Friday, October 02, 2009

Moving on

Being the sort of person who always reads the manual, I did a lot of research the first time I decided to quit smoking. There are three things wrong with all the quit-smoking programs I read online:
1. They give you rational reasons for quitting. But nobody ever smokes for rational reasons, so surely you’re unlikely to quit based on them?
2. They assume you’re trying to quit because you’ve come to hate it as a non-smoker would.
3. It’s a one-size-fits-all approach. Nowhere did I find anything I could relate to. The reasons they listed for smoking didn’t apply to me, The methods for quitting seemed to my argumentative mind to be inadequate. (E.g.: Finding something else to do with your hands is too much like a bluff just waiting to be called). So I only took as much gold as I could usefully carry – the list of withdrawal symptoms.

The rational parts helped after I went through the actual quitting part, to keep me safely smug. But as it happened, smugness only went so far and crumbled completely under the onslaught of a lovely café in the rain and remembered pleasure. So, not effective finally.

Then I read an unusual article on the subject in The New Yorker. In it, David Sedaris wrote: ““Finished” made it sound as if he’d been allotted a certain number of cigarettes, three hundred thousand, say, delivered at the time of his birth…he had worked his way to the last one, and then moved on with his life. This, I thought, was how I would look at it. Yes, there were five more Kool Milds in that particular pack, and twenty-six cartons stashed away at home, but those were extra—an accounting error. In terms of my smoking, I had just finished with it.”

It made me understand fully what I meant when I told people that I knew I would stop one day so I was going to enjoy it fully while it lasted. Now, a year later, I have half a pack of cigarettes in my dressing table that’s several months old. There was no dramatic renouncing of the habit, not even conscious thought. The cigarettes that are gone from there were simply my last ones. My lighters still lie scattered around, I see the pack every morning when I dress. But there is no wrenching here, no panic. Most of all, there’s no denial. I acknowledge that I want it and love it, but choose not to anyway.

I stopped one cigarette at a time. I didn’t smoke the first one, then I didn’t smoke the second, then the third, fourth, fifth, the next pack, the one after that. I didn’t walk gingerly through it either – I met smoker friends for drinks, continued to gather outside the office and have tea with smoker colleagues. I kept the crutches close throughout, but the packs of Nicotinelle and candy remained unopened. Eventually I gave them away.

Sitting here now, at another lovely café in the rain, I can see the cigarette shelf behind the counter with “my” pack in it and I feel nothing, not even nostalgia. All that’s left is a professional evaluation of how careless the display is, all that beautiful packaging wasted by poor lighting and bad positioning. The only nostalgia I feel is for a job that I was very good at but practically killed me. Much like the cigarettes in there, I suppose, Except that that never matters. As another smoker writes: “I am convinced that smoking will kill me, but I am not sure this particular little cigarette will.”.

Weirdly, the first time I tried to stop I had the full complement of the emotional withdrawal symptoms listed – it was very, very traumatic – but none of the physical ones. This time my body reacted violently, but there was no heartbreak, so perhaps I really had come to the end of my “quota”.

I will always be a smoker, though, whether I use the feature or not. I’m glad of it.


Mrs.Shandekar said...

Nicely put. When I decided to turn vegetarian, like you it was an article I read, by the late Linda McCartney. Before that, every reason I heard just did not make sense. The first year was painful but slowly the craving dissapears and it's replaced with acceptance.

On a side note, don't think I can loan you my copy of Mad Men, cause after watching it, you'll want to light up a cig, hold a vintage scotch glass and sit on D.Draper's lap!!

Honey Digra said...

Following your blog for quite some time... And trust me, I pretty much enjoy reading it.

Last month on my b'day, my friends and I took a vow not to smoke again. Don't know about them, but I haven't touched a cigarette so far. For sure, the craving is there but that's where a latte becomes my saviour. Well, even then the denial of this craving is quite a tough task.

Honey Digra said...

Just read it somewhere....

"If you resolve to give up smoking, drinking and loving, you don't actually live longer; it just seems longer."

the real nick said...

Interesting concept, this allotment idea. I agree that everyone has to find his or her own individual reasoning - the same kind of raison d'etre that drives you to smoke.

Thanks for the link!

I myself am tempted sometimes to quit because I get bored by the idea of carrying pack and lighter around with me at all times. So, I often deliberately 'forget' to pick up the ciggies when I leave the house and prolong the time before driving to the petrol station shop to buy some.

Gargoyle said...

@Yamini: Interesting - I'd never thought of giving up meat as something you have to work through. Though that may be because I've never thought of giving up meat, period :D
@Honey Diagra: Thanks for visiting! I've actually given up coffee by default because right now there doesn't seem to be any point if there's no cigarette to accompany it!
@The Real Nick: I had started feeling burdened by the increasing inconvenience of the habit. Of course that also made me (still makes me) very angry at the nanny-state mentality. Just had a conversation today with another former smoker about that!

Honey Digra said...

Hmm... Btw it is 'DIGRA'.

Gargoyle said...

Sorry! Was a typo.

Dinga said...

It's OK!

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