Aspire to Inspire
As noted above, Neil T. Curtis is survived by his nine-year-old daughter Kristen and his bride Debra. Neil died of lung cancer on July 10, 2011, just 37 days after diagnosis. He died a proud "recovering nicotine addict" who took comfort in the fact that his real killer - nicotine - was no longer circulating within, that he died a free man. This journal, his journal, documents his awakening and what's likely his most liberating journey ever.
Just four days after quitting, on January 14
, as if prophesying the challenge to come, he wrote, "I now call myself a recovering nicotine addict rather than an ex-smoker, because it reminds me of the power of this addiction and disease." "I never know if, or when, that spot will show up on my chest x-ray, but I know if I have to face that type of situation, I want to face it as a non-smoking recovering nicotine addict, and I won't go down without a fight."
By January 17
, day 8, Neal was feeling pride, enjoying deep breaths, no longer coughing and savoring a new found sense of smell. By day 11
he'd gained a few pounds but was already working on it and his optimism about continuing success was on the rise.
Neal's one month celebration
evidences just how much his thinking had evolved. "I originally named my first post journal "4 Decades Of Lies" because I have been smoking for over 40 years. The lies I was talking about was aimed at the tobacco and pharmaceutical companies, and the government for letting them do all that lying to us. After working this program for the last month I came to realize that I was doing the lying to myself for all those years. I never "liked" or "loved" smoking, cigarettes were not my friend, it was not O.K. to substitute NRT for cigarettes and think I was doing myself a big favor (it always led me back to smoking anyway), I thought smoking was a bad habit, I told myself I wasn't addicted, it was alright to have just one while I was trying to quit. I thought I couldn't live without smoking, I would never be able to quit for the long haul, nicotine feedings were not my #1 priority, I could never go a whole day without wanting a cigarette, and one of my favorites - you have to die from something, why not smoking? Etc. Etc. Etc. They were all lies to keep me feeding myself nicotine."
On March 23
Neil wrote, Well, I'm on Day 73 today and all is going well. I'm loving my freedom and I feel very far away from the possibility of using nicotine. I haven't been quit so long that I forgot what it was like to have my life revolve aroung smoking, but I have been quit long enough to see how much better life is now that I'm finding the real me. I did gain about 10 pounds, as predicted, but I know that will soon come off. I'm finding I have a lot more time on my hands. I've already painted the whole outside of my house, and now I'm working on re-landscaping the entire back yard. (All with the money I've saved from not smoking!) It truly is getting better and better. YQB Neal - NTAP"
Neal celebrated three months of freedom by documenting his path to destroying his mind's use rationalizations. He entitled it "The Real Me Versus the Junky
On May 2
he posted stating, "I noticed on my quit meter that I have saved $560 so far. I'm getting paid to feel good!!" And on May 9
he wrote, "I have really been enjoying all the extra time, money, and energy I have since getting rid of all the nicotine. I don't ever want to go back to where I was."
And then it happened. It was June 16, 2011
when Neal shared the shocking news of his stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis, that it had already spread to his lymph nodes, thyroid and stomach. "We have to always be vigilant and realize the deadlyness of this addiction we are fighting. I don't want any of you to experience the feeling I now get when my 9 year old daughter looks to me with all the Love in her eyes. I have no idea of what the future holds for me. I know because of the great people on this site that I will face my future as a non-smoker."
Some might be tempted to use Neal's journal as justification for that next fix, that he died of lung cancer anyway. But he clearly hoped others would learn from his shared awakening and end their self destruction while still time. Actually he went further. On February 9, 2011
he shared his dream that you "aspire to inspire before you expire." May Neal's wish come true. May there still be sufficient time for your own recovery to inspire others to follow.
John R. Polito