The difficulties of giving up on quitting smoking
They say quitting smoking is hard, but I’ve learnt the real truth. It’s not just the quitting that’s difficult (although it is), starting up again is bloody hard too.
I’m not just doing this for attention; this is not a cry for help nor is it part of any quarter-life - well, a little closer to third-life - crisis. Truth be told I always enjoyed smoking and I never wanted to give it up in the first place.
I started engaging in smoking when I was sixteen. I say “engaging” because I was really pretending to inhale smoke whilst holding it in my mouth before blowing it out like a clandestine burp.
It wasn’t long, however, before I was taken aside and told in all seriousness by my playground pals that I would get tongue cancer from holding smoke in my mouth and should try it for real.
It was a challenge I relished - at the time there was no such thing as emo, just teen angst, and smoking seemed to fit in well with my new 16-year-old persona. I succeeded, and eight years and countless cigarettes later I started to feel a mounting pressure from society, a feeling that I was old enough now to know better.
Smoking in bars was soon to be outlawed, I’d received lectures about the strain I’d eventually put on the healthcare system and most importantly, my new girlfriend was a non-smoker who didn’t much like the stink. The magic 8-ball read that all signs were pointing to quit, but it wasn’t until I developed a bad chest infection and was physically unable to smoke for a few weeks that I kicked the habit.
Five years on and I’d all but forgotten my smoke-hazed past, it was a distant fond memory, like Slush Puppies or Ollie’s Trollies restaurants. Then in a cloud of smoke she walked into my life, dressed like every catalyst for a bad decision I’d ever made. I was smitten, and her smokey breath didn’t bother me at all. One drink led to another and before I knew it we were rolling together; after all these years I still knew how to roll a cigarette.
I took a drag and it all came back to me, those cold mornings at the bus stop, cigarettes and a bottle of V for breakfast, after-dinner hits, everything I ever loved about smoking was swirling around in my lungs, popping alveoli like bubble wrap.
I liked smoking with her, it brought us closer, and I no longer noticed that she tasted like an ashtray because now, I did too. Soon enough I became the worst kind of human imaginable, a reformed smoker who refused to buy his own cigarettes.
They say you can never really go home when it comes to cigarettes and I’m starting to believe it might be true. Taking up smoking again is a surefire way to lose the respect of those around you, especially those who are smokers, because, hand on heart, deep down, every smoker wants to quit.
Not only that, but my body just won’t let me. It started with the coughing in the steam-filled shower, that hacking cough I’d forgotten all about, like an annoying old friend overstaying their welcome on your couch. Next were the throat infections. One weekend of smoking brought on the first one - killed off with chicken soup and rest - but it only took another weekend of cigarettes to bring it back again, worse than before.
Last night, it felt as though a thousand razor blades were just hanging about in my throat waiting for me to swallow. They were also on fire. I scoured my cupboards trying to decide which kind of salt is best to gargle with.
Iodised vs. non-iodised? Table vs. flake?
Is this what we’ve become as a society?
No, apparently we’ve become something much worse. I still enjoy smoking and I’m not ashamed to say it. When this infection dies down I’ll be back to killing myself part-time on weekends. The one thing that might stop me however, is the very thing I loathe the most, the restrictions put in place by those from above, all the worst aspects of our nanny state.
Being forced to stand outside the bar and smoke in the cold, the confusion of unlabelled cigarette packets hiding behind a black curtain in my local 7-11, the outdoor areas restricted to those with a pipe in their palm. That’s the stuff that’ll really piss me off in the end.
Eventually, when the only place left you’re allowed to smoke is in the shower with the door closed, the lights off and the exhaust fan on I’ll wish I never started again. Until then I’ll be a reformed smoker by day, coughing loudly with disdain as I pass smokers on the street and a secret smoker at night, as stupid as they come.
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