April 3, 2002.
Well, this is it. It’s been ten years since I quit smoking. A decade. A DECADE! According to science, my lungs have gone from looking like the set on the right to the ones on the left:
I quit cold turkey and, let me tell you, it was rough. Cigarettes would drunk-dial me and beg me to come over for a quickie-puff. They’d stalk me home from work and peep through my windows. They’d promise that, this time, ‘it would be different, baby’. However, I am a stubborn person. Once I realized that I could use my stubbornness for good (quitting smoking) rather than evil (steadfastly insisting that there’s a line in Hanson’s Mmmbop that says ‘..in the end, there’s only underwear’ for the sole purpose of driving a friend of mine insane), there was no stopping me.
It was over.
After the initial agony of withdrawal, my body began to repair itself and I found that it was pretty neat to be able to breathe again. It was awesome to be able to smell things once more. It was nice to no longer inflict ashtray-flavored kisses on my suitors.
I will say though, sometimes — then and even now — I’d be hit with pangs of longing. Let me make something clear: I will never smoke again. I am much too hardheaded to give up now and have to start all over again. Plus, if I were to cave to the crave, I would lose my moral superiority. I would no longer be able to bellow ‘I quit cold-turkey, bitches. IN YO’ FACE!’ as I spike the ball in the end zone and high-five a narwhale riding a unicorn. So there is no worry that my resolve will fade but yeah. I do miss it.
There are several reasons why I decided to quit: my lungs were starting to hurt when I woke up in the morning, it was expensive, and I didn’t want to be one of those withered old ladies with nicotine stained fingers still puffing away in the nursing home. However, a dislike of smoking was not one of them.
I loved smoking and not just for physical dependency reasons. I enjoyed the taste. I enjoyed the smell. I enjoyed the ritual of it: hitting the box against my palm to pack down the tobacco. Peeling off the cellophane wrapper. Placing the cigarette between my lips. Flicking the lighter, striking the match. The sizzle of flame burning paper. That first inhale. That first exhale. Good times.
It all started in 1987 when I was 15, visiting family in Sweden over summer vacation. I can’t remember what prompted me to try it — I probably thought it was cool, was rebelling against my parents or some other equally lame reason. Certainly there were plenty of other hobbies to choose from, a plethora of skills I could have picked up to impress my friends and intimidate my enemies: knitting, stamp collecting, yodeling, running guns to Mexico, etc. But nope, I went with smoking. I remember sneaking cigarettes from my relative’s (aunt? cousins? all of the above?) pack and teaching myself to smoke in private. I didn’t want to be one of those loser kids that coughed and didn’t know how to inhale. How embarrassing would that be? I wanted my skills to be perfect for my public debut as a smoker.
For someone who was rather awkward and shy, smoking was the perfect solution to puzzling social situations. Uncomfortable at a party? Go outside and smoke. Don’t know anyone? There’s always camaraderie amongst smokers, a ready-made group of friends willing to lend you a light and shoot the shit as you shiver together outside in the cold. Lull in the conversation? Put a cigarette in your mouth. One simple solution to so many problems.
As much as I enjoyed it and as much as it provided a stable crutch against my gawkiness, it just wasn’t worth it to continue. Why not? Because, believe it or not kids, smoking kills you. Sure, there are a few freaks out there who manage to smoke a pack a day from the moment of their birth until the day they die at the age of 100. However, for most of us, smoking means an early death sentence and a painful one at that.
I tried to quit several times but finally, 10 years ago today after nearly 15 years of smoking, I quit for good. And I am glad.
Now pass me a drink.