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“Oh my sweet Carolina…”

March 26, 2009
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I almost bought a pack of cigarettes today.

These past two weeks have been difficult for me not smoking. But I’ll be honest and get something out now: I have bummed a few cigarettes here and there, and a month after we quit, Erica and I smoked at least half of Kim and Andrew’s packs when we went over to their house (and we weren’t even shitfaced). So two weeks ago, when I felt like a smoker all over again, I only thought it was the always-missing nicotine that was back in my system. Instead of accepting that, I thought of all the other excuses that could have caused it in a plan to justify going back: the first time driving to Twentynine Palms without a cigarette; the new drive to my tutoring job; or, I just missed it, man. I have thought that how annoying I’ve felt lately, in all my talking and blogging about quitting, as sincere as it was, would upset Erica and everyone else enough to tell me to just start up again. While I do think the new balance of nicotine in my system didn’t help, I was just looking for a reason to go back.

I was being dishonest again – the same habit of lying and smoking behind everyone’s back had resurfaced, this time as not being honest about why I wanted to go back. I wanted to call my parents and go over why I thought it was hard (the new drive, the excuses) but not give them the truth that I had smoked at least ten cigarettes since I quit. (That’s nerve-wrecking to type.) I even remember feeling angry with dad when I recalled his advice that it was “only going to get easier” – that it wasn’t going to be like an alcoholic, who has to stay on top of their demons every day of their dry life. I thought as long as I could keep from him that I had smoked since I quit, that I could convince him I gave it my best but I was still going back.

That was two weeks ago. Erica went out of town and it all felt like that first week when I quit. It was emotionally and physically trying. I pretty much kept to myself: Did some writing, worked every day. But I spent a lot of time (either busy at the library or idle at the tutoring center) just thinking about it. Obsessing. I would watch for smokers at my new job, since no one really knew me there. I would look into people’s cars to see if they had a one they could throw me while driving (I’m dead serious. I guess James Bond would’ve been the best candidate for that but I never saw him). While I can’t be proud that I didn’t smoke a cigarette (the opportunity simply never presented itself, as I would’ve liked), I still managed to not buy any. What helped was I would naturally imagine myself buying a pack and feeling fucking horrible again (Kevin Stetz’s “never be the same” sang in my head as often as it did when I first quit).

I had a dream a few nights ago that Ryan Adams (one of the musicians I tried to emulate by smoking) had quit. When I woke up, I searched on the internet to find that this was true – that along with him being engaged to (and now married to) Mandy Moore, he had quit smoking at 34 – and I’m pretty sure that’s after almost 20 years of smoking. At first I thought it was God, implanting the dream to help me now but not back in January, when we both quit. But then I remembered I had seen a post of him singing “In My Time of Need,” but the video was titled “In My Time of Not Smoking.” I added him to my list of friends who had quit – along with Erica, Dad, Kevin, Jeff Tweedy.

Something about that feeling had a time stamp on it (probably the same fake/celebrity thing that helped me start in the first place) and I obsessed over smoking for most of that workday. Erica and I talked that night and it hit me, the base reason why this has been so difficult for me: I let all of my support do the quitting for me. Those first few weeks, when it was impossible, I couldn’t have done it without my father’s talks or my mother’s prayers. Or Erica just saying “stop” and her quitting with me. But that was it; I never spent any time alone reinforcing what I had learned. I ignored Kelly’s advice to meditate and be in touch with myself, the person quitting. And as the chemical left my system, I let my guard down. I smoked a few. Obsessed over the idea that I could manage some sort of healthy habit. Then I realized that was a fantasy – something that I swore I wouldn’t live for.

So why did I almost buy a pack today? I was at the gas station and I just told myself to buy a pack, that no one would know -without thinking. I thought of the one I would smoke as I went to Mecca, but when that became three I reconsidered and stayed outside with the gas pump. But it came over me again almost as easy as saying fuck it, and I went inside and said, “Pack of American Spirits, lights” with a new green mini-lighter in my hand. He rang up the lighter but then stalled while searching for the yellow pack – typical whenever you buy American Spirits outside of a cigarette shop. He even touched the stack of Lights but didn’t know they were American Spirits. Although it took only three seconds, it was enough time to look at myself and wonder what the fuck I was doing. I slid the green lighter back and said, “You know what? It’s cool, man,” and the cashier didn’t even seem to mind. Serendipity.

So no, it’s not every day – I won’t have to deal with this every day, like my grandfather, who got upset when he’d see a beer billboard. But, unless I deal with this honestly and more maturely than I have, I will be looking at my old habit – every day. I know that I don’t want this in twenty years, but I need to be honest and accept that that means I need to be done with this now. I still listened to Heartbreaker today, for the first time in months, and it feels like what happened was the last of that former me. I am grateful for quitting more today than ever before.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 28, 2009 4:06 AM

    Stay strong- love the display of strength to just put down the lighter. You’ll get there, and I’ll pray for you too. I mean, why not?

  2. Lyric permalink
    April 26, 2009 6:54 PM

    please stay away from the cigs; you don’t need them, they need you…
    think about it.

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