I’m giving up smoking.
I’m not sure yet.
I gave up smoking last year, and it was marvellous.. for about two months. That was the longest I had ever gone without smoking since I started, and to be honest I did have the odd one here and there, and I didn’t have many social occasions with other smokers to tempt me. But I was very proud of my achievement, because it was an achievement.
I was very sure I wanted to give up, last time. I really didn’t want to smoke any more. I went from almost chain smoking to smug gum chewer (and none of that nicotine replacement crap) overnight. Let’s not pretend we’re nicotine junkies, people. We may be addicted to nicotine, but that’s not what makes me want a smoke. I know that about myself, and I’ll just presume everyone else is the same. Nicotine cravings may make me grouchy or jittery or whatever, but I can go without something I’m physically addicted to with great ease, as I proved recently when I quit caffeine. Tobacco is more than that. It’s a friend for your hand when it doesn’t know what to do at a party. It’s perfect for waiting for a bus, or when a friend you’re meeting is running late. It goes great with coffee and alcohol, and it makes you look between 14% and 37% cooler. It’s part of your day, whatever you do, and wherever you go, it goes with you. It’s not something you wait to do in company, like drinking, or something you only do alone, like masturbating. If you have extra time, you’re having a smoke. If you don’t have extra time, you’re interrupting activities and work to go for a smoke. It’s a lot to give up… but on the other hand, it’s a load of crap. It must be easy to quit. It’s a bizarre habit.
I would quit properly and forever if I hadn’t allowed myself to construct my adult life around cigarettes. Since I was a teenager, cigarettes have been one of the ingredients necessary for complete relaxation. What I mean is, imagine it’s Saturday evening, you’re hung over as shit, and you can turn the hangover into a super happy fun time if certain conditions are met. For me, the conditions are these:
1. Junk food, so much that it will be too much, and there will be leftovers which can be enjoyed cold throughout the evening. Chinese food or dominos pizza are excellent choices. Cheesy or garlic fries are not, because they are delicious at first but don’t perform well in round two, the cold round.
2. Chocolate or chocolate ice cream.
3. Comfortable seat in view of the tv.
5. Huge jug of water.
6. Beer if hung over. Wine if just having a slovenly night in.
7. Something craptacular to watch on tv.
8. Good company, or, if sick of company, solitude.
In the glorious event that all these conditions are met, bliss is the result. It is of course possible to overindulge in the food parts of this list, and bliss is then temporarily suspended, but that’s a rookie mistake. The point here is that cigarettes are intrinsic to my total relaxation. I can have everything arranged within reaching distance, a movie about to start that actually looks half decent, but there will still be a smoke shaped hole in my enjoyment of the evening.
Now, that’s a load of bullshit. But it’s true, too. Giving up smoking… is complicated. I don’t want to smoke. I don’t want to be a smoker. But I do want every single individual cigarette. The decision to quit isn’t a big decision you make an move on, it’s a million little decisions not to talk yourself into the smoke you’re considering at any given moment.
And it’s hard because it’s a long term decision. It’s like deciding to lost weight. Easy. It’s easy to make lists for yourself, and only buy food you’ve decided is allowed, and decide to go to the gym, and get a membership, and buy a new bicycle to ride to work every day, but it’s hard to stop yourself eating every piece of cheese you ever want to eat, all the time, and make yourself go and do unpleasant repetitive physical movements when you want to lie down with the internet…
And then the benefits are so long term… there’s a carrot and stick in the case of smokers, coaxing us to give up with promises of glowing skin and a sense of taste, as well as threats of cancer and wrinkles and poverty and death… but all those things are so far away. If only the benefits of quitting were here and now, I would so totally quit. I know I could, if I was motivated. And you might say, what could motivate you more than your health? But that’s not fair, because it’s not like I’m going to get the vaccine against cancer if I stop smoking. If there was some kind of instant reward for quitting, I would be done forever. I swear. It’s just the long term motivation that makes it so hard. In fact, lots of things would make me quit. Like, a hot guy.
If I met a hot guy that didn’t smoke, I wouldn’t smoke around him. My desire to appear attractive to someone I like is way stronger than any nervous habit. I don’t know would I quit outright, but if he made annoying comments on how bad cigarettes make me smell or something, and he was really really hot, maybe.
If some benevolent millionaire took a shine to me and decided to pay me 20 euro a day not to smoke again. And this would last always. And he would make sure I was regularly tested for nicotine so I couldn’t cheat. I would never smoke again. I know it’s not that much money, obviously I would prefer more, but that’s my cut off rate. Actually I lie. Anything over a fiver a day would pay for a nicer lunch, and would definitely be worth it. But more money would be awesome.
If quitting smoking would make me shed a pound every day, and then once I got to my perfect weight, which actually wouldn’t take long enough to break the habit properly, every cigarette I smoked would add 5 pounds.
If at the end of every week without smoking one cigarette, I got to make a wish.
If as long as I didn’t smoke, my legs would magically not grow hairs.
Looking back over my list of instant motivators, I realised I am even shallower than I thought I was. This is sad. Can I add, for every day I don’t smoke, a child with a cleft palate gets a free operation? Or for as long as I’m not smoking, there won’t be any new cases of aids?