When I was a kid, I never thought I would smoke tobacco. I would watch my parents, their friends and all the other cool guys and gals consume those death sticks. I wanted to be better. I couldn’t see myself as a part of the damaging picture. I was a sportsman — a healthy body for a healthy soul.
One day, a girl I was trying to impress asked me if I’ll smoke a cigarette with her. My initial response was:
“Hell, yes, I’m glad you asked. Let’s go.”
“Let’s hide somewhere, so no one sees us.” She said.
She got two cigarettes out of the package for her and me. I took my first drag and officially branded myself as a smoker. What a stupid boy I was. I couldn’t even correctly inhale the smoke. It was an embarrassment.
And, so, I started to smoke. I was 13 at the time. I didn’t particularly enjoy damaging my lungs. But after the first drag, I couldn’t stop. There was something in that feeling of inhaling poison.
I never got the girl. Can’t even remember her name anymore. Being cool didn’t pan out to my advantage.
At the time, It was something remarkable. Different. I felt like I had a group to belong to. I was with smokers.
Not many kids my age played with smokes, but with everyone who did, I instantly formed a bond. We had to hide. We were mavericks. Rebels.
We weren’t about to let society dictate what we can’t consume. The rules. The regulation. We were over it. Oh, puberty. Smoking fits so perfectly with adolescence.
There was something romantic about the whole process of damaging yourself with cancer risk and bad breath. I loved the social moment all smokers have.
We could always step outside for a cigarette. It was amazing to get away with just a few close-minded people- for just a little while. You can smoke a cigarette, take a deep breath, asses the situation at hand and come back to your social gathering. I remember fondly upon these moments. And I miss them to this day.
Smoking started to feel better and better as I was growing up. Cigarettes would be a friend I could always count on. They would help me relax. They were a great way to clear my head.
I became a passionate chain-smoker. Everyone in my family was a victim of the habit as well. They had no authority over it. They didn’t even care.
I was always surrounded by the cloud of smoke everywhere I went. Most, if not all of my friends would smoke. Every girlfriend I ever had loved them. Cigarets were always in my eyesight. I couldn’t escape.
Every time someone would lit one up, I would get the urge to do the same. I became addicted — a slave of habit.
If I didn’t have any cigarettes with me, I would get anxious. I had to own a package, even If I’m not planning to smoke.
It was hard to fall asleep if there was no pack to get up to in the morning. The whole situation drove me crazy. They were the first thing I would do in the morning and the last thing before sleep. It was like a little ritual. I had to do it.
I didn’t particularly like being a slave to something. I knew I had to stop. And I tried. But the cigarettes were everywhere. Every time I would see one, I had to lit one. It was messed up.
After seven years, when I turned 20, I tried to quit. This is how years of constant struggle began. Ups and downs. Relapses. Mental scars and traumas. Mood swings and lash outs.
At the age of 23, I managed to leave them behind. Others didn’t care as much as I did. It was a small, personal victory. I checked the monsters at the gate. I’ve tamed my biggest demon. Damn, it felt good.
One of the things that helped me was something I read about smoking being the cause of stress, not its remedy. I think it was Alan Carr. He described it as banging your head against a brick wall when you have a headache. This mindset helped. I carried it around.
After ten years of smoking, I managed to say stop. But the terrifying fact is that I said that stop a hundred times before. Because of my history, I live in constant fear now. I am terrified of relapse. I’m afraid of having just one.
It still haunts me to this day. Sometimes I wake up from a nightmare in which I smoked cigarettes. And all sweaty, in the dawn of night, I’d thank god it was just a dream.
I’ve been clean for almost more than four years, and the desire still burns.
I get the urge to smoke regularly. I see people doing them everywhere — cafes, clubs, and movies. They look pleased with their smelly sticks.
I’m aware of how easy it is to fall back into the turmoil again. All it takes to reset the counter of 1489 smoke-free days is just one drag. It can happen so quickly. On a night out. In the early morning over coffee. After sex. During a difficult day.
I met people who relapsed after decades of not smoking. What did it take? Just one stressful day and a bad decision. Now they are back to smoking their two packs a day.
With everything said, I got out last Saturday. The night was mellow. Live Jazz was playing at the Avalon in Central Hollywood. I Spontaneously met a girl. She said one thing, I said another. Next thing I knew, she asked me:
“Do you want to step outside for a cigarette?”