09 November 2010

Old Habits Die Harder (with a vengeance?)

Have you ever tried to quit a habit that was bad for you?

I have. For years, I tried to quit smoking. I started when I was 17; such an impressionable young age, 17. It was Spring Break, my senior year in high school. My friend Gail was already a seasoned smoker (she had bought her own pack!) and offered me a smoke one day while we were working on our tans at the beach.

After that, I would smoke at the beach. I would bum cigarettes at parties. Then I bought my own pack. Then I found a favorite brand. And thus the habit was fully realized. For the next 17 years.

Sometimes I dated smokers, sometimes I didn't. Dating a smoker was always preferred. Because come on: smoking after sex? Awesome. Smoking on the front steps after dinner? So choice. Smoking INSIDE their apartment because they're a smoker too? Love it. When I dated a non-smoker, it was exhausting. Go outside to smoke ALL THE TIME. By myself. Experience the cringing when you kiss them after a cigarette because EWW, my breath stinks. Brushing my teeth a lot, chewing minty gum a lot, popping Altoids like a bored wife of a neurosurgeon pops Valium. You get the picture.

Then, along comes a boyfriend that smokes. And then somehow we both seem to be ready to not be smoking anymore! So we decide to quit together. I go on the patch. He opts for the gum. I kept my last pack in my glove box in the car (because why? No clue - what is it about clinging to that "emergency pack"? So stupid.) and during a weak moment a few days into quitting I light up, take a long drag, cough, hate it, and toss it out the window. And that was the last cigarette I ever had.

For the last, what, six years (?) I have avoided smoking like the plague. I am the most obnoxious ex-smoker. I hate the smell of smoke when passing someone on the sidewalk. I lecture people, and I brag about how awesome I am for quitting smoking, and the I lecture some more, and turn up my nose and brag some more.

I know, right? Somebody slap me, please.

So fast-forward to last September. I go up to Seattle for a weekend of grown-up fun and debauchery. My host is a smoker. We go to a club to watch his favorite band. We drink. We drink some more. We go outside the bar so he can smoke. Oh, by the way, how messed up it is that you can't even smoke in bars anymore? Why would anyone want to smoke at all after that stupid law? It's just no fun anymore.

So we're outside, he's smoking, we're people watching. I ask for a cigarette. Whywhywhywhy. I dunno. It seemed like a good idea at the time. So I smoked. And the next day I had another one IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY. And then one more. I don't think it's a coincidence that I felt like total crap for the next couple days.

I was suddenly terrified that I would want more and more again. For the next week I was vigilant. I guess I figured if I stayed aware of the potential to go back to the Dark Side, I would be strong. And guess what? No problem! It's all good. But I still feel guilty for some reason. Like I let myself down. The one thing I have always been proud of was successfully quitting smoking. Because it really was hard to do.

Yeah, yeah, and that whole having a baby thing. Whatever.


Employee No. 3699 said...

I've been smoking for...(counts on fingers and toes, and then husband's toes)...you get the picture.

I know I should quit and I want to , but they are my bestest friends.

Smaktakula said...

I know how you feel.

I quit smoking on September 21st, 2002 just before I was to take a long train trip. I'd tried to quit before, but this managed to "take" despite quite a bit of upheaval in my life.

At a Depeche Mode concert in London (I didn't have to add that detail, but I wanted to make you jealous--not everyone got to see 101, after all) I had a cigarette and it was the most wonderful thing ever. It was a matter of hours before I bought a pack of American Spirits and smoked like a fiend for the rest of the trip.

But when I came home, I didn't smoke, and didn't have much desire. The next time I went to Europe, I didn't even hesitate. I was smoking within an hour and a half of touching down.

Since then, I've smoked about a dozen times, always when I'm visiting a friend somewhere. When I get back to my part of the world, I don't smoke. I think as long as I don't bring it here, I should be okay.

Eva said...

@Linda: There's an episode of News Radio where Phil Hartman (RIP, awesome guy) quits smoking and he calls them his "little buddies". I loved that term.

@Smak: Thank you again for being my quitting buddy. :) I don't think doing that alone would have been successful.