Sunday, December 14, 2014


When I called in sick this morning, my voice sounded like this:

I've been a happy smoker for the better part of fifteen years, starting at 13, rolling my own since 15 and never really thinking of quitting as I lived on black coffee and cigarettes in a local jazz bar all through high school and college (this was when you could still smoke in bars). It didn't even bother me that much that I was sick for weeks on end every winter and couldn't ride my bike for a mile without needing to lie down. I once had a cough so bad an on-call doctor thought I might have tuberculosis. I read the Allen Carr book that month, and managed to quit for a whopping 8 hours.

It wasn't until I hit 30 and got serious about quitting, that I got stuck in the horrible Sisyphean cycle of addiction. It looks like this:

1. You quit

The first time you quit, you tell everybody about it. It is the dawn of a new era, and you know you will never smoke again. Friends support you, are proud of you and patiently listen to stories of your heroic struggle. You have a new lease on life. There's nothing you can't do. Maybe you'll get into martial arts someday.

2. Honeymoon period

You discover you have a sense of smell. The world is an uncharted marvel of olfactory delights. Food tastes fantastic. And look at all the free time you have now! You take up running.

3. You're miserable.

Everything smells. You can't stand to be on public transport anymore. The world is a rotting cesspool of creatures with bad breath and sweaty armpits. Work breaks are utterly meaningless. You gain about 10 pounds from the cookies/chocolate/cupcakes that are now your only comfort.

4. Self-loathing

You gain even more weight. You give up running. This is pointless. You have completely forgotten why you quit again. People are assholes. The only friends who understand you are called Ben & Jerry.

5. Something happens.

Maybe you have a fight with your SO. Maybe you have a particularly bad day at work. Maybe you try to squeeze yourself into a pair of jeans against your better judgement.

6. Crisis!

This is bullshit.

7. You start again.

Just until I get the weight off, you say. Maybe only at parties. Maybe only after a bad day. You deserve to have some joy in your life.

8. Honeymoon period

This is fantastic! Your life is whole again! It is the east, and cigarettes are the sun. Every day you wake up giddy like a child on Christmas morning, just to know you get to start your day with coffee and cigarettes. You don't need food ever again! Maybe you even lose some weight, and you're not even trying! You move back up to 15-20 cigarettes a day in less than a week.

9. You're miserable.

Everything smells. Your newly awakened sense of smell hasn't quite been suppressed yet, and now you get to experience being a smoker who still has the memory of how everything isn't supposed to taste like wet ashtray. You get winded on stairs. You frantically wash your clothes, your sheets, your hair. You stop losing weight after a week.

10. Self-loathing

You're an idiot. You quickly learn that you not only get to smoke the awesome cigarettes like those morning coffee ones, but also all the ones that don't even taste good, make you have to stand outside in the cold like a moron and cost you valuable minutes of your day.

11. Something happens.

Maybe you get pneumonia. Or maybe it really is tuberculosis this time. You keep smoking though, because, duh, you're miserable.

12. Crisis!

This is bullshit.

13. You quit again.

Only this time, your friends have heard it all before, and are sick of listening to you whine about it. You've gone through the entire cycle so many times now, you don't even believe yourself anymore. You investigate acupuncture and self-hypnosis. You've gained 30 pounds by now. You skip the honeymoon period and go straight to being miserable. At least you still have Ben & Jerry.

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