Friday, January 27, 2006

Paging Mr. Nosmo King 

Will the meeting run long? Can I leave campus on my lunchbreak without being late for my noon class? How many smokestops on a drive to Boston is too many, and are there more opportunities to pull off if we take the turnpike?

For the entirety of my adult life, I've avoided movies longer than ninety minutes for fear that the ushers wouldn't let me back in. Ask any smoker. The smoking life is holistic and comprehensive: every goddamn moment, bar none, is on one very real level of consciousness but a single step in an eternal dance to balance intake.

As such, the suddenly ex-smoker finds himself faced with an effectively infinite pattern of confrontation, a tightrope of constant reminders that Here Was Smoking. I settle in behind the wheel and open the window unthinkingly. I get up from the dinner table and make it halfway to the door. From the second of first consciousness each morning to the bedtime housecheck, a life once built around a mere twenty tiny pocketpuffs becomes a life unsteady, unmoored, and oh, so suddenly, fully unsure.

As long as the unrelentless nag remains, this new smokeless life is no easier. I still want one every damn minute of the day. As of this moment, at least, the prospect of finally sitting through an entire movie in one sitting is little consolation.

What I miss:

Five minute breaks throughout the ever-zany life. Leaving work every midday for a fifteen minute automotive moment, and coming back rejuvenated, recentered, and practically post-meditative. Being outside through seasons both dark and day. The silence of the outer world just before bed. That first drag. That last drag. The postcoital. The postprandial. Coffee and chainsmoking. Cigarettes and beer. The act. The flavor. The shared spark among smokers. The ritual of it all.

I didn't pick the quitdate, and -- though I know it will be an impossibility -- I still secretly harbor dreams of becoming one of those take-it-or-leave it smokers, the ones who never bother buying cigarettes, and smoke socially. I'm not the one to make promises to the self beyond the now; I find the secret self ornery enough to break such rules just because they are there.

No smoker ever really quit because of the intellect -- we know, damn you all, whatever it is you can tell us about the dangers and damage. I've known those lost to the diseases; known the annual verge of penumonia; smoked through both. Three years I worked just down the hall from the diseased smoker's lung exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science; I didn't quit then, and I care not a whit about your stupid research.

I have no idea why I quit this time around, come to think of it. Maybe it's better not to dwell here, lest I discover my anathema, my bane, and in doing so become smitten with the everfalse evertempting idea of self-sufficiency through countermeasure.

Still, for what it's worth and whatever reason, I seem to have quit. And though they are neither reason nor truly reward, it is true that for every loss there is a small balance. The tiny cracks in my cocoon show hints of glimmerglory. The oddly unconsidered benefits poke through like spring shoots.

What I've found:

Continuity with the kids. Longevity of focus in my daily routine. Tastes delicate and bold, subtle and sardonic. The pride of determination. The adultness of follow-through. The shared stories of the exsmoker community. The support of friends old and suddenly supportive. The smell of laundry, and my daughters' hair. No more ashtray mouth. Peace instead of panic.

Seventeen days, 10 hours, and fifteen minutes since my last cigarette. I think I can, I think I can...

posted by boyhowdy | 8:44 PM |

In reading this posting, I was worried that you wouldn't get to the "what I've found" point, which scared me. Yes, there is a lot to mourn about quitting and you are right to grieve instead of ignoring it, but I am glad that you acknowledge the positives.

I think one of the things my husband liked about smoking was the chance to step outside of the family chaos and have a moment of privacy and reflection. Unfortunately, that moment meant that the rest of us were on hold for that period and we all resented having our lives revolve around his cigarette breaks. And frankly, the cigarette mouth and the constant smell of car and clothes gradually became a complete turnoff. A lot of things sure perked up once he quit! But yes, the journey was agonizing.
Congratulations! It will three years for me February. Unfortunately I didn't quit before my health was affected, but you will appreciate it more and more as time goes by. I still crave...only in moments of most discomfort, but it certainly was worth it!
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