I used to smoke. I smoked for a really long time. When I smoked I told people I enjoyed smoking. I guess to a certain degree that was true in so much as while I was smoking a cigarette I enjoyed it. But as soon as I finished one and the nasty taste was all that was left, as well as the grim realization that it was only a matter of time before I craved the next one, I’m not sure I still continued to call it enjoyable. I may have enjoyed smoking a cigarette here and there but I hated (and I mean hated) being a smoker.
When I was 20 I tried to quit. I tried again at age 25 and succeeded for almost a year. I tried again at 27 and then again, finally kicking it, at age 30. Basically, I kept trying to quit and I kept failing miserably.
When I met Tobyjoe he gave me an ultimatum. He suggested I quit, that our relationship would not go on for much longer if I continued to be a smoker. He said, “I don’t have any interest in marrying someone who is going to die a slow, horrible, and ugly death. I have no interest in making sure your oxygen tank is working.”
He had a point. And I really liked him. Why wouldn’t I give up this nasty habit in order to make our relationship work? And so I tried. When the clock struck the year 2002, I said I would not smoke another cigarette and I lasted for almost 6 months before sneaking one behind his back. And then another. Before I knew it, I was sneaking cigarettes all the time.
This was the catalyst of many, many HUGE fights between he and I. When he would find a stash in an old purse or in the pocket of a jacket, he would become so angry, he was unable to speak to me. I would ask him things like, “Why do you care? It doesn’t hurt you!” I would say things like, “If I want to smoke, I should be able to smoke!”
It was really dumb and it almost ended our relationship.
Quitting, like, actually quitting, was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, which is probably why it took so many tries. It’s also been one of the most rewarding. I finally stopped smoking, as in, no more sneaking it, no more taking a puff of someone else’s, it was tough and I missed them for a while but I finally did quit. Every time I drank and my inhibitions were lowered, I wanted a cigarette. It was a really hard addiction to conquer. I wish nonsmokers understood just how hard NOT smoking really is for a smoker. But until you’re owned by such a thing, you have no idea how something so intangible and dangerous can literally be the boss of you. Thankfully, for me, the addiction is totally gone. Now the only time the idea even sneaks into my head is when I’m shitfaced drunk and that doesn’t really happen much anymore either.
But that leads me to why I’m writing today. Recently, we were discussing smoking and smokers. More specifically, we were talking about a loved one who still smokes and really shouldn’t. The deep, raspy cough is hint enough that something very wrong is taking place inside of them. And the way they smell, it’s unbearable most of the time. Their skin is sagging and wrinkling before it should. Their teeth are stained. Yet, they’re very beautiful, too. And we love them and we want to keep them around for as long as possible. So we talked about it. And Tobyjoe, a person who hasn’t ever had a cigarette in all of his life, not even a drag, said, “No, they won’t quit for good. They enjoy being a smoker.”
And I became angry. I am not sure where this anger came from, perhaps all those times I foolishly told myself (and everyone else around me) the same thing came back to me.
“There is no way any one person can honestly say to another person that they enjoy being a smoker. They might enjoy a cigarette when they’re smoking one, but NO ONE above the showoff age of 16 is actually proud of being a smoker. If they tell you such a thing, they’re lying. If they believe it, they’re lying to themselves.”
This was a harsh thing to say and to be honest I’m not sure why I’m writing it out loud. But for some reason, I need to say it. And so I challenge any smokers out there to honestly tell themselves right now that they enjoy being a smoker. Because I am just not buying it.