Still an Addict After All These Years
I’m still addicted to cigarettes even though I haven’t smoked one in over twenty years. Maybe longer. I know the addiction is still there because I often want one.
Years ago, there was a joke in which a guy asked a woman if she smoked after sex. Her answer was, “I never looked.”
The trouble with addictions is this: they get linked to all kinds of things. A lot of people lit a cigarette after sex, when they picked up the telephone, when they sat down to write, when they went out onto the church steps after a funeral, went in a bar, when they got in the car, so all those things (and more) became associated with smoking. And, like post-hypnotic suggestions, all those cues are just as strong now as they were when I quit (finally).
I started smoking in graduate school and started smoking more when I was in the Navy where cigarettes we cheap after the ship got outside U.S. waters (no taxes). We were told, years ago, that quitting smoking was harder than getting off hard drugs. That seemed like BS at the time, so I didn’t believe them. The thing was if we ever ran out of cigarettes, the angst was just as strong as a person on hard drugs who was looking for a fix. That should have told us something.
Having cigarettes on hand at all times was more important than anything else. When I lived in northern Illinois and couldn’t get my car out of the snowy driveway, I walked five blocks for a pack of cigarettes. That should have told me something.
I smoked when I had pneumonia and when I had horrible colds. That should have been a learning experience as well.
Quitting took a long time. Most attempts failed. What worked was smoking lighter-weight cigarettes over a period of time until I was buying brands that were pretty much like inhaling air. Then I got a bad cold, and when the cold went away, I was done with smoking. Basically, I wish smoking wasn’t a bad thing and that second-hand smoke didn’t annoy everyone else or get in my clothes and my hair so that I smell like a campfire. See, smoking is a constant temptation.
Nowadays, relatively few characters in movies and TV shows smoke. So, I find it almost shocking to watch an old movie in which everyone smokes. Those were the days when the guy put two cigarettes in his mouth, lit both of them, and handed one to his best girl. Hell, I remember doing that. I wish I didn’t.
Willie, a character in my Florida Folk Magic Series smokes Kools. I never liked those–or any other menthol cigarette–but I still feel like lighting up a Marlboro when I write those scenes. My wife, however, is highly allergic to cigarette smoke. That’s all the reason NOT to buy a pack of cigarettes and light one “on special occasions.” I still want to, and that bothers me.
When we were young and thought we would live forever, too much booze and too many cigarettes were an extravagance we thought we could indulge in for a few years and then go back to a “normal life.” We were wrong.
There are still some places where employees go outside the front doors of their offices for smoke breaks. That means customers must walk through a cloud of smoke to go inside. I think smokers should have to stand farther away from the front door. Nonetheless, I still want to ask if I can bum a smoke.
What would I do if I could go back and “do it all over again”? The same thing, I think. Some of us just seem to have addictive personalities. Raleigh brand cigarettes used to have a coupon program, causing many of us to say we were saving up our coupons for an iron lung. Yes, we called cigarettes “cancer sticks.” We knew we were potentially doomed and we didn’t care. Is that crazy, or what?