I used to smoke. As in, a real smoker. Not the kind that dabbled every once in a while in the company of my friends. You know, that friend that occasionally asks to bum one while they’re buzzed or just so they can take a break from work. That wasn’t the kind I was. I also wasn’t the kind that just ‘thought’ I was addicted. The person that could go a few days without one but then smoke 5 right along with you. Nope, not me either.
I was the kind of smoker that cherished my destructive vice. I viewed my cigarettes as not only something to do but something to do it with. A friend to pass the time, you might say. It kept me company in the car. While waiting at a table in a restaurant. It gave me something to do. Something to look forward to. A purpose when I had none. Cigarettes became a companion in my life in nearly all the things I did. Whether alone or with others, it became my constant friend. The pal that never left my side for long. Deep down, I realized they would be the demise of me. Yet I depended on them even though I knew they were destroying me. Funny how even knowing that simple fact, I was terrified to let go of their embrace.
I don’t remember exactly what spurred my first attempt a quitting. Probably Dan. He probably used logic to make me want to quit but honestly, I don’t remember the exact reason. What I do remember quite clearly is being terrified. What would I do without my friend? How would life go on without them? Who was I if I was no longer a smoker? Would I quit all the other things that made me me? Those questions would remain unanswered for the time being. My first attempt at quitting smoking a disaster. Albeit brief, the lesson I learned was that I could not live without my smokes and that being without their presence was a horror I simply could never accept.
Years went by and attempt after attempt was made. Hypnotism, nicotine gum, quitting with a friend… none of it took. I remained a smoker. And as the time clicked on, a conflict arose within me. The part of me that wanted to finally be rid of this habit and the part of me that was scared to let them go.
The time finally did come for me and with it, the reasons of why I wanted to be done. From the first time I had tried to the last, my mind had become clearer as to what those reasons were. It’d be nice if I said I did it for me health but that was just a tiny reason. Mainly, it was for my family. I didn’t like the person I had become when I snuck out to smoke. All of the hiding I did, the covering up because of my shame… it had taken it’s toll. An inevitable separation between those that I loved and myself had happened while making cigarettes a priority over them. I longed to be the person that people thought I was… the nonsmoker they already believed me to be. This time, I was resolute in my desire to be done.
But intertwined with that resolve began a flawed thought. An idea that if this was the correct course of action, it would become easier. That the righteousness of what I was doing would supersede the discomfort I faced. A soft cushion to ease me into my transformation. How absurd an idea that was.
Cold turkey was the method this time and I started out strong. But as the time wore on, the addiction fought hard inside me. My brain railed and screamed justifications to me. This wasn’t the right time. I was wrong to think I could do this. Sure, others had quit before me but they hadn’t been really addicted or they’d never have been able to succeed. Surely no real smoker could ever sustain this level of torture without giving in. Why did I have to quit smoking? I didn’t have to quit right this minute. Just one more and then I’ll be done forever. But it was a lie and this time, I didn’t believe it. This had to be the end.
My anger inevitably turned to sorrow and I was filled with an overwhelming sadness. I cried. I really did. The end of my friend was truly here. Forever gone away from me. What would life be like without them? It would have to be better than the life with them but I couldn’t see how through the pain. Who was I if not a smoker? And what would be my crutch in life now?
And it was in that moment that I had a realization… sometimes doing the right thing doesn’t feel good. No matter how correct your decision, it may be painful. Sometimes ( no matter what you do) the right thing just sucks. Plain and simple. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes the longing grates against you until you feel like you might scream. Your resolve tried. Your decision tested. But in the end, will you do what you know to be right?
Time has a way of fading the pain away. Years go by until one day you find yourself in a different place. I no longer think of myself as a smoker. In fact, it’s been so long ago that it seems absurd I once was one. I no longer track the days since I last had one. My quit date long ago forgotten but the lesson I gleaned through that refinement still fresh in my mind.