Day Thirty Six

Days Without a Cigarette: 35.369444
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: $102.96
Time Saved: 50 hours, 6 minutes

When I was seventeen years old, my brother spent a year as an exchange student in Japan. A couple of weeks before we was scheduled to ship out, somebody noticed some problem with his paperwork and because of the short notice, he had to go to some state office to take care of it in person. We lived in South Georgia at the time, some five hours from the capital.

So I agree to ride along with him and share a bit of the driving on the ten hour round trip, on the condition that he buys me a pack of cigarettes on the way. It’s not that I needed his money, mind you, I was just still too young to buy them myself. And my nonsmoker (and pretty health conscious) brother wasn’t normally inclined to buy them for me. But in this instance it was either buy my smokes, or make the drive with nothing but country music and gospel stations to keep him company.

Anyway, early afternoon we get to the place in Atlanta. It’s on the fifteenth floor of a skyscraper and our hick asses are pretty impressed with an elevator that goes all the way up to the thirties. So we ride up to the office, he files whatever it was he has to file, and we enter into the ‘sit and wait’ period of the proceedings. He was told to come back in a couple of hours and everything would be ready.

Of course, back in the halcyon days of 1993, buildings like that had areas you could smoke in. So eventually we wound up hanging out at this lounge downstairs, where my brother can look down his nose at my burning cigarette. He’s the type that jogs every morning and goes to the gym every night, so he starts bragging about how much better his stamina is than mine, even though I’ve only been smoking for a few years.

And that gives us the classic formula of a challenge plus two brothers plus two hours to kill. So somehow or another we landed on a bet where we were gonna race one another up the stairs of this building. All thirty-whatever stories. If I made it up first, he had to buy me a pack of cigarettes with his money. If he won, he got to throw away the rest of the pack I had.

Well, I’ll shortcut through the suspense and admit that I wouldn’t be telling you this story if I lost. In fact, my brother never actually made it to the top. I got up there, smoked a cigarette, waited a few minutes, then left a penny, a nickel, and a dime on the top step in case he doubted I actually made it to the all the way. Then I headed back down to meet him. Eventually I found him seven or eight floors down, no longer giving two fucks about any bets.

But I was always that guy. I was always that annoyingly fit smoker. I hiked up mountains while smoking. Really pissed off the gym rat tourists struggling their way up a trail when I pass by them with a cigarette hanging off my lip. When I lived in New York I annoyed the shit out of my friends by always jogging up the stairs when I was leaving the subway station. I’d jog up and wait at the top for them to crest the escalator. And, of course, I’d be smoking a cigarette when they got there.

I bring this all up because a lot of people have asked if I’m starting to see the benefits of quitting in my lung capacity or my stamina. And the truth is that I haven’t. I don’t start coughing when I laugh as often, but other than that, I haven’t noticed any of the health benefits giving up cigarettes is supposed to give me. But that’s not to say they aren’t there. I could probably jog a lot farther now than I could have six weeks ago, I’d just have to jog to find that out so I may never know.

But honestly, just knowing how far I’ve come is reward enough. Quitting cigarettes is a reminder that my will is often stronger than I give it credit for. It’s a reminder that I can still surprise myself. And that beats the hell out of a few more flights of stairs.

Published by Noah Lugeons

Noah Lugeons co-hosts a bunch of podcasts: The Scathing Atheist, God Awful Movies, The Skepticrat, and Citation Needed

8 thoughts on “Day Thirty Six

  1. The weird thing about smoking is that if it caused a minor rash shortly after use they couldn’t sell a cigarette. That it help kill you after decades just doesn’t seem to matter until much of the damage is done.

    Way to go!


    1. That’s a great point. Along the same line, one of the things that makes it so deadly is how deadly it isn’t. If the effects were felt sooner it would be far less appealing, but you can smoke for a damn long time before you start to notice anything amiss. By the time you do, the addiction has set in all the way.


  2. As a weekly listener of the podcast, I can at least say that when you laugh it no longer sounds like your vocal chords are latching on to a pound of phlegm.

    Keep it up. I honestly believe you got this, moreso than some other people I know who are trying to quit after much less time on the durries.


  3. My husband and I visited Israel and Jordan in the spring of 2014, and we climbed the “Snake Path” to the top of Masada because we weren’t going to take some stupid cable car like lazy tourists; we were going to hike up with our cameras and tripods like the regular, daily hill-walkers and hikers we were. I had quit smoking over 20 years ago at that point, and I was in the best shape of my life; I had to stop and rest half a dozen times and I felt a little like puking at the top because of the heat, but I made it. After we saw the place and took a zillion pictures we started down the same path. A squad from the Israeli Defense Force was double-timing it up the path; every single damn one of them with a machine gun, a full pack on their backs and a cigarette hanging from their lips. Not a goddamned one of those guys was even breathing heavy.

    Anyway, fuck the stamina difference. How do all your clothes and your furniture and your rugs smell to you now? Notice a difference there?


    1. We never smoked inside, so there’s no difference in any of that. And to be honest, I could never really smell the smoke in my clothes. Maybe I could now, but it was such an omnipresent smell it never registered. Though it’s nice to know I stink less to others.


  4. You’re such a good storyteller. I read a lot each day, but I skim most of what I read. I always find myself reading every word of your posts, many times enjoying the luxury of returning to the beginning for a second ride. Thanks bunches!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. After I totaled my car in 2018, I spent some time feeling sorry for myself. Then I learned how to use MARTA. That meant walking, sometimes for an hour or more. I got to where I could do 10+ miles at a steady pace, and not feel exhausted after. I don’t run much because it hurts and the walking is just as good for my heart.

    I’m kind of impressed with myself, because I made those cardio endurance gains while still smoking heavily. I’m not like you though, Noah. It sounds like you have natural stamina, even without conditioning. Maybe in the future, when you’re not even thinking about smoking, you’ll want to take up walking, cycling, or another sport. It’ll give you lots of motivation to stay quit. I still walk a lot, and it helps ease my depression.

    Also, it’s probably confirmation bias, but to me you sound happier and more energetic in the shows. Your diatribes have a more potent and focused rage, too. I’m enjoying the shows, plus this blog. I’ll be sad when you eventually stop updating here, but it will also mean you are fully adjusted to being a nonsmoker and don’t have to think about it anymore.


  6. I made a long comment and WordPress ate it. I was noting how losing my car and having to walk everywhere increased my cardio and overall health, even though I continued to smoke. There’s something to be said for smokers pursuing fitness, instead of waiting until they’re “healthy enough” to get healthy. I always assumed I could be either an uber healthy nonsmoker, or a horrifically weak smoker. Black and white thinking always gets me in trouble.

    I was also saying that, to me, you sound more energetic in the shows. You accomplished a huge goal that you probably thought was impossible, so you must feel good about yourself. I will miss this blog when you eventually stop updating, but that will also mean you’re fully adjusted to being a nonsmoker and you don’t have to think about it.


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