Adventures In Not Smoking, Day One

I have decided to quit smoking.  Actually, my lungs have decided I should quit smoking, and I’m beginning to agree with them.  In an effort to make myself accountable for this attempt, I am going to be journaling my efforts, that way all of you who read this can check up on me, see my progress, offer encouragement/promises of ass beatings if I falter from this path.  So, here we go.

Day One: The Decision Has Been Made.

It was really a dumb idea to start smoking in the first place.  I’ve always been prone to respiratory infections, so why torture my already vulnerable lungs with carcinogens and other bad juju?  And why start so late in life?  I really only took to the habit about a year-and-a-half ago.  In fact, I bought my first pack of cigarettes when I was twenty because I realized I had turned eighteen and didn’t exercise my god-given right to do so. 

So, off to the local convenience mart to buy my first pack.  I remember standing at the counter, gazing at the wall of boxes, all shiny in their cellophane packaging, the colors flashing at me in a “pick me! pick me!” sort of way.  I was clueless.  I had no idea there were so many brands, let alone flavors or lengths.  I just knew of Marlboro and Camel, but there were exotic brands like “Pall Mall” and “Ligget” and “Virginia Slims.” Eyes wide, cash in one hand, ID in the other, I asked for what I thought was the easiest brand: Marlboro Reds.  Unfiltered.  Holy shit.  That’s like saying you are thinking about taking up rock climbing and attempt The Matterhorn on your first day. 

In fact, I think this was the exact exchange between me and the cashier, whom I sure got quite the hardy chuckle after I left:

Me: “Uh, yeah, I’d like a pack of cigarettes, please.”

Proprietor of Local Gas Station: “What kind?”

Me: “Uh…Marlboros, I guess….”

PLGS: “Ooookay…regulars, lights, ultra-lights….?”

Me: “Regulars. Please.”

PLGS: “Filtered or non-filtered?”

Me: *in my head* what the fuck? “….uh….non-filtered?”

PLGS: *raises eyebrows* “Box or soft pack?” (this was “back in the day” when this was still an option)

Me: “Box.”

The nice lady grabbed the pack, gave me the “you’re fucking stupid, kid” look as she rang up my purchase, and then asked for my ID, which I stiffly handed to her.  She glanced at the birth date, up at me, and back at the ID again.  I’m sure she was thinking I was much younger than my twenty years since I seemed so wet behind the ears with the whole cigarette buying, or that I was being sent in by my under-aged friends to buy for them, and was acting so strange because I was nervous I’d get caught procuring for minors.  Regardless, she took my money, handed me my change, and asked if I needed a lighter.  Duh.  A lighter.  How the hell else was I going to light these damn things?  Pull a caveman in my car with sticks and a bit of flint? I choked at the question, and looked nervously around the counter at the display of lighters.  Again, so many colors…

I then spied a container of matches and asked, “Uh, how much are the  matches?”

I was answered with a blank stare, then a snarky, “those are free, sweetheart.”

“Okay, cool.  I’ll, uh, I’ll take the matches, then.” 

The nice lady handed me my matches, gave me another “you’re a fucking dipwad” look, and said, “Have a good time.” I believe the smile on her face could be described as a “shit-eating grin.”

So, I grabbed my smokes, my FREE matches, and my new-found sense of pride at having just made my first ever tobacco purchase and walked out the door to my car.  I got in and sat there, wondering what to do next.  My older brother smoked, and I sometimes saw him smack his pack of cigarettes against his hand for whatever reason, and decided to try that as well, because what the hell, huh?  I should have maybe paid closer attention to my older sibling as he did this, as of course, I had no idea what he did it for, so instead of hitting the top of the pack against my hand in an effort to pack the tobacco down, I just slapped the pack–flat, wide side–against my hand.  Essentially folks, I was just hitting the front of the box and this aided in no way to any sort of tobacco-enhancing ritual.  I was just slapping the shit out of my cigarettes. 

Once I felt I had accomplished the right degree of whatever-the-fuck-I-thought-I-was-doing, I grabbed the tab on the cellophane to rip the top off.  I remember thinking it was like doing the same with a pack of HubbaBubba Bubblegum.  I flipped the top of the box and stared down at the twenty sticks of death lined up inside the box.  I immediately regretted the unfiltered choice I made.  In fact, I took a cigarette out and turned it around in my hands, somehow looking for the  missing filter.  Maybe I had to insert it myself or something.  I kind of panicked a bit, but then thought, “what the hell?” and shoved one in between my lips.  I reached for my matches, struck one against the rough strip to ignite the head, and carefully brought the flame up to the end of the smoke dangling precariously from my mouth. 

Now again, first time smoking–didn’t realized you had to inhale as you lit the goddamn thing, so the match just kind of charred the end of the cigarette and burned the end of my fingers.  I wagged the flame out with a “sonofabitch!” and tried again, this time, inhaling as I lit up.  Success…or epic fail, depending on how you look at it. The end of the cigarette glowed an angry orange and smoke filled up the car.  I, of course, started coughing.  Hi, new to smoking.  And I had little bits of tobacco stuck to my tongue, so as I’m hacking up a quarter of my lung, I’m also sputtering and trying to wipe loose tobacco from my mouth.  The car is still filling with smoke from the smoldering cigarette, and it just then dawns on me to roll down the window, which I did furiously.  Smoke is rolling out the window, I’m still gagging on bits of Tennessee’s finest, and then there’s the issue of how to hold the god-forsaken thing in my hand.  Right then, I’m sure I was sort of pinching it between my thumb and forefinger, but I associated that with pot smoking, and hoo boy, pot is bad, and I didn’t want anyone to think I was a dirty hippie, so I went for the more elegant jammed between my middle and forefinger approach.  Regardless of position of said cigarette, I am sure I looked like a massive tool.  A massive tool who had never smoked before.

