A Smoker's Tale - The trials and tribulations of quitting cigarettes.

We inhale the very thing that kills us, just so we can feel more ALIVE.
— Chrissie Pinney

That first drag is almost better than sex. Have you ever gotten up early, fixed yourself a dark cup of coffee and sat outside with an American Spirit? You know when you're two beers in and your friend wants to go outside? There is almost no comparison to that feeling. 

At least that's what I thought. Those little pleasure sticks can really fuck with your head. So sexy and slim; the ritual, the feel of smoke pouring into your mouth and recycling its way into your lungs. The exhale - watching the smoke blow out as if it were taking my stress with it. A visual release. 

I had never wanted to quit. It was never a priority. I watched people older than myself continue to go through packs a week thinking, "If they're fine, I'll be fine, too." It wasn't until my move to California, I started to truly reflect and evaluate my life and the decisions I had made. I was finally able to get a fresh start thousands of miles away. I wanted to do everything I could to leave my bad habits in DC where they belonged. 

When I first tried to quit, I wasn't doing it for me. That's why it was unsuccessful. I was doing it for the guy I'm dating, for my mom, even for my grandma and to avoid those awkward stares on the street. To be successful, I first had to look at why I had started smoking in the first place.

One month. I have hit one-month cigarette-free. This is the longest it's been since college that I haven't smoked a cigarette. 

It's a habit you really fall into. You date a guy who smokes and you reason with yourself, "It's fine if I don't do it." You get really stressed one day after adderal and coffee at 4 am outside of McKeldin. You reason with yourself, "It's fine if I have one or two." Your doctor asks and you start to transition from an "I only smoke when I drink" to a "I need at least 1 to get through the day" kind of person.

*BOOM* you're almost 5+ years later and considered - A Smoker

Now being A Smoker does not come without a chip on your shoulder. Dirty looks on the streets when you blow smoke in someone's face, the ritual of gum, perfume and hand lotion so your grandmother wouldn't smell and looking at your skin knowing it could be 10x better.

For a long time, I didn't think it was that bad. I was never was a pack-a-day smoker but it became a part of who I was. When I was back in DC I had developed many unhealthy habits, not just smoking. I was drinking too much, partying too late, eating too much terrible food and surrounding myself with too many toxic people. Being A Smoker was my escape. 

If I was at an event, I knew I could excuse myself for some solitude and have a cigarette. It was my "me" time. If I was out covering a show and didn't care for the music, I'd go smoke a cigarette. My reprieve from whatever terrible DJ was on the decks that I'd surely have to lie about later in my write-up. After a stressful meeting, I knew I'd be able to smoke. It was both a physical mental retreat. 

After my move, these realizations started to sink in. I had to face facts or continue to hide from myself in my gold pack of American Spirits. I started to look into life insurance, health insurance and new birth control options. Smoking is a big no-no when it comes to adulting like a true adult. I wanted to know why my skin was so bad but ignored the answer cradled between my pointer and middle fingers.  

After spending $15 on one pack at a local gas station, I had it with myself. I was frustrated that I had let it go this far and that I couldn't seem to stop. But it was all on me and if I didn't own up to it and put steps in place to actually quit I knew it would be fruitless. You manifest your own destiny. 

I began to find substitutions. Gum is my new best friend. Water and coffee intake is off the charts. I did not turn to nicotine patches or consult my doctor - I think it's honestly a ruse by big tobacco to just keep you on something resembling their product. But that might just be the conspiracy theorist in me. If you really want to quit, you'll figure out a way to do it. Surprisingly the hardest part hasn't been when I drink but when I get stressed. That's when I really crave it. At that moment is when I need to take a step back, listen to myself and figure out why I'm so stressed out. What has led me to feel this way? And how can I tackle it without resorting to an all-out escape? I began to find the roots and finally started cutting out the weeds entirely instead of trimming them back. 

It's not going to be easy. Self-control is a tricky quality to master. If you have any tips or tricks leave them in the comments of how you quit, times you might have lost the path or if you're planning to quit! I want to hear your journey too - it's not a race, it's a marathon but I am ready to run it and make it to the finish line cigarette-free.   

Elizabeth WhitingComment