I realised I've been writing an awful lot about the reasons I've continued to go back to smoking. They are so easy to remember, after all. They dig their way into the bones of you, and they are hard to pry away. If I count from the day I first started smoking until now, it's been seventeen years of giving myself those excuses. Seventeen years. It sounds so long. It's horrifying to think about.
But I want to counter them. I want to debunk the crap out of them. Make myself ready, so I know I'm doing the right thing, even though that's obvious. I'm heading towards the halfway point here. It might even be sooner.
It still fills me with a little panic.
The fact is, all smokers do and don't want to stop, whether it's now or some time in a nameless, faceless future. But the thing is, it's never going to get any easier. That day, the one you sometimes hear about, when you miraculously wake up and don't want to smoke anymore - it's never going to happen. It's never going to be easier tomorrow than it is today. Not after exams finish, after you get pregnant, after the holidays, or at the end of this packet.
You just have to suck it up and do it.
For me, that hasn't been the hard bit. Truly, nicotine withdrawal is not that bad. It's a bit edgy - you're not sure what to do with your hands - but it doesn't physically hurt, you know. My headaches hurt a zillion times more. It hurts more to cough up the phlegm in the morning, you know? If you're in the right frame of mind you just go "Ooh, that's not much fun" and go onto the next thing. IF you're in the right frame of mind.
The problem is hanging onto that frame of mind. Because if you're me, what happens is the nicotine is out of your system - all traces of craving have left - and, more importantly - all traces of feeling sick. You are energised, feeling good, making positive steps in all kinds of areas of your life as a result of your having stopped, and then. What? You start to wonder. You start to wonder if it was so bad to be a smoker. What you remember is the long talks, the relief of the first cigarette in the morning, the Reality Bites stuff.
It eats away at you for a while. You don't do it. But it's already there. You haven't been able to hang onto the momentum of your quit; you've forgotten not to take it for granted, to be grateful for what - truly, and I'm not being dramatic - is a second chance at life.
The trouble is the worst of the effects don't start for a while, not till you're back into it regularly, and heavily. So meanwhile, you're holding back, and every single fucking cigarette becomes special to you. Becomes the most valuable thing on earth - you've been waiting since last week for it. None of this helps.
This time, I just admitted it had me right away. All the better for quitting. I could've dragged out the "I'm not a smoker, I just have the occasional puff" bullshit out for months. But what's the point? It all leads to the same thing in the end.
I need to stop, and forever. For good. Like, never put another nicotine product in my body ever again for the rest of my life stop.
There are so many reasons. I don't need to list them here and now, but I'm sure I will at some point, at least as a quick reference.
What I need to remember for the time being is that the truth of smoking is that it is an addiction. We don't really smoke to bond with others, to enjoy ourselves, to deal with stress or any of the rest of it. There are a zillion easier ways to do these things, that don't involve paying money in order to kill yourself slowly.
We smoke to relieve the withdrawals. We smoke so that we won't feel that edginess that we know as "I need a cigarette". When we have one, that feeling goes away. And we are happy. For a little while. Until the next time.
But when the nicotine is out of your system, you don't have that feeling. If the quit isn't going well, you might mope and pine for one, sure, but it isn't the same.
One of the best examples I've considered as to why smoking is really just nicotine addiction wrapped up in our excuses is the experience I had with nicotine patches before I quit smoking the first time. I don't even count it as a quit. It was five days. Five days longer than I'd ever stopped before, but that wasn't the point.
All I remember of that five days was the painlessness of it. I remember driving to work - usually I'd chain-smoke my way down the mountain - and just thinking: Heh. This is really weird. I don't even care that I'm not smoking.
It was a really strange feeling. The absence of needing to smoke. And it just showed me that all the things we say about it being a habit, and being a part of our day and all that stuff... they are all bullshit. It's addiction. That's all it is. If the chemical we want is already there, we don't need to do it. The end. And all the mythology we build up around smoking; that's all it is. Mythology.
Becasue smoking isn't all those mythological things. Not when you really look at it properly. I'm not even talking about cancer and heart disease and emphysema and all the rest. Forget that stuff for a moment. Even just the ritual of it is not all it's cracked up to be.
Since when did smoking turn me into Winona Ryder circa 1994 anyway? When exactly is this smoking so wonderful? Is it when I'm having these long tlaks with friends over glasses of wine? Because, I'm telling you, I didn't even realise I was smoking most of those cigarettes. Is it that first one in the morning, after eight hours of sleep, sitting on the front step with my mug of coffee in my hand? You mean the one that literally made me almost faint this morning because my body couldn't cope with the chemicals?
The reality of being a smoker, it's just not that exciting. It's 30 cigarettes a day of essentially nothing. Unconscious puffing, not even thinking about it. Certainly not sitting there deeply inhaling, thinking: Oh my God, I am sooooo glad I'm a smoker. This is the best thing on earth.
I read this great quote recently which was 'The believing we do something when we do nothing is the first illusion of tobacco." It's so true.
And it's only the first illusion. There's so many more.