I began smoking tobacco cigarettes in 1972. I struggled with quitting them throughout the ensuing years until I grappled with the lack of resolve to quit smoking 15 years later. As noted in my diary at the time, I smoked my last cigarette on February 28, 1987. I then gave away my large collection of matchbooks, Zippo lighters, and fancy ashtrays.
The withdrawal symptoms wreaked havoc on my mind. Fuzzy-headedness led the pack, with fidgety finger-tapping and gum-chewing coming in next. Approximately a month later, the withdrawal reactions suddenly halted. They were replaced by physical revulsion to the stink from anyone smoking tobacco. That’s when I knew I would never again be tempted to light up another cigarette.
There was one other noticeable bodily reaction. My voice began changing. For a few months, it seemed like my larynx was going through puberty again. This was amusingly discomforting during my air-shifts at the radio station. For example, while reading lengthy news or weather copy, my voice might unexpectedly break into a squeaky, scratchy lack of quality. I’d need to briefly switch off the microphone so as to cough or clear the throat.
Eventually, the misbahaving larynx settled into equilibrium. My voice had changed. It changed so much, that my audience heard the difference. I was skeptical until I played back some of my old commercials and compared them to the new, post-smoking ads. The transformation was so obvious that nobody could mistake it. Furthermore, the voice quality sounded better to everyone’s ears. Therefore, quitting cigarettes not only improved my health; quitting also enhanced my career.
There was something else going on in the background chatter of my monkey mind. Self-confidence and self-respect incrementally improved. Without the tobacco addiction, I was willing to take on more challenging activities. Because there were no more worries about when and where the next cigarette could be smoked, I was free to do more of what I wanted to do.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma–which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”–Steve Jobs
Along with the health improvements of the larynx, the respiratory system, and the heart, my inner voice was no longer stifled. I began to rediscover my own voice. I had repressed that inner voice for a mighty long time. Finally, the need to develop and use that voice had surfaced. After self-respect became habitual, the inner voice began to express itself more outwardly. My previous shyness melted away to reveal a more assertive character.
Never forget that something you have that nobody else has, is your voice. That voice reveals your mind, your personal history, and your vision for the future. The voice is manifested not only through speech; it manifests in the arts and sciences. It’s good to contemplate the nature of one’s own voice and how it is being used.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. “Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing, only a signal shown, and a distant voice in the darkness; So on the ocean of life, we pass and speak one another, only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.”