I used to smoke.
In fact I smoked for over ten years. And it’s not popular to say but I loved it and if it wasn’t such a health hazard I would easily take smoking up again. It helped relieve my anxiety. That’s not a medical conclusion, simply my own very unprofessional experience of it. Deep down I am very, very shy and socially awkward. This showed itself flagrantly up until the end of my teen years, but once I was away, in a different city, alone at university, and finally able to dabble in a bit of rebellion without the stresses of home, I began to find ways to hide it.
Social drinking and smoking transformed my personality. I felt more confident with a cigarette in hand, a bit of a buzz in my head. Holding that cigarette gave me something to do, masked the feeling that I was completely vulnerable, allowed me to make small talk, and shut out the voices in my head that taunted me otherwise: You don’t know what you’re talking about. Nobody cares what you have to say. Shut up.
And besides, all my friends smoked.
But I knew I was not destined to be a long-time smoker. It’s not something I wanted to continue into my “responsible” adult years; because you see, it didn’t fit with the image of parenthood I’d been nursing. I’m sure had I felt the freedom to be more of a typical teenager back when I was the age to do so, when my friends were going to parties, experimenting with pot and alcohol, I might have gotten smoking out of my system in say, my mid twenties. But my teen years were taxing in ways that made me feel I had to stay in complete control, keep order, take on grown-up tendencies.
The spring of my 34th year seemed like as good time as any to think about quitting. I used a nicotine patch for the first few weeks. But it was expensive and I felt persistently light headed from the almost constant release of nicotine into my system. By the time I’d decided to quit, I’d been only smoking after work and in the evenings. This steady flow of nicotine was too much.
I decided to go cold turkey after a while.
Because we lived together, Shaune and I knew we wouldn’t be successful unless we both quit. We forced ourselves to bow out of social events, stayed home for a few months, miserable and isolated in our withdrawal. But neither of us could imagine ordering a drink and not lighting up. It was a torturous, unnatural-seeming time those first few months. I remember feeling deeply resentful of my friends who were still smoking. I missed the smell when it suddenly snuck up on me in the street and having a glass of wine was no longer exciting and joyful as it once had been.
But I stuck it out.
Eventually I found comfort in knowing I had done something wonderful for my body. Food’s flavour blossomed. It felt good and right not to be spending ten bucks a day on something so insidious. And I was very glad for the discounted rates on my life insurance policy once I officially qualified for non-smoker status. Most satisfying though, I’m growing into who I am, not fighting my natural shyness when it shows up.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how hard it is to quit something.
We’re trying to get Naveen to lose interest in his pacifier, his beloved choo-choo. When we fought this battle with Deaglan, and I’m not exaggerating when I say this; it was like negotiating with an unyielding heroine junkie. For a full week he slept in our bed, crying out every hour or so throughout the night, begging us for it. It was frightening for Shaune and me, to hear our three year old desperately beseeching us and having to deny him consistently for the greater good.
Only cold turkey worked.
I know this. And yet here I am again, fooling myself into thinking that I can take it away from Naveen in increments. Friends give me all sorts of great ideas – cut the tips off, plan to make a gift to a new baby, etc, etc. They also tell me that someday this will be a distant memory; I won’t even remember the agony of it.
I know it’s true, I know it must be, but it’s very very real right now. And in my effort to be gentle, offer him the room he needs to perhaps give it up on his own, it feels ominous, even impossible. I'll keep at it and let you know how it goes.
This is Scrappy, our friends Jenn and Mario's dog. I was looking through our pictures and forgot about this one from last summer. Fitting I think.