The Beast Nicotine

I have smoked cigarettes too long, far too long considering the history of heart disease in my family. During the past several years I have “quit” several times, going several months sometimes without a cigarette but then something would set me off and I would start again. However, for the past 16 months, I have been pretty good at managing my cigarettes, keeping myself to maybe 5-7 per week or, often, less. Lately, I have been making more and more excuses to allow me to smoke and the talons of addiction are beginning grip tighter and tighter.

It stops the day after tomorrow.

The funny thing is, that while the beast nicotine is certainly addictive and makes my neurons happy, my recurring problem is not the physical addiction–or at least it doesn’t feel like a physical craving when I stop. Last week in Hawaii I did not smoke at all, and experienced only a minor twinge or two of desire. No, there is something in my psychology that clings to the dependence, the very stance of smoking. Is it the death drive, my self destructive urges getting the better of me? An oral fixation? Have I internalized the media bullshit about smoking being cool (a good cinematographer can make the act of smoking look so damn mysterious, sexy and sensual and who doesn’t want to be mysterious, sexy and sensual even when the reality is smelling bad, stained teeth, coughing, wheezing, emphysema, strokes, heart disease–none of which are particularly sexy)? I wrote a line in a song once about smoking till my chest hurt so I could ignore the pain in my heart. Do I come back to cigarettes as a way to shield myself or as an excuse for self-pity or to simply spit in the eye of fate and death, riding the thin edge of chemical dependency in order to scorn my own mortality?

Or is it that most insidious of human elements: sheer habit? The grooves in my brain are simply used to desiring a cigarette when I am stressed, scared, unsure, angry, etc., and I haven’t taken the time to un-groove–or re-groove–my brain patterns with alternative tracks. Newton’s First Law of Motion applies, it seems, just as equally to the human mind as it does to objects in space.

Regardless of the reasons, I need to make a commitment to myself and the people I love to stop smoking. So I am stating here that I will not have a cigarette for at least 6 months starting March 31, 2007, no matter the circumstances of my life.

Wow, the fear that coursed through my body and brain as I typed that was palpable. My brain started throwing up all sorts of scenarios and instances that would allow it to make excuses and get a nic hit if life got tough. A pretty clear sign of addiction; a pretty clear sign that the longer I wait to do this, the harder it will be to skip out of the groove and go on to the next song (for all you youngsters out there, that’s a reference to the behavior of records, you know – vinyl, lps, those round large disks that work through analog propagation of sound and not digital).

Why the six months instead of saying “I quit?” Because the six month mark is a definite goal, something that I can hold myself to with the promise that if I want a cigarette then, I will allow it – but by then, I will be considerably past the nicotine withdrawal statement and cigarettes will taste horrible to me–it only seems to take about 4 to 6 weeks for cigarettes to go back to tasting terrible. On Sept. 30 I will then make a further commitment to go another six months without a hit of the nic. Or not, but if I don’t make that commitment, if I do smoke again at that point, it will be out of sheer perversity and not out of addiction.

And I’ll take perversion over addiction any day.

On this day..

One thought on “The Beast Nicotine

  1. I’m proud of you, sweetie. I’ve been off the junk (ha) since Nov. of 2005 and while I do miss it, I’m glad that I quit. Good luck to you.

    Miss you.

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