An update on my previous post, Reflections on Quitting Smoking: Love, Hate and a Confession…
The thing about smoking…is that quitting is never that straightforward. It should be, of course: you just stop. You pack it in, throw out the ciggies/tobacco and go about your daily life simply without doing it.
But it isn’t that simple. Once nicotine has a hold on you, it holds tight. It gets into your thoughts, your social interactions, your stress relief, your routines, even, to some extent, your identity.
The devil’s herb, cancer poles, death sticks – the health risks start to fade in your consciousness. Smoking becomes a comfort, a reassurance, something nice to take the edge off. It is almost a political statement, as if by ruining your lungs you are somehow sticking it to the man. Government health warnings (pure ideology!), which now completely cover packs of straights and rolling tobacco, at least, make it feel that way, as does the relegation of smokers to outside beer gardens and the sneers of passers-by.
The pleasures of smoking are rarely acknowledged, the sheer relaxation and comfort that comes with sitting on a café terrace with a coffee and cigarette and watching the world go by. The psychological reminders are everywhere: sitting at a pub while your friends roll their cigarettes, the balcony in your flat where you enjoyed many post-coital cigarettes with your ex, the bench in college where you got some respite from the library, the infinite places you spent your undergraduate years scouting out as a safe place to light up.
I cracked. I had a good run. A few weeks I managed, enduring the migraines and the anxiety and the disruption to my normal rhythm. In the end, with exams looming and a 10,000 word document which needed to be written, edited and formatted within an inch of its life, I was not strong enough. I have failed. It started with a 10 pack of players, that feint reassurance that “just one” would be enough, the addict’s delusion of self control, that it was merely a brief indulgence before I would be back on the straight and narrow. Then it was only two, only three, only four… then I gave in and bought myself a bag of amber leaf. The woman in the corner shop smiled faintly at me, as if she knew what was up. I was defeated.
I will try to quit again. After my exams, I swear. I promise. For real this time.