After 14 years, I have just decided to end the longest relationship I have had in my life. This relationship, although not with a man, was started at about the same time that men (apart from my father) came into my life. This is my relationship with cigarettes. To be honest, it’s about the same as a relationship with a man. The first time you smoke, like a first kiss, is often disgusting and unnatural. Then, you keep at it, and it starts feeling better and before you know it, you feel like something is missing when you don’t have it. With relationships, they could be good or they could be bad. Unfortunately for me, my habits within relationships so far are about as healthy as my smoking habit.
So far, it has been 48 hours, and just like a breakup, where you want to call the other person and either profess your love or abuse them, I miss my cigarettes. Like a relationship, there are many ways to give up. Some people give up smoking when they meet someone who wants them to quit. Some people do patches, or gum or some form of medication. To me, any one of these quitting tactics would be like leaving a relationship only when you’re sure that you have something else to fall back on, and anyone who knows me would know that I never do anything the easy way. The thing with addiction is that more often than not, you end up replacing one with another, and in really wanting to quit, you have to be really honest with yourself. The truth of the matter is, just like a relationship, if you really were ready to let go, you would be able to do so without looking for something else to take your attention, and without having to justify it in any way.
I know some people think this is insane, but the first 24 hours, I still had a box of cigarettes in my possession, and while I was at home, I would keep the box in front plain sight. Why? To me, it was like ending a relationship with someone you really love, but is really bad for you, and still having them there in the house with you. If I could make it through the first 24 hours with that presence and not go back, then it could only get easier. In a way, smoking is a distraction, and without it, you’re there, without anything in your hand or smoke in the air, and you’re just that bit more vulnerable. Having the box of cigarettes in front of me was my way of saying “I can look at you and want you, but I will not reach for you.”
You know how when you end a relationship people will tell you to “keep yourself busy” or “look for a distraction”? Although I am always thankful for friendly advice, through experience I have learned that distraction is like taking painkillers – at some point in the future, you might wake up at 3:00am when you’re most vulnerable, and the stuff you were trying to distract yourself from hits you in the face. Unfortunately, the misdemeanors you were party to while trying to distract yourself often come back to you at the same time as well. So, to avoid replacing smoking with for instance alcoholism or a parade of male prostitutes, I took the harder route. I just sat and did nothing with just chick flicks spaced half an hour apart and reading a passage every so often. A whole day spent where you are breaking into tears every 15 minutes really isn’t a pretty sight.
48 hours since my last cigarette, and I’m still feeling emotionally and mentally fragile. Just like someone who runs back into a relationship without facing their issues first, the slightest exchange could have me reaching for a cigarette or some other attachment. This is only the beginning and I don’t know where this will head. At this point, I can’t even think that far ahead yet. Right now, I just have to make it from 48 hours to a week, knowing that the choice to be healthy or unhealthy is mine and mine alone. Somewhere inside though, I know that this is part of the relationship where all other relationships begin. This is part of my relationship with me.
During this transition, my friends have been amazing! Christine, Will and Jess who are my team-mates at work have given me unwavering support. The girls who know so far, Karen and Nikki, have been emailing me through the day with their support. Wayne, the awesome, who quit smoking about a month ago has been great too. Every time I go down for my soy chai (yes soy chai!) now it’s accompanied by a threat of how I’d get hit up side the head if I picked up another cigarette. It’s only been two days and although friends can support me, the only way through is by taking one day at a time, and having a lot of faith. At the end of the day, a cigarette is just an addiction – the real issue is that I felt that I needed it to get me through the day.