Anyone who read my earlier posts would know that I recently decided to end a very long relationship – https://azphoenix.wordpress.com/2011/12/12/letting-go-of-addictions-the-first-48-hours/. To be honest, after being a smoker for 14 years, it wasn’t really something that I considered doing up until a few weeks ago. Then on the day of the last eclipse, 10th December 2011, I thought “what am I waiting for?” And so, I put out the one I had in my hand and I haven’t picked one up since.
Giving up, for me, has been like ending a very long romance. It was the kiss I reached for when I felt lonely, and it was the smoke-screen I hid behind when I didn’t want people to see the real me or to make real conversation. A friend said today that as he was a very shy youth, he felt like smoking was his way of socializing, and I completely agree. When you are a bit shy and slightly awkward, you feel like you need something to break the ice, then before you know it, you associate that thing (be it alcohol or cigarettes) with a real connection or socializing.
Thinking back, smoking (and drinking) had been the way I had met almost all my previous partners. Conversations were started when we were outside smoking or a when one was borrowing a lighter from the other. It was the initial common ground that set the scene, and for the entire relationship, we were the people who stepped out after dinner or lunch or whenever to have a cigarette. I wondered why I was always in relationships with people who suffered from one form of addiction or another, but the truth was that I was just the same. It was a case of like attracting like.
The first week was interesting to say the least, but physically, it doesn’t take very long for nicotine to leave your system. It’s more the mental and emotional attachment that you have to work through. Honestly, I do miss it, but it is not so much part of me that I thought it was. Also, with the season being what it is, there has been the additionally daunting task of attending social functions, and this time without my smoke-screen intact.
The first function I attended was the yoga studio Christmas party, which to be honest, was one of the best parties I have attended in a long time. For me, it was always the people who made the party, and this party was filled with people who made my night. The kisses and hugs were affectionate instead of sleazy, I wasn’t forced to have a drink if I didn’t feel like it, and the conversation was great. Laughing and actually being interested was not considered un-cool or weird. I knew that although my Az-quirks would have been laughed at, they would have been accepted as part of me.
The other party I attended was the office Christmas party. I’ll be honest when I say that I do genuinely like quite a few of my colleagues, so in terms of company, it was not all bad. My work is in the conferencing industry, where a lot of it is about networking so our outings are usually to so called “swanky” places. The party started with a cruise, after which we headed to a bar called Bungalow 8 in Darling Harbour, then over to Slip Inn, also around the area. At some point in the evening, I looked around and what I saw was almost the same exact crowd that had been there three years ago. Here was the man in the shirt, slacks and dress shoes, winding down after a hard day at work, talking shop with colleagues, out to impress, while checking out the “talent”. And here were women with their sky high heels, too much makeup and dyed blonde hair, trying to get the attention of these men. Everyone in the bar was just trying too hard it looked like.
A few years ago, I would have been right at home in one of these swanky pubs. A few years ago, what these people thought of me would have mattered. I would have been the girl with the drink, the cigarette, the lightened hair and the heels trying to impress people I hardly knew and were not likely to want to know on a personal level. Yesterday though, not being drunk at such a gathering, I realized that there was not one man that I found attractive there, and when I looked around, although some of the girls looked great, there was not one group of them that I would like to be a part of. They were not different. For every previously brunette blonde with a cigarette that walked out of the pub, there were five to take her place.
Today, reflecting on everything, I realize that sometimes the things that you think are so much a part of you actually do not mean that much at all. Sometimes, all these things I do as part of my work are not really an integral part of my life. So much of what I thought was my life had been superficial; the places, friends, lifestyle and it wasn’t until I had a hard time, and took time to be with me that I realized that. The pubs had not moved, the people in there were different variations of the same, and sometimes, even the jokes were recycled.
After this week, I realize that I have gone out into the world scared, always hiding behind alcohol or cigarettes. It’s time not to be that person anymore. It’s time to go out into the world as just me, quirks and all. With all the time worrying about people not accepting me as I was, I wasn’t even thinking about what I thought of them as people.
Maybe I am growing up after all. Maybe it’s time friendships and possible romances are built over real conversations instead of cigarette breaks. Maybe it’s time I found out if a joke I thought was funny when I was drunk would still be funny when I’m sober. Maybe it’s time that I really looked at people without smoke clouding my vision and let them see me without the same. Maybe it’s time to have a real talk instead of a cigarette when I am unhappy. And maybe, just maybe, if like attracts like, being a bit more like me will allow people to like me for being me.
As my dearest friend and yoga instructor messaged me during the work Christmas party, “smile and walk away,” because sometimes, when you’re done with something, that’s all you have to do.