“It doesn’t say great things about me, but smoking has been a constant presence in my life for a long time- and I don’t remember what I used to do - or how I used to be without it.”
-Emily Flake, These Things Ain’t Gonna Smoke Themselves.
For the last six months I’ve been hilariously “pretending I don’t smoke.” I’ve gone from being a ten-year pack-a-day, stupidly proud, reckless, chain-smoking fiend to hiding my habit from my family, my friends, my employers and (occasionally) my live-in partner. Although I’m sure that there’s been some benefit to reducing my smoking habit considerably by means of concealing it, my life has gotten ridiculous. Who am I fooling? I am 28 years old and I am hiding my habit the same way I would when I was 16 - and yes folks, that’s how long I have been smoking.
Let’s face it: the smoking party is over. No one smokes anymore and no one is stupid enough to even vaguely believe it’s not going to kill you dead. For those of you who are young and toying with the notion, don’t fret- I’m not going to go on the “smoking is gonna get you” rant, cause quite frankly we all know it and I’d be a hypocrite if I spouted it off here. I’d rather come from a place that suggests you define yourself, and since we’d all rather define ourselves as non-smokers, let’s do that, shall we? See, that was easy enough.
So, what the heck am I doing? I’ve been a fool. I’ve been hanging on. I’ve been putting this off and putting this off, but I have to make a final decision to define myself either as a smoker or not. I think we’re all in agreement that it would be better for me to make the decision to be a non-smoker, so here I am, doing just that. I’m just not committed to smoking in the same way I was, so I’m going to do a very public dumping of the habit just so you, Shameless readers (smokers, non-smokers and “pretenders”) can watch me fall apart and pick myself up again.
Quitting smoking is hard for so many reasons. It’s an addiction of the physical and emotional variety, and when you’ve been smoking for as long as I have, it seems to define what you do and who you are. It’s how you get through a deadline or calm yourself down after some bad news. But beyond that, it’s always the other people in my life that make the quitting hard, the sense of shame I always feel when someone finds out that I smoke is always the very thing that keeps me smoking. I know that sounds strange, but when someone expresses their disappointment in my habit I’m always apt to light up. In contrast, when someone is proud of my effort to kick the habit, I have the kind of will that I never thought I could summon.
That’s why I love this little book by Emily Flake. In it she says, “The last thing you want to hear when you’re feeling rotten is congratulations. You’re in hell.” In her beautiful little graphic novella/love note to her habit, she instead suggests looking at quitting as the death of a friend.
So here I am, blogging about how this is it - my friend is dead. There will be no more vague definitions and concealed dates with my destructive little companion. I just don’t have the committment anymore and it’s time to stage the funeral. And as Flake puts it, “I may even cry - of course I’ll be sad. My friend is dead.”
But heck, better my friend than I, right?