sucked the smell in, he felt fresh, he really needed a cigarette.
He decided that after the lesson he was giving up, he could take it no longer. This all changed within the first ten minutes, as the saying goes ‘teachers learn more from their students than students learn from the teachers’ and this was definitely true of today. The pupils were being excellent, really interested in the topic, some even gave their personal thoughts: “I don’t like the fact my mum smokes, the house stinks” and “I always tell my grandpa that he will get cancer because he smokes”. These were the sort of comments that were coming up. Did Neal really want one of his children to say something like this in the future?
These comments really made Neal think, he was going to give up now, it wasn’t a maybe, or even an if. Neal wasn’t going to ever touch a cigarette again. Would he want to be known as the grandpa who died early of cancer? Was he going to let his children grow up in a home that stunk of smoke and was dangerous? The answer to all of this was no. When he got home to his wife from work, he told her about his day at school.
When he mentioned the comments that some of the children had said in class tears started pouring down his face, how could he even contemplate ending up like that? Over the next few days Neal stayed strong. At times it was tough, and he was on the verge of giving in, but the Science lesson that morning stopped him from doing so. He had a new will power, a new reason to live, Neal was a changed man. Ten years on from this day and Neal has not touched a cigarette. He has two beautiful children and has now been promoted to head of Science. In his words “I am a changed person”. He no longer relies on tobacco to make him happy, but can see other things that are more important in life such as family and personal growth. Ten years on and Neal is clean.