The totality that I lasted without buying a pack of cigarettes. I made a conscious effort to not smoke this weekend and made it through nothing more than a few puffs, not more than a whole cigarette from November 1st to the 3rd. I caved today and bought another pack – maybe I can make this one last a week. I want to quit entirely before my birthday on the 24th.
I feel so weak-willed, so trapped and so dirty. I am dealing with a bronchial infection and all the benefits of smells and taste attributed to not clogging my organs with tar and smoke were somewhat lost. The benefits of not smoking are apparent though: my lungs were not straining climbing stairs, flavors (though muted from illness) were enhanced; I could feel parts of my brain re-activating, from not being drowned in nicotine and oxygen-deprivation. And yet.
The nicotine monster is clawing my face: my skin itches and feels dug with needles all over my body, there is a twinge and a taste and a knocking on the inside of my skull that is demanding a fix, and God help me, I gave in.
The ritual: it is a cup coffee, blended with hot cocoa and cappuccino, and a pack of smokes ordered at the counter. I try and corrupt my form as little as possible by ordering natural tobacco, additive-free cigarettes: they do not taste like arsenic, but death all the same. I wrestle with the idea of only buying a refillable vaporizer instead, or along with, so that when this pack runs out I can switch to something better for me, try juices or black pepper oil. I get a pack instead.
Outside, a sip of coffee as the cellophane is taken off the pack and the cigarette is quickly jutting out my mouth, and before I can think that I did so well this weekend, the thing is lit and I am inhaling smoke into my lungs. It mixes with the sticky-sweet succor of the coffee-blend and the itching turns to tingling and relief and I am a light-headed ball of unwinding tension. The strain, the lethargy, the aching bones and frustration as the chemical winds out of your system is indescribable. I applaud people that have cold-turkey quit before me, and as I will quit again. After this pack.
It always seems like it’s after this pack, after this cigarette, this is the last one, ever. They reek, the real things, before they’re lit and after. Before they’re lit: the pungent smell of tobacco, oh holy plant that shamans cast to fire for magic and peace, now the tranquil pre-combusted cacophony that casually commands, “Smoke me.” As they’re lit: the whispering wispy smoke that withers in the air as it climbs from the ashy tip, the lingering cling to clothing, the fire in the lungs that speaks a thousand chemicals inherent in that fruit of sin: tobacco! Gift and curse of the gods!
There is a fear in me that is equal parts wanting to be a non-smoker and wanting to be a smoker. For the past twelve years, cigarettes have been my constant companion: through break-ups, illnesses, deaths, celebrations, show openings, show closings, traffic and border crossings and post-coital bliss. It is hard to imagine life continuing without them. My vicious boyfriend that beats me from the inside, making certain the bruising is not seen to the world. I hate them and love them and hate that I love them.
But now the nicotine is coursing through my veins, safe again, and I feel back to homeostasis, though it is false and manufactured: I have gone back to level nicotine and the monster is wrapped around my brain and already starting to contemplate the next cigarette. It is a cancer that is growing on my mind, one that will be excised before I turn thirty.
This is not a threat but a promise: I will cut ties with this problem or die trying.