It’s been a month, and I have to admit that it’s true, time heals, time helps you move on, time makes you forget. 30 mornings that I was waking up thinking about you. 30 nights that I was going to bed with a slight feeling of the void without you. I am passing my days in a blur, looking for distractions, looking away when I see others having what I don’t. It is getting better, it hurts less, it gets more and more tolerable with each day. It was my decision to part — still I miss you, more than I would care to admit. But I’ll be strong and I'll get stronger every day. I will learn to live without you, just like I had lived without you before I knew you. It’s not easy, but frankly, it’s not me, it’s you. I don’t want this anymore. This is goodbye.
31 days ago, on a Sunday night, I had only 4 cigarettes left in the pack and I was smoking on the balcony, looking at the river and the trees and the light-polluted sky, enjoying the muffled almost-silence of the late-night city. I was wondering whether I would ever be able to let this go. This is everything, the calmness, my escape, the balcony, the air, the summer breeze, my glass of wine and a cigarette in my hand.
I was looking at my fingers, elegantly holding the thin slims, its white paper shimmering in the half-light — and I made peace with it, that this will stay. I checked the pack again almost nervously, 4 cigarettes still left. I put that one out, poured another glass of wine — enjoying the buzz and the summer, and lit up another one.
And for some reason, it hit me. The futility of it, the smell, the empty attempt to suck on the air, the uselessness of the movement. My sense of peace was overwhelming me and under the serenity of that evening suddenly I couldn’t understand how this perfection needs anything more than the sky, the stars, the air and me. It was enough. I didn’t need wine. I didn’t need a cigarette.
I angrily poured the wine over my geraniums. I put the cigarette out, flicked it off the balcony and felt ashamed for littering. I tried to get back to the same peaceful state, but I became restless, anxious as I lost something intangible, and the more I wanted to cling to it, the further it went, out of reach, out of sight. It felt like and I was chasing a dream after waking up, desperate to remember the feeling, the situation, but it was gone.
I still had 3 cigarettes left. I regretted the wine, I was pacing around, indecisive to pour some more or not, to light another cigarette or not. It suddenly became so important, all of it, I was looking at it through a magnifying glass, and somehow smoking became everything I have ever committed against myself, all the self-loathing, self-deprecation, low self-esteem, negative self-talk, not loving myself enough, not saying no to others, not saying yes to me — it all gathered in a focal point of lighting up another cigarette. After a painfully irritating next couple of minutes I poured some more wine, I lit up another cigarette and I decided I will quit smoking.
I wanted to do it — I think I wanted to quit ever since I started. I tried half-heartedly, I always convinced myself that I want it but never really carried it out. I love smoking. I just love it. The whole package of it, the smell, the taste, the nicotine buzz, the social factor, the way it looks. So why quit then? My “why” was not vanity, not health-scare, not anything major. But it was impacting me to the core. I felt that it’s just stupid. It is stupid to spend time and money on something that doesn’t add anything to me, doesn’t help me grow, and it’s unhealthy too. It’s not a smart choice, it’s stupid. And I don’t like stupid, I don’t do stupid, and as much as love smoking, I hate stupidity. It created such an irresolvable dissonance in me that I had to do something about it.
I smoked the two cigarettes the next day with my coffee, one right after getting up, the other with my next coffee at 10:30. I threw away the empty pack, I threw away the lighter and I was like okay, now what. 10:42, 29th July — I considered myself a non-smoker.
I didn’t read any books or articles on how to quit or should it be cold turkey or some patch or gum or lozenge to ease the nicotine withdrawal. I decided that I will smoke the remaining two cigarettes in that pack and then this is it. I will ride it out somehow. I wasn’t sure how, but I decided not to worry about it. I decided I will worry about symptoms and cravings when they appear, no need to stress before that.
- I removed coffee from my day — to remove the trigger
- I stopped drinking alcohol — to remove the trigger and assure that my willpower is intact
- I downloaded an app to keep me tabs on the cigarettes not smoked, the money saved and the health milestones achieved
- I told everyone about it
- I am avoiding situations where I would usually smoke — I said no to going out and I am not the least bit sorry about it
- I will keep avoiding these until I feel secure with my non-smoking
- I consciously looking for tiny habits that can take the place of smoking — I am studying Spanish on Duolingo, I am making a tea to have some kind of a ritual, I am writing tiny snippets that take only 5 minutes
I miss smoking. But I like life without smoking more.
I can imagine now being smoke-free, I can imagine now having fun without a cigarette, I can imagine now getting drunk without a cigarette (not that it should be the goal, but it can happen), I can imagine now having sex without the cigarette after (I’ve done that, it works perfectly).
I am debunking my own beliefs, I am taking away the power of smoking, I am forming new habits, I am creating a better person of me.
It is not easy — even if it sounds easy.
And I am not even trying to mesmerise myself with all the benefits of saving a lot of money, not having smelly hands and breath, the magical feeling of not needing to look for a tobacco shop or calculate when you would need to buy another pack… I know all these are there, and it’s great, but this never worked with me. My own why and how is way more important than the tiny details.
Finding your why, that is stronger than your wish to smoke, deciding on the when, as in finding the day to have and enjoy your last cigarette, and crafting out your own personal how, making it yours, without apologising, without second thoughts — they are hard.
But believe me, it is worth it. And I believe that there will be a time when this yearning fades into oblivion, and I will wonder how could I have ever been a smoker and how could I have missed smoking. Until then, it’s my final goodbye to smoking.
It’s not me, it’s you. And it is over.
My first month is done. How about you? Ready to quit? Still steady not to get back to it?