“Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a thousand times.” ~ Mark Twain
In late January, I wrote a post on elephant that garnered about three thousand hits.
There are articles with more than a hundred thousand hits, but it was still the first real time my writing had been read by a significant number of people who were not my college professors. In the article, I discussed my satisfaction with quitting smoking cigarettes.
Well, I started smoking cigarettes again. I’m not sure what happened — I had a rough week and for some reason it seemed like one little puff was the answer to all my problems. Addiction is a difficult thing to understand if you’ve never experienced it.
The best I’ve ever been able to describe it is this — certainly, as a child, you remember having a favorite food, probably something you would eat until you were sick if you had the chance. Imagine having a huge bowl of that food inches in front of you, with your parents out of the room, being really hungry, and having to sit there and stare at it indefinitely. Nicotine is a powerful drug, and every gas station sells it.
I have abstained completely from smoking cigarettes for periods of time, long enough to start getting cocky about it. And then smoking seemed like a good idea for some reason, and then I had to tell the people who encouraged me to keep with it. “What made you start again?” They always ask. I’ve never had a good answer to that question.
When I was 18 and told myself it would be okay to buy a pack, I swore I wouldn’t be smoking past 25. After the mid-twenties, the body’s long term ability to recover from tobacco smoking quickly begins to recede.
Smoking cigarettes definitely has its appeal to me. There’s a calming ritual to it. Cigarette smokers seem to be disproportionately creative types, who I find myself drawn to. There’s a sort of communal spirit to it as well. It’s frowned upon to ask money for a cigarette or refuse a few lines of friendly conversation while taking one. Smoking areas are located outdoors at places like concert venues, where the music is at a conversational level. Oh, how I love the smoker pit!
There’s a lot of folk wisdom about good ways to quit smoking, but little of it is scientific. Doctors recommend setting a quit date to psychologically commit to and prepare for as well as enduring the discomfort of cold turkey, which decreases the chances of getting reeled back in.
The reality is that nicotine withdrawal is less uncomfortable and shorter lived than a common cold. But feeling tense and high-strung for a few days is nothing compared to having to adjust to a tobacco-free lifestyle. Many of my closer friends are cigarette smokers, and a lot of the best time I’ve spent with them has been going out for a smoke while everyone else was warm inside.
My grandfather quit smoking in his fifties because his health demanded it, but still thought about smoking on occasion into his old age. I’ll never be completely free. But he certainly lived a much longer life and could do more because of his health. Quitting smoking is the least I could do to thank my body. It’s done a lot for me. It may be easier to meet the small, dwindling fraction of people who are smokers, but sometimes excusing myself for a cigarette around nonsmokers makes me feel further from the rest of humanity. My life is at stake.
Maybe after I finish this carton.
Greg Eckard is an editorial intern at elephant journal. He studied History at Occidental College. He plays keyboards for Shiftybox, a local band, and has been a music enthusiast from a young age. Also an aquarist and amateur magician, he has lived in Boulder for three years. Friend him on Facebook, follow him on twitter, or view his fledgling blog.