Sunday, February 17, 2008

on Smoking

When I was a child, I hated smoking. I hated that it would make my very long hair smell like an ashtray, and my clothes. I used to complain to my mother and she'd nod in agreement, but that's all we could do was vent. By ourselves in the car--our one and only smoke-free environment. All 3 of my brothers and my father smoked. We were the minority in the household and certainly weren't going to get them to smoke OUTSIDE instead of filling up our cozy little home with that awful smell. After that one lesson in health class, I had begun to give them weekly lectures about how with every cigarette they smoked, they were taking 7 minutes off their life. And didn't they think that was awful? They should quit. It shouldn't be that hard! I was very naive.

Fast forward to me... 8th grade. My friend Jenn and I started sneaking cigarettes from our parent's packs for no real reason other than sheer boredom. We were too old to play, and not quite old enough to be hanging out at the mall like the high school kids. So we hung out in the woods and smoked instead. No one was the wiser since we always smelled like smoke anyway. Instead of candy or ice cream, we purchased Marlboro Red's from our neighborhood ice cream man.

High school. Smoked with my best friend Jennie (different girl) as she drove me home in her truck. She had to sit on her foot to drive because she was short. Shorter than me, if you can believe that. I never did smoke in the bathroom or behind the building at school. I was a good bad girl. I had my limits. At home, I'd sneak a cigarette occasionally. I'd smoke in my closet, or out my bedroom window. I didn't worry about the smell since our house was filled with it all the time anyway. I thought it was a foolproof plan.

I came home one day from school and walked in the back door of the apartment into the kitchen. My Dad was standing at the counter making himself his 40th cup of coffee of the day and my Mom was sitting at the kitchen table. I thought nothing of it, and tossed my backpack and sat down with her. Had the usual conversation: "So, how was school?" "Fine" "What did you do today" "Umm.. learned stuff."

I was a real peach.

My dad came up behind me and put an ashtray in front of me and said, "next time. USE IT" I felt my face get hot and my stomach sank, immediately filling with a million butterflies--the kind you get when you know you've been busted and there is nothing you can do. My throat went dry and I swallowed hard, and looked at my mom. I could read the disappointment in her eyes. The bond and united front we once had, was now broken. I felt like such a hypocrite.

The shame that I felt, however, didnt stop me from continuing on my smokey path. I wish it had.

After that, my parents told me it was okay to smoke in front of them. I refused. It felt so weird. It felt it close to being able to cuss in front of them and it being OK (it wasn't, I still cringe when "Shit" slips out now, and I'm nearly 31). It just felt wrong. I felt ashamed and embarrassed the one time I tried it. Years later, my dad would occasionally come visit me outside when I was smoking. The shame and embarrassment has not gone away.

College, freshman year, smoking started to become something I HAD to do instead of something I WANTED to do. I started to get twitchy when long stretches of time had passed without a cigarette. I noticed that I was always making sure I had enough on me where ever I went, lest I die should I have one less than I needed. I thought nothing of it since all my friends did the same thing. It felt normal. It felt OK. I know now that it so wasn't.

And so began the addiction. The complete transformation from relatively sweet happy girl to full-on bitch when I hadn't had one in a while. The pre-planning.

When I met BF, he wasn't real crazy about the fact that I was a smoker but accepted it anyway. Sort of. When I would get moody or pissy he'd tell me "just go have a cigarette already!" I was well aware of how I smelled and how smokey breath probably wasn't exactly the most kissable thing in the world. So I began carrying a pack of gum with me at all times. Though in hindsight, I doubt the mix of Wrigley's spearmint and smoke was any more attractive. About a year into our relationship, I realized just how much he hid how much he hated it. This is the first time I decided to quit. I failed, obviously. I failed because I didnt want to, but was doing it for him. I was in love, and wanted to make him happy.

Since then, I've quit for a zillion reasons. Recently though, the reasons have been for me. Because about 4 years ago I began to hate it. Yet it calls to me, in a loving, soothing, familiar voice. It is the first thing I go to when I am stressed out, having a bad day, or just for no reason at all. I've been a smoker now for 12 years.

There's days when I am glad I no longer smoke, and there's others where I miss it so much that my heart beats faster at the idea of having just one.

Some days are easier than others, and yeah, I do hit minor bumps in the road and give in for a split second. But I keep trying. And that to me, is a victory in itself.

I really want to be a non-smoker (and have been on Chantix for 3 straight weeks now) but every time an occasion comes up in which smoking used to be involved for me, like say going to a bar, etc. My throat tightens and my heart starts to beat faster in anticipation, and I begin to doubt myself and already start to plan how I will deceive myself. The next day though, the after effects shine through and I get right back on that horse.

I have become aware of the effects smoking has on my body. I have some ... uhh... digestive issues that are only exasperated by smoking. My nails become brittle, the skin on my fingers is apparently very delicate and I get that awful tinge of yellow between my index finger and my middle finger. My skin dries out. I have headaches a lot more often. My level of fatigue is heightened drastically. My throat is perpetually scratchy and tight. Phlegm. It's just all around bad and nasty, but I forget all of that when the thought of how smoking just one would be so nice right now. I know it will kill me and yet it hasn't been enough to make me stop. It's amazing how reason and intellect fly out the window when addiction is involved.

I hate that my quitting has become this running joke between me and everyone around me. I call it my hobby and laugh at it to hide the deep disappointment in myself. When my friends or BF rolls their eyes at me when I tell them I have quit, it hurts way deep inside. But I smile anyway and say "I know, I know." I would really love for one of these times for someone to squeeze my hand and look me dead in the eye and say "I know you can do it." But I know that it is my fault and mine alone that I have not been successful yet, and I can't blame the lack of support.

Still. Having someone support my determination at least, would really mean a lot.

All 3 of my brothers and my father are now all smoke-free. They did it, seemingly, with complete ease, and I just don't understand why this is so hard for me. It's just so very disappointing.

One of these times I will be successful in my endeavor. I need to believe this time is it.


  1. It's hard to quit because you're a girl.

    NO SHIT. studies show this.

    When my ex-wife quit, we had almost bar fights in the middle of our house. You really need someone to help you. Drugs don't hurt ether.

  2. I've been a non-smoker for 20 years now. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I've heard that it's tougher for women to quit than men, and for some reason that seems to be true. I must have quit a million times before it finally worked; I used nicotine gum (it was prescription back then). I think what helped the most though was a little list I made of all the reasons, little or huge, that I wanted to quit. I kept it in my wallet, pocket, anywhere that it was always with me. When I craved a cigarette I pulled the list out and read it.
    Good luck to you - you'll do it.