Marilyn Armstrong, a blogger and photographer who I adore, did me the honor and wrote the first guest post about her own struggles when she quit smoking. Marilyn’s blog >>>Serendipity<<< is a “must read” for me and every day I look forward to her posts and pictures. You never know what subject she will write about and I find her way of writing very honest, real and witty. Marilyn talks about the social aspect of smoking, something that shouldn’t be underestimated. The addiction to the habit, overpowering the need for the actual cigarette.
Quitting by Marilyn Armstrong
In my long and checkered professional career, I had many bosses. One of them had, in a former life, been addicted to heroin. It wasn’t a secret. We all knew. I had the feeling he was proud of having kicked drugs and was now the owner of a software development company.
I asked him how he did it, how he got free of his addiction.
“You know,” he said, “It really wasn’t as hard as you might think. Mostly, I had to get away from the people, from other junkies and the whole world of drugs. After I stopped hanging out with those people, getting off drugs was pretty easy. It’s the culture that sucks you. More than the drugs.”
“I wish,” he continued, a touch of wistfulness in his voice, “it was as easy to kick cigarettes. When you hang out with junkies, you know it’s illegal. You sneak around. You are careful. But cigarettes? No problem. They’re legal. Grab a buddy and go for a smoke. It’s a social thing.”
“You don’t hear heroin addicts saying to each other ‘Hey, anyone want to go out and shoot up?’ but you can stop by another smoker’s desk and say … ‘Hey, want to go have a butt?’
“I’ve had a much harder time quitting smoking, than I had quitting heroin. Much harder,” he said, and reached for the pack of cigarettes in his pocket.
I was a smoker myself, then. I had been trying to quit off and on for years. I’d quit, then I’d be somewhere – usually an office – where other smokers worked. I’d get sucked into it. It wasn’t the physical addiction which lured me back to a habit I understood was harmful to my health, disastrous to my budget (and getting more costly each day). And made my clothing and hair stink of stale smoke.
It was the social connection that got me. Hanging out with other smokers. The rhythm of smoking. I’d write, then take a break, grab a smoke. It was part of my process.
I was never as heavy a smoker as other people I knew. I lit many more cigarettes than I smoked. But I enjoyed smoking. I liked the smell of fresh tobacco. On some level, I still do. I liked standing outside on a crisp night, watching my smoke curl up and away into the sky. I did a lot of my thinking on cigarette breaks. When I was writing, if I was stuck, I’d have a smoke. By the time I was halfway through it, I’d know what I was going to do and how I would do it.
It took me years of quitting, backsliding, and quitting again before it finally “stuck.” Years before the smell of tobacco brought back memories without triggering an unbearable desire to smoke. I am sure right now … after seven? eight? years since I quit for good that were I to smoke one cigarette, I’d be a smoker again. Instantly.
It’s not because I’m physically addicted. After all these years of not smoking, I’m obviously not addicted to nicotine, if I ever was. Yet on some level, I will always be addicted to the habit of smoking.
It’s not that I don’t want a cigarette. I just don’t smoke.