After I stopped coughing/retching/fiddling with the cigarette, and felt comfortable enough to be able to drive without dropping the cursed thing on my lap, igniting myself and my car a-flame, I took off down the road, window down, wind in my hair, and smoke blowing up in my face.  Occasionally, I’d bring the cigarette up to my pursed lips and “smoke,” or a.k.a. fill my mouth full of smoke, cheeks puffed out, and awkwardly exhale a huge plume of smoke out the window.  Again, I didn’t know I was doing it “wrong,” so to speak, by not inhaling the smoke.  In my mind, I had a cigarette, it was going to-and-from my mouth, I was blowing smoke out of my mouth, so therefore, I was smoking.

This went on for about an hour, me driving and pretend smoking.  My eyes were burning from the smoke, and I had gone through about six of the unfiltered devils before I decided to call it quits.  Besides, I was due home soon, and I didn’t want to smell like an ashtray.  Which brought me to my next quandary: what was I going to do with this pack of cigarettes?  Now, keep in mind, I am well past the legal age to buy cigarettes at twenty, but I had this fear of my parents finding out I smoked, even though I had moved out of the house by then. 

So, I took them up to my apartment with me where I was met with the same “what the fuck, kid?” look from my then-r00mmate, Brandy.

“You.  Bought.  Cigarettes.  You.” she said smugly as I showed her the pack. 

“Yep.” I felt like a little kid showing her mom a pretty rock she found outside.

“How’d that go for you?” she laughed.

“Fine,” I lied.  As if to betray  my cool exterior, I started coughing.  Damn.  Cover blown.

Brandy started laughing harder.  “Yeah, sounds like it.  If you’re going to smoke in the apartment, open up a window or something.  I don’t want the place to reak.”

And this is my next clear recollection of smoking–me, standing in my bedroom, window open, screen off and laying across my bed, and me hanging halfway out the window, smoking these goddamned cigarettes.  Not just smoking, but fucking CHAIN SMOKING these sonsabitches, because I didn’t want them anymore, but didn’t want to throw them away, either.  I paid good money for this shit, damn it. I wasn’t going to waste my money! (the irony was clearly lost on me then.)

I don’t recall ever smoking much after that; I think I had my fill of it after that first experience.  But I would pick it up occasionally over the next eight years, mainly when I was drunk and saw other people smoking, and how much of a good idea I thought it was to be drinking AND smoking at the same time.  That was like, the best combo EVER.

And then, flash forward to when I started smoking regularly, and with vigor.

I noted one of my triggers to KEEP smoking to be stress, and stress is what brought me back into the arms of this cancerous mistress once a-gain.  Yes friends, I started smoking full-time when shit with Jason and I started getting foul. I remember coming home one day after work with a pack of cigarettes and going and standing on the front porch, puffing away (I was inhaling by then, look at me all grown up…), and Jason looked at me with the all-too familiar “what the fuck, kid?” look. 

“You’re smoking?” he asked.

*puff* “Yep.” I replied nonchalantly.

“Why?”

“Why not?  You smoke.  So can I.”

And that was that.  He left me on the front porch, sucking my life away (and not in the GOOD way, either) on an American Spirit Light.

It was my escape from him, in a way.  Whenever I needed out of the house when he was here, I’d go outside, come rain or snow or dead of night, I’d be out there, inhaling angrily, blowing smoke out with force, pacing the patio.  And the habit stuck.  I guess now you can say that since Jason was the one that was ultimately the cause of my smoking, now that we’re getting divorced, I should stop smoking.  And that’s kind of the idea behind my reasoning to quit….well, that and the whole lungs rebelling against me in a fight for fresh air sort of coup d’etat. 

So there you have it, friends. My fall from grace into the stinking pits of smoker-dom.  I really am quite tired of it, to be honest with you all.  It’s getting freaking expensive as hell–cigarettes were almost eight bucks a pack when Larkins and I ventured to Texas a few weeks back–plus, it’s just expensive in general.  I did some math, crunched some digits, and on average, I spend about $5.50 on a pack.  I, with no small amount of shame, admit to smoking about….half a pack to three-quarters of pack a day, so that’s roughly…*does math in head*…carry the one….seven days in a week….four weeks a month….twelve months a year….been smoking for about a year-and-a-half….like, a billion dollars.  I don’t have a billion dollars.  Well, I would if I didn’t smoke.  So there’s that.  And then there’s the whole it just being a plain fucking stupid idea.  Yeah, remember my broken foot?  Remember my boot on my broken foot?  I was told time and time again by Dr. Justin Harris, Best Ortho Man Alive, that the reason my goddamn foot wasn’t healing properly was because nicotine robs your bones of calcium.  Basic third grade science taught us that “bones are made of calcium and hard stuff.” So, I’m the reason why my foot wouldn’t heal.  Me. Dumb ol’, stupid ol’ E.  Smokin’ away, smoke smoke smoke.  Strike two.  Third reason?  Hi, look where I work.  A freakin’ HEART INSTITUTE.  Besides “don’t eat junk food, fatty!” the second thing we drill into our patients heads is “don’t smoke, neither.” Fourth reason….my fingers smell.  That’s gross.  Fifth reason…my future generation, if there ever happens to be one, which there won’t be if I keep smoking.  

So, all in all folks, the cons to smoking heavily out-weigh the pros, which are none.  There is no good reason to smoke.  None.  Unless your sole purpose in life is to smell like a bag of ass, then by all means, light up, Sparky. 

And this is where I’ll leave off for today, as Jesus christ, my little work count ticker thingy at the bottom of my screen is telling me I’ve hit a paltry 2300+ words.  Times to call it quits.  Pun intended.

Stay tuned for more Adventures In Not Smoking!

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