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July 5, 2007

My, how virtuous and perfect of you!

"How did you stop smoking?"

"How long have you been cigarette-free?"

"I just don't know how anyone could ever smoke, it's so disgusting."

"Thank God you finally quit smoking, that was such a horrible habit."

I feel like such a liar when I admit I did finally quit smoking. Because while I am not smoking right now currently at this time in my life, I did not "Quit Smoking" like the perfect, lovely well-behaved people of this world. I am a slovenly, hedonistic lush at heart. I have not forever quit smoking, I have merely paused smoking.

I knew I had to stop smoking a pack and a half a day because I was wheezing, and coughing, and clearing my throat all day. I also wanted to figure out some stuff, and learn about my body, and how to make it healthy and take care of it in the same way I would attend to the well-being of someone else. Ya'll know. And so I knew one of the things a person serves her loved ones is a nice homecooked meal with a good vegetable or two. I also knew I would not ever serve my kid or husband or mom a cigarette. So I had to quit.

Except. Except there was one teetiny problem.

You see, I loved smoking. I didn't think it was gross or bad and in fact I loved it more than anything before or since. You would not believe the emails I get every week, every day sometimes, telling me I am an alcoholic because I joke about wine so much on this little diary. "You must find a sponsor!" or "Once you find a 12-step group your life will improve." All the time. They never bother me, I know folks read what they are living, read into my life what they struggle with inside their own lives and I thank them for the concern. But secretly I know the truth. I know I can joke and laugh and have fun with things only when they don't trouble me at all. Folks often forget we talk openly and happily about stuff we actually have no problem with, and we hide our troubling parts. My substance of struggle has always been smoking, 12 steps and a patch and a drug were not strong enough for me. I needed another smoke.

It wasn't a physical addiction. Quitting never gave me withdrawl symptoms in my body. But my heart and mind mourned each time I quit (and there were hundreds of times, all failures.) I ached for the time alone with a cigarette, I missed it.

Smoking was my truest companion for so many years, even finer than food! I hated food. Food was THE ENEMY. But smoking never made me gain weight. In fact, it often substituted for food. I smoked when I couldn't sleep, when I was sad, when I was happy, angry, bored, scared, alone. I loved to smoke, I loved the way the air would filter up lazy and grey through the ring of haze, I loved the smell and taste, just the feel of it in my hand, the soft other-worldy place I could go to every night alone with just my thoughts and a smoke. I still love the very idea of it, and I crave a cigarette right now the way I do all day every day: not physically, but spiritually. And ya'll that is not a fine place to be when you need to quit so you can treat your body nicer.

How would I do it? I did not WANT to stop. I wanted to get healthy, but I knew myself. I knew I would not go the rest of my life without a cigarette. I knew my sad, pathetic secret addiction. The one I didn't tell people because it was so real and problematic I hid it the best I could, only acknowledging that I smoked after I vowed to quit yet again. How would I do this?

So I made a deal with myself. I, slovenly and hedonistic and frankly quite bull-headed, decided I would just pause smoking. On my 60th birthday I could wake up, have a truckful of cigarettes delivered to my doorstep and start smoking until the day I died.

Yup. That was the deal I made.

Sometimes, at first, I would want a smoke so badly that I would tinker with the date a bit, "I can smoke when I turn 59. Maybe 58. Oh, screw it, 55."

As time passed and my habits changed, I started to go back up the ladder, back to 60. Maybe when I turn 40, or 50, I'll move the date to 65. Maybe I'll move it to 59. I can't anticipate who I will be in ten years or how I'll feel about smoking. If I had to guess, I would say I'd still be in love with it. I am as we speak trying to live the most healthy, vigorous and nutritious life I can so that when I start smoking again at 60 I will be SO HEALTHY that I can live a LONG LONG time just so I can enjoy more smoking! My parents are keeling over right now reading this. Hi Dad!

I am not right, ya'll. I admit it.

But I am a non-smoker, for now. And that is what matters. I only have have 8,760 days to go. Not that I am counting or anything.

Posted by laurie at July 5, 2007 10:31 AM