Quitting Smoking: A Year On
I quit smoking a bit over a year ago. In the meantime, I’ve picked up a few new habits, not all of them good, and I’ve managed to only smoke one cigarette.
I smoked one cigarette because I was drunk and I really wanted one. It is true what they say: when you quit smoking, you get your sense of smell back, and your sense of taste. You can really appreciate scents and flavours again. This is part of why you gain weight. It’s not just the oral fixation, it’s the fact that some facet of living is good and worthwhile again. However, caveat smoker. Having your senses of smell and taste back means that you can appreciate just how fucking good cigarettes smell and taste. I can’t speak for everyone, but part of what drew me to smoking in the first place was that I liked the smell, and I liked the taste. It wasn’t some horrible thing I forced myself to get used to for some silly reason. No dear, that’s what happens when you get into whisky. No, cigarettes always smelled good, always tasted good, and it was a kind of sad paradox that smoking meant I couldn’t appreciate how nice smoking really was. When I smoked that drunken cigarette after ten or so months of not touching one, I remembered why I started in the first place. It tasted great, smelt great, felt great.
How could I ever have hastily chucked one of these away, half smoked, because a bus was coming?
Well, I wanted to smoke that cigarette, but I didn’t want to start smoking again, if you know what I mean. I could have said fuck it and smoked a whole pack after I had that one cigarette, and I wanted to, but I made myself not to do it. I read somewhere that 90% of people who quit smoking and then smoke “just one” cigarette, end up back with their old habit. I was determined not to undo all my good (painful, horrifying), work, determined not to be a statistic. So, I haven’t had a cigarette in the two months since my last one, and I still think of myself as having “quit” a bit over a year ago, because people who smoke one cigarette and stop aren’t smokers, and that’s what I did.
(Of fucking course I still want one. And I became a statistic anyway, because I quit just before the government implemented plain packaging laws and mandated that you had to buy at least 30g of rolling tobacco at a time. That’s too rich for my blood.)
As to other bad habits I picked up, I started playing with my ears. I know it sounds odd. I just fidget with them. Fold them over themselves, make the cartilage click, and so on. It annoys people, but it could be worse. I mean, I used to smoke, you know? I got a fidget cube for my birthday last year and suppose I should be more fastidious in using it.
I also started walking a lot more. Not just as a way to get places, but as an end in itself, for the sake of itself. I had already been making efforts to walk more often, because exercise is good for you and good for your mental health. Allegedly. Not that I’ve noticed much difference, but it helps just to feel like you’re doing something, sometimes. And so it helped me when I was in the throes of nicotine withdrawal, or should I say, it got me out of the house so that the people I was living with didn’t have to bear the brunt of me turning into a monster.
I am mostly (I think) over it, now. (I still want a cigarette. Give me a cigarette.) But all the same, I continue to walk. I don’t think it is as helpful or as healthy to me, at least in my present situation, as it might be to other people. You see, I’m 27 years old. I am old enough to know my youth is not coming back, and young enough to remember it very vividly. And here I live, in the same place I’ve always lived.
I’ve known every street, road, and alleyway here for a long time. That means that something has happened to me, or I have happened to someone, along every path, around every corner, in this place. It is suffused with memories. I wrote a novel in my early twenties about trying to escape from those memories, and this place. Now they’re all I have left of a lot of people. I go out for walks past houses where people I used to know used to live, and I think about where they are, and I miss them, and I feel sad. It would probably be sadder if they were still in those houses, like I am still in mine, but that is small comfort to me. I am assured that this is a natural feeling. I suppose it is. What is more natural or inevitable than loss, whether it be of a habit or a friend?
I and my body are glad for the exercise, and we are glad for the space it affords our thoughts, but we cannot pretend this has been an entirely pleasant experience.