On Monday I decided to kinda, sorta quit smoking. The terms of it go like this:
-I can smoke if someone wants me to smoke outside with them really bad.
-I can smoke if I feel for some reason that I really need to.
-I can smoke if I’m drinking.
Basically, I decided to regress to being a social smoker. I also made a pact with myself on Monday to not buy cigarettes until Thursday, in a larger effort to prove to myself that I can go days without spending any money. I did the calculations and realized that by quitting smoking, I would be giving myself a $50+/month raise. Could be worse.
Not smoking was surprisingly easy. In the two days between then and now, I smoked 2 cigarettes, both of them bummed to me from a freelance graphic designer at my work who likes to talk to me about his elaborate sound system while smoking American Spirits.
Since then I have been thinking a lot about smoking and addiction.
First, I admitted to myself that smoking has always kind of grossed me out. Cigarettes leave my mouth tasting weird, my hair smelling dead, my car full of weird little flakes. Too many and I feel dizzy, way too many and I wake up the next morning with heartburn.
Also, I figured that people who don’t smoke suffer some kind of inconvenience. They don’t get to escape regularly to go outside and smoke, they miss out on smoking chats, etc. But actually sitting and working without thinking about going and smoking constantly was much easier. Worrying about picking up cigarettes at the gas station at 2 a.m. – now that’s inconvenient.
What I missed more than cigarettes was the idea of my smoker self. I had gotten used to being the kind of person who was always down to sit on the porch and smoke and talk, preferred bonfire parties because they were easier to smoke at, had an intimate relationship with my car lighter. Smoking made me the kind of self-destructive person that I’d want to have a cigarette with.
The weird thing about bad habits is they’re hard to give up because you start to define yourself by them. You can’t give up a behavior when 99% of you is convinced that it’s a worthwhile thing to do. The power of this effect is understated. You can have patches or weird pills, but if you still believe smoking is fun and all your friends smoke, it’s going to feel like losing a part of yourself. You have to really convince yourself it’s worth it, or there’s no point in following any scheme.
Smoking exists in the question, “Should I smoke right now?” Once it’s been posed, the little receptors in your head start shouting, “Yes. Yes. Yes!” But if you tell yourself the definitive answer is “no,” you won’t even ask it. (Also something you won’t ask if you don’t have any cigarettes -shortcut!)
I’m not quite there yet. I’m actually debating whether or not to have one right now. If I did, it would only be my second of the day. Still an accomplishment. But so many people on the Internet and at my job have been so supportive, and that really makes a difference. These aren’t uppity people either, they’re mostly smokers or people who have quit themselves. It makes me realize that quitting smoking isn’t really as political a lifestyle move as those Quit Plan commercials make it seem. And knowing that makes it a lot easier.