It was a warm November evening, unseasonable for Buffalo. Warm enough that we stood without coats in the driveway, and I finally realized what that peer pressure my teachers had warned me of was all about. See, it’s not like they were bad kids, some terrible influence I had been warned of by everyone from parent to policeman. They were just three girls from school. Not even from the clique of girls who had, by my Junior year, been completely expelled for various rule-breaking activities. These were just three girls I had met a year previous, and we were still becoming friends. They were fun and nice and I liked them, and that’s probably why I took a cigarette when Jaime offered me one.
I have often said that if I could return to any point in time, it would be that one. I would march up that driveway, smack that cigarette out of my hand, and scream at those four girls loud enough to wake the dead. I would have threatened to cut off their pinkies, a warning I issued to my sister at the tender age of four. I’m happy to report that she is not a smoker, and still has all ten fingers.
Smoking became part of my identity. One of the reasons that I went to D’Youville was because they had a smoking lounge at the time. The indoor smoking ban of 2003 hurt me on a spiritual level, as
I could no longer smoke in the bars I wasn’t supposed to be in anyway. Smoking was my way of being social-it gave you the courage to talk to a stranger (“got a light?”) and the best conversations with my friends always happened over a cigarette.
I tried a few times over the years to quit, and often went months without a cigarette. Something always happened though, something that sent my anxiety spiraling, and led to me lighting up. I also found that the amount of pressure I put on myself to quit was astounding. Every time I would cave and have a cigarette, I would feel like a total failure.
So, when I decided to quit once and for all and forever, I took away the prospect of the “last cigarette.” I always told myself I would have a last cigarette, slap on the patch, and then never have one again. I know now, through trial and error, that this plan does not work. This is what ends with me depressed that I’ve fallen off the wagon, and running out to buy a pack. Instead, yes, I am sure I will have another cigarette in my lifetime. Probably a few. However, I never intend to make a habit of it again. I will get back up, dust myself off, and not smoke a cigarette the next day.
I quit because of my health. I loved smoking, just about as much as I hated it. It’s a difficult connection, a smoker and their cigarette. It’s a love-hate relationship. I have found myself, more than once, gazing longingly at Mark’s cigarette, dangling from his fingers, its blue-gray smoke curling towards the ceiling…I want one right now as I type this. I’ll want one again in a few minutes when I start to edit this blog, as a fresh smoke was something of a reward to me for finishing my work. I will probably always want a cigarette a little bit, but I know I don’t need one, and that makes all the difference. Instead I chew my gum and think about how nice it would be if I really could go back in time and beat that 15-year-old’s ass. Such stupid, stupid children we were.