Smoking. The ultimate love/hate relationship.
Posted by Roberta Lipp on September 14, 2006
I quit smoking last Halloween. For good this time. The topic of smoking and quitting has been circulating, so I thought I’d write about it.
I certainly will not begin to discuss why people shouldn’t smoke. It’s been well covered; there isn’t anyone who doesn’t know. Although I’ve been told that it is connected with a lot more forms of cancer than is commonly understood, especially nasty women’s cancers — ovarian, uterine, bladder. But I won’t talk about all that.
I just want to talk about my experience with smoking and quitting.
I considered myself a light smoker, an on-again/off-again smoker, a social smoker. I quit many, many times. And quitting was never that hard for me.
This was my story and I was sticking to it.
The reality is that over the years I would start more frequently after my hiatuses, and each time I did start up again, I would dive right in… after grubbing a few, I’d go right for the pack. I wasn’t the heaviest of smokers… some days less than half a pack, up to around a pack. But looking at it cumulatively, it was years and years of smoking, with brief breaks. I tried to sell myself that it was years and years of social smoking, with bouts of smoking. Nope. I was a long-time smoker.
When I started at Adient (the job I left this year after six years), I was smoking, and I quite about a month in. I remained a non-smoker for four years.
Then the sequence was as follows: weight loss surgery, weight loss, shock and awe (and delight), emergence into bars, alcohol, flirting and follow-through. And what goes with all that?
Yes, you got it.
I love smoking. Please don’t get me wrong about this. LOVE IT. Love how it feels in my hand and in my body. Love the busy work… digging for the lighter, lighting the cigarette. I love the social interaction with other smokers. Love having my cigarette lit. Just love it all.
There’s plenty I hate… the smelly hands and clothes, the being the only smoker at certain events, how weird and tired my body felt.
And of course, the chronically recurring bronchial illness, combined with the fact that I’m a singer.
And the guilt over all of that.
I tortured myself constantly. I shouldn’t smoke, I need to quit, I have to stop soon, I can’t believe I’m buying another pack (okay I’m not even bringing up the expense). It was endless.
And then, almost exactly one year ago, a friend died of cancer. A smoking friend. I got to see her over the summer, where she was smoking even though she had a hole in her face. Her sister, Paula, is one of my closest friends.
Halloween weekend I drove down to Maryland to participate in her memorial. We did a circle (she was pagan) around ‘her’ tree, where we’d all gathered/camped/partied for years and years. Tributes were paid. Songs were sung. Dragon piss was drunk. And her ashes were poured around that tree.
And Paula and I shared good smoking bonding time. Paula had been a hardcore smoker too; 3 packs a day. She’d quit for years, and started again earlier that year. I told her I’d been thinking of quitting for Samhain. She said that she definitely was.
And for me, that was it. Finding out that she was quitting gave me the strength. And here’s the thing… I absolutely considered it, from that moment, non-negotiable.
Here’s how I usually start up again… it’s not the big things. It’s not the hard moments of life. I don’t start by saying, this is it, this sent me over the edge, I need to smoke. That’s not how I do it.
How I do it is… I don’t need a cigarette, and I’m good at quitting, so why not. I’ll smoke tonight, or even for a few weeks, and then I’ll just quit.
Ya see how sneaky that is? So yeah, non-negotiable this time. Done.
Now, a couple of things about quitting.
Know, up front, that it’s going to be hard. It will suck. Suck hard. You will be crawling out of your skin. You will want to smoke. You will think you’re okay, and then it will smack you in the head. Just know that. If you don’t prepare yourself, you will be very disappointed, and will in all likeliness start again.
A friend of mine recently said she was concerned about gaining weight. My response to her… choose your battles. For her, for this friend, smoking is one of her biggest problems in life. Weight is not. In my opinion, and I think she agreed, it would be worth her gaining a bit of weight for a while. She has proven that she can lose weight successfully. She can do it again, when the smoking thing has a little distance behind her.
I am blessed with this thing of it being ‘easy’ for me to quit. Once I put them down, and get through the first few days/weeks, I lose the ongoing cravings, and only have the little stabby surprise ones.
And I had this insight this time around, and it has really helped me. As I said, I always tell myself that I have an easy time quitting, so it’s okay.
Well guess what? Guess what I never factor in? The year and a half of torture leading up to the quitting. This time it was only a year and a half! But that’s my misery; that’s my quitting process. Painful. Disgusting. Wanting to quit, wanting to smoke.
I have not smoked since last Halloween. In that first month I went out drinking (more than once), ran into a guy who had dumped me a few months earlier (who stood there smoking my brand), took a road trip, opened for my favorite band (and spent the night partying with hot hippie musicians)… all of this without a cigarette.
This year, since that first month, I lost as dear a friend as I’d ever thought I’d had (not death lost, dumped lost), left my job of six years. started a new stressful job in the city, got fired from that job, had a surprise encounter with that lost friend, and started and stopped and started a handful of relationships, AND went to Rocky Horror with people I’d not seen in two decades!!!
Do whatever it takes. Ask whatever god(s) you like to work with. Try over and over and over. Never stop quitting. Every cigarette you don’t have is one less, right?