9.21.2007

One hour at a time


When I woke up last Monday I thought, "This is the day I quit smoking forever." Kim made coffee, handed me my cup and I sat down in the dining room. I did not go to the patio where normally I'd chain-smoke through my morning coffee. I also didn't say anything about my decision -- too scary to say it out loud. It's hard to break a 40 year routine. At least it is for me. Maybe there are people who can just say "that's it" to something and change their entire life around and be fine with it. Not me. I'm such a creature of habit, and not very good habits at that. One of the things that's been a help this week has been thinking about how I never ever want to have a first day of not smoking again. Ever. Never. The first day is agony, although every day has been grueling for short periods. The mindless urge to light up a cigarette is so incredibly strong, almost irresistible. Lighting up is ingrained at this point. It's a matter of brainwashing. And I don't mean brainwashed by the tobacco companies, oh no, I did this to myself. You'd be appalled at what goes on in a smoker's mind. Like feeling relief to see other smokers outside by the ashtray; being sure that not coughing means that the 20 cigarettes/day aren't hurting you; thinking of smoking as a reward for hard work; believing that cigarettes make you feel calmer. I used to run a mile every day just so I could say, "See, smoking's not so bad," as I'd light up after my run. And here's the most ludicrous one of all: so what if it kills me? I gotta die some way. But that's exactly what brainwashing is -- thinking that insane things are sane. Denial and denial and denial. Refusing to look. Head up and locked.
I did it to myself. But it took me years and years, it was slow, gradual, insidious. There was a long period of no thoughts at all, just casually lighting up one cigarette after the other, not worrying about it. When you're young you can do that. You can take drugs, smoke cigarettes, drink as much booze as you want, stay up all night dancing and partying. When you're young you don't think about death coming for you. You don't see the stupidity in the things you're doing. You don't wonder about the consequences, what will happen later because I did this today. If you think about it at all, it's only to say, "don't be an old fuddy-duddy, have some fun!" It's a terrible dilemma: young and foolish and full of yourself or careful and self-disciplined and stodgy.
So I'm taking it one hour at a time. When the urge bites me, I take a few deep breaths and say to myself, "I'm free."