Thursday, May 26, 2011


After over 16 years of my most faithful companion, I have decided that now is the time to quit smoking. I am also, just like that relationship you can't seem to let go of, having a really hard time with this. It has gone beyond a simple grit-my-teeth-and-bear-it sensation lasting a few minutes, to an agony of loss seeming to last the entire time that I am awake.

To pat myself on the back, it has been an entire week since I smoked my final Red in my driveway while waiting to be picked up for a beach trip with a pack of violently adverse non-smokers. But to play the devil's advocate, I did have access to a lot of secondhand smoke at the music fest we attended, so I wasn't exactly left stranded.

It's only now, in the fresh air, when I realize that in my seriousness, I did not actually hide a pack in my house and even let my boss smoke my emergency one from my desk drawer, that I realize I am more than slightly grieving my smoking.

That's right, grieving.

I have been prepping for this for awhile, reading everything I can get my nicotine fingers on, but I wasn't quite ready for this one. Or for the overwhelming wave of justification that's hitting me.

Sure, smoking gives you cancer, but people can kill you just as easily and generally do not hit my dopamine centers in precisely the right fashion. Sure smoking ages your skin, that's what Vitamin B and expensive face cream is for. Sure smoking makes you old, but no one's winning the race to younger. And I've got no retirement savings anyway.

Truth be told, the part of smoking I am missing right now is the moment of quiet contemplation that I have when sitting on my stoop watching the sky and the trail of smoke coming from my lungs trying to join the universe. I use this place as a solace to take a break from work, sort out hard emotions, or watch my dog frisk about in her feverish fashion. I know the right thing to do is to find a new ritual, but my problem with rituals is that I do not know how to make them automatic and pleasurable, the way smoking is to me.

I also do not meet as many people being a non-smoker. In fact, in the history of my friendships, quite a few have been scored huddling in a corner or a smoker's section or bumming cigarettes. It's like a secret society. When I used to travel, I would never have two things : a watch and a lighter. The absence of both forced interaction with strangers, an opening to a conversation, a glimpse into another. Or at the very least taught me to ask for the time and a light in various languages.

And let's not get started on getting fat. When you smoke, and you are hungry, you just smoke a cigarette. Now I have to actually be one of those people who complains that they need to eat something.

Sorting this out, I'm not really sure what the benefits are at the moment. I've noticed smoking can make me edgy - but so does everything these days when I feel like I'm poised on the cliff of some very big decisions and very worried about making the wrong ones. My mother's already assured me that her genes are far too superior for the C-word, and frankly, everyone in her blood strain with this lovely habit seems to be backing her theory up. My skin is often complimented, my health is good. I can run a 5K, and my limping the next day is due more to the fact I didn't bother to prepare for it than dying lung tissue.

In fact, after exercise is pretty much the best time to have a cigarette ever. Lungs are completely open. Yum. In fact, I sometimes have used an after-run cigarette as an incentive to run in the first place.

In short, I can't think of one bloody reason to keep up this non-smoking nonsense right now. I'm constantly tired, wish everybody would drop dead in a million pieces, and have a lingering feeling akin to watching my dad bury my beloved pet guinea pig in second grade.

I think maybe I just don't want to be a quitter anymore.

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