The Dichotomy of Cigarettes



I quit smoking two years ago.

As Mark Twain said, “Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a thousand times.” Well, I, too, have quit many times before. I once quit for six months, but for some reason I found myself going back to smoking. But let’s face it, there is no reason to smoke. Period.

Trust me, I was the queen of excuses. I found good explanations why I was the exception to the rule. It was OK for me to smoke. Not you, just me.

Cigarette in a hand. “It’s my only vice.”

“I’ll gain weight if I don’t smoke.”

“It’s nobody’s business but mine if I smoke.”

“I can’t write without a cigarette.”

“Everybody hates a quitter.”

But the honest truth is, I knew I was slowly killing myself and quickly emptying my pocketbook in the process. I would go without eating in order to afford a pack of cigarettes. It’s amazing how low a person will go in order to smoke. That’s because it’s an addiction just like any other. Cigarettes are a drug, just like heroin is a drug and just like cocaine is a drug. It’s merely that cigarettes are legal and can be found in most every single store within walking distance. Trust me, I know where they live. I discovered how easy cigarettes were to find only when I quit needing them. I never realized how readily available they were until then.

Before I stopped smoking, I once found myself very broke, as I often did, and with little food in the house. But I wasn’t too worried about that. Nope. Instead, I was freaked out that I only had two cigarettes left and no money to buy more cigarettes. Crazy, I realize, but that’s how addicts behave. I ended up digging through the couch cushions and searching through my change jar until I had found just enough to purchase one pack of cigarettes. I felt like a woman gone mad that night.

I generally purchased at least three packs at a time. I was a pack-and–a-half-a-day smoker and the last time I bought cigarettes they cost $5.50 a pack. That means I was spending $8.25 a day to feed my addiction. That’s $57.75 a week and $231 a month I spent on smokes.

That was money I could have spent on food. Or clothes. Or a car payment. Or put into savings – something other than put into a harmful substance that contained a habit-forming drug filled with harmful chemicals whose sole purpose was to make me cough and slowly kill me.

So I quit! I threw away all of my ashtrays and lighters. I bought some of those slap-on patches that cost about $3,000 a patch. (Those suckers are really expensive!) I also pulled out an old, giant pickle jar and told myself that instead of buying cigarettes I would put that money into the jar and save up for something nice.

Sometimes, I actually made it two days without smoking.

But I don’t care, I told myself as I stood in the checkout line at the gas station, buying three packs of cigarettes and a lighter and an ashtray. Smoking wasn’t going to kill ME! You see, I was special. It was my only vice. It was my business. I can’t write without a cigarette. I always found a reason to disregard the scientific evidence against smoking as I inhaled the very thing that was killing me, yet simultaneously calming my nerves and lifting my spirits.

Smoking is a dichotomy. I both loved it and hated it at the same time.

My on-again off-again love affair with cigarettes continued for close to 30 years until I woke up one day and realized how much time and attention I had devoted to them. And then it hit me. Cigarettes did not love me back.

close up of scissors cutting many cigarettesI thought about everything I had done for my smokes – everything I had given them. Bad lungs, a horrible cough, bad smelling clothes, having to go outside and smoke as my nonsmoking friends all stayed inside. And it was a lonely relationship, too, because no one but me smoked anymore. Almost overnight, smoking, it seemed, had become passé. People gave me “that look” as they walked past me outside, covering their noses as I smoked my lovely cigarette. Mean strangers waved invisible air in front of their faces as they sauntered past in an attempt to damage my romance with cigarettes. I never could determine what their motive was by doing this action, but all it accomplished was to hurt my feelings. It never made me want to quit smoking.

So in spite of everything I gave to cigarettes for 30 years, I realized it had done nothing except harm me. And I refused to be damaged anymore. So, I did what all Southern women do when they have a big announcement to make. I called my mother. I told her and the rest of my family that I intended to quit. Keep in mind that I had never called my family and told them I was quitting smoking before, despite them begging me to quit for years.

But, by me calling my family, I knew that this time, I meant business. I was determined to quit, and we all knew it. The thrill with cigarettes was gone, baby. So, I threw away all the ashtrays and the lighters. I got out my giant pickle jar and slapped on a very expensive patch.

I faced all the withdrawal symptoms head on and didn’t let anything stop me. And with a lot of support from friends and family, and an online support group, I’m happy to say I made it through the rough spots. Quitting smoking is possible. Don’t let anyone shake your spirit and tell you otherwise.

In the two years since I quit, I have not smoked 14,445 cigarettes and I have saved $4,044.50. I know those exact figures because of a Facebook application called Quit-O-Meter, which kept a running tally for me.

I’ve got this beat. Join me, won’t you?


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