Some Notes on Quitting Smoking

As of this writing, I smoked my last cigarette 15 days, 3 hours, 46 minutes, and 22 seconds ago. I normally smoke rollies, but someone else who was quitting gave me most of a pack of Pall Mall and I determined that it would be my last pack, too.

 

– – –

 

Before I smoked my last cigarette, I ate a huge lump of beef that was difficult to cook reasonably. It was the bloodiest steak I’ve ever eaten, and the combination of burnt black/brown and the vivid red revealed by the knife had the same visual effect as the picture of lung surgery on the (hopefully) last pack of cigarettes I will ever smoke. The steak was delicious. It was a fitting dinner to have before very deliberately having my Last Ever Cigarette.

 

– – –

 

The first cigarette I ever smoked came from a pack that I’d found. I couldn’t have been older than twelve. I was out with a friend, which meant we were walking around South Bretton looking for something to do. There wasn’t anything to do. South Bretton is an area loaded with hedgerows and bushes that we explored through as kids. In a hedgerow on the edge of where South Bretton becomes Netherton, where the hospital is, we found a gold box. The gold box turned out to be a ten pack of Benson & Hedges Gold. We were excited. Both our parents smoked. We’d thought about trying it. You’ve seen the stats on the children of smokers. Where we found those cigarettes, there now stands an oncology unit. The hedgerow is still there, behind it. Go figure.

 

– – –

 

It’s now been about a month and a half. I could check exactly how long it’s been, but I’m not as bothered now. Every second meant something and I was looking for any excuse to have a cigarette. I had some good excuses but none of them were good enough.

 

– – –

 

My friend and I had found a lighter somewhere, too. We went in to the woods (it was always a hedgerow, or a bush, or the woods) and decided to share a cigarette. Neither of us knew how to smoke a cigarette, that is, how to first pull the smoke into your mouth and then inhale it with some air. It was bitter tasting smoke that had no effect. We couldn’t see why people did it.

 

– – –

 

I have always found the smell of cigarette smoke comforting. I still like the smell of cigarette smoke, six weeks on. I have always had an oral fixation. Put it down to not being breast fed. I still want a cigarette. Not as badly, not as often, but still, I would very much like a cigarette. I can feel the difference in my nose, throat, and chest though. If I had a cigarette now, I would probably cough up a storm.

 

– – –

 

I remember the first time I inhaled. I was leaning out of a ground floor window smoking a Djarum Black. I read about them on Everything2 (I was on Everything2 and Something Awful a lot before I discovered the *chans). I am glad it was a ground floor window because when I figured out I could get the smoke in to my lungs I nearly fell out of it in a rush of vertigo and nausea. And then a tingling and an intenseness of sight and touch. However do people get addicted to it, I wondered (and still do), when the first experience is that of intense nausea?

 

– – –

 

Horses for courses. I don’t understand how people enjoy whiskey. It is peaty water and it burns. But people do like it.

 

– – –

 

I got addicted to smoking. I didn’t think I would. It crept up on me. Well, I would have noticed but I was more preoccupied with my girlfriend breaking up with me. I spent the day playing No More Heroes, smoking Bensons & Hedges Gold, and feeling sullen. I was miserable and smoked a lot and that is how I got addicted. I came to associate those cigarettes with negative feelings, until I smoked them with someone else I was in a much more adult relationship with and the association changed. I say more adult, my part in that first relationship when I was seventeen certainly wasn’t, I can’t speak for her. I don’t blame her and I’m not proud.

 

– – –

 

I spent a lot of my teens playing videogames, smoking, and feeling sullen.

 

– – –

 

There was a brief period where I was old enough to buy cigarettes, because I was sixteen, and that was the legal age. Then they upped it to eighteen, and damnit, I turned seventeen, didn’t I? I had to try different places to see where I could still buy cigarettes. The local shops, no. WHSMith, no (yes, they sell cigarettes, I am as confused as you). The train station… yes? For a while it was the only place I didn’t get IDed. I smoked about a pack a week, going back to the train station on weekends to re-up. I remember those solitary expeditions being some of my happiest hours as a teenager. I have no idea why, but I think it’s that secret frisson you get when no one knows where you are, and no one knows what you’re doing.

 

– – –

 

Whenever I browse the smoking cessation aisle in the pharmacy, I am reminded of a Bill Hicks skit, the one that says “it’s you people dying of nothing that are screwed”. I first started listening to Bill Hicks around the time I started smoking. It was nice to have a fellow traveller.

 

– – –

 

Oral sprays, nasal sprays, lozenges, gum, mint strips, patches, inhalators, vaporisers. There’s a whole toybox waiting for you if you quit smoking.

 

– – –

 

There are drugs that are supposed to stop your cravings to but they’ve been linked to suicides so I shied away.

 

– – –

 

I quit smoking largely out of economic concern. The toys cost me about the same as my habit, but my habit (rolling tobacco pretty much exclusively) was cheap compared to people who smoke, say, Marlboro Reds, which I am pretty sure are a tenner a pack now.

 

– – –

 

I mostly just chew gum now. It’s cheaper than smoking and won’t kill me.

 

– – –

 

I will always be an addict. I will always be a smoker that doesn’t smoke anymore.

 

– – –

 

At first it wasn’t the same. Now I look forward to my first piece of gum after waking. The post-dinner gum.

 

– – –

 

Post-coital gum still isn’t the same but I’ll get there.

 

– – –

 

I wasn’t anticipating that I would so often dream about smoking cigarettes.

 

– – –

 

I also didn’t anticipate that the guilt upon waking would feel very real, like after a dream where you murder someone, or sleep with someone who isn’t your partner.

 

– – –

 

A great aunt of mine died recently. Smoker. She was 60. Another great aunt died a few years ago. Smoker.

 

– – –

 

I don’t smoke any more, and I know I will die too.

 

– – –

 

Non-smokers die, every day.

 

– – –

 

And I used to not particularly care how long I’d live, but I care now. And I’m poor.

 

– – –

 

So I don’t smoke anymore.

 

– – –

 

I still want a cigarette.

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