Day Twenty

Days Without a Cigarette: 19. 58333
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: $29.02
Time Saved: 27 hours, 44 minutes

Since the day I quit, I’ve lived in terror of finding cigarettes.

And it started pretty much right away. On my first morning as a nonsmoker I was heading out to the dentist’s office when I realized that the cigarette pictured on the front page of the blog, the one I cracked in half and photographed the day before, was still in the trash can in my office. Before I left, I went upstairs, emptied the trash, and took it out to the side of the road. Lucinda and I had intentionally set a quit date that corresponded with trash pick up, so by the time I got back from the dentist, that cigarette, along with all the ashtrays and shit that we threw away, were on their way to a landfill.

But I was a smoker for thirty fucking years. What are the odds that I found every stray cigarette before we quit? I’m sure that somewhere in some pocket of some jacket, there’s a half full pack of cigarettes that I’m doomed to come across. In fact, I started thinking there might have been one in my backpack, so for a solid four days or so after I quit I refused to look into it.

I still haven’t had to experience that yet, but as of yesterday afternoon, Lucinda has – and in the worst possible way. The story starts with the kittens pissing in the closet. Now, I’m sure your closets are neat, tidy affairs where everything stays in its proper place and nothing accumulates on the floor. But mine’s not like that. I mean, there are a few things neatly boxed up and stuff, you just have to dig through piles of clothes and shit to find them. Mostly, at the moment, all the summer clothes my wife just tossed in there with the plans of boxing up sometime in the near future.

So the kittens get in there. They figure “alright, they don’t seem to mind when we piss in those other two closets, we might as well try this one.” So they piss all over my wife’s summer clothes, and everything else that’s accumulated in the closet over the year and a half we’ve been in this house.

Now, I’m upstairs working when she makes this discovery, so she doesn’t bother me with it. She just slaps on some rubber gloves and sets about seeing what she can salvage. And it’s not as much as you’d hope. My hiking boots and my dress shoes were safe. Boxes got pissed on, shoes stayed dry. A whole bag of shitty T-shirts from my old job that I kept because someday I might take up painting or something were fine. But a ton of shit wasn’t. Most of it was Lucinda’s. Including a couple of her favorite handbags. And she’s every bit as pissed off as the purses are pissed on.

And it’s right around the time she’s finding the second of these urine soaked handbags that she also comes across a pack of Camels with six cigarettes still inside. The kittens managed to piss on almost everything, but somehow they managed to miss this goddamn pack.

Now, as she tells it, her reaction was instantaneous. She reacted as though there was a ninja hiding in that pile of pissed of soiled tank tops. She crumbled it in her piss-stained gloves and took it straight to the trashcan, and then, upon realizing that we have rolling papers in the house, she poured a cup of water over them. By her recollection, all of this happened in something like ten seconds, but still, I feel like it rivals Frodo’s journey in terms of stamina and will power. It would be bad enough to find half a dozen smokes when I was in a good mood. But in a moment like that? I’m not sure I could’ve made it through that.

But she did. She’s still on top of her game and I gotta be honest, I can’t imagine she’s gonna face a much tougher test than that. I sure as hell hope I won’t.

Day Nineteen

Days Without a Cigarette: 18.54791666
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: $23.62
Time Saved: 26 hours, 16 minutes

Last night I went out to dinner at one of those events where I was with three people I liked, three people I didn’t, and another half dozen I’d never met.

I find those things exhausting as all fuck. I hate being ‘on’, and I especially hate being ‘on’ when I also have to be someone other than me. And I very often have to be someone other than me. I’m a brash, vulgar, vocal, liberal atheist in South Georgia. They damn near have signs on the businesses telling me to be someone other than me.

So I make it through this introvert’s nightmare and Lucinda and I hop in the car to head home. And I don’t light a cigarette. And I don’t know if I’ve missed one more. And not just because I needed to wind down; it was almost like I needed one to put back on my personality.

I know this’ll sound weird to people who never smoked… and hell, it might seem weird to people who have… so let me back up a bit and give it some context.

For about a decade and a half I worked as a children’s entertainer. And that’s always amusing to people who know how often I say “fuck”. But it’s how I made ends meet for damn near half of my adult life, first as a juggler, and later as a rep for a toy company.

And that was a pretty cool job. I went around the country playing with toys and teaching kids how to juggle. I spent my workday in amusement parks, schools, sporting events, toy stores, and other touristy locations. I stood in front of groups that ranged in size from a family to a sold out crowd at Madison Square Garden and played with toys for them. And then kids would ask for my autograph because they just saw me on a stage.

But, as a pretty public face of the company, it was super important to management that I not smoke. The boss knew I was a smoker. The boss was one of those on-again, off-again, not when my parents are around smokers himself; but we agreed that when a kid points to me and says “Mom, I wanna be just like him when I grow up”, I probably shouldn’t have a Camel hanging off my lip. So when I took a cigarette break from work, I didn’t just go outside. I went outside, around the corner, into an alley, up a fire escape, across a couple of roofs and into a shadowy alcove. I couldn’t smoke until I was absolutely certain no kids were gonna wander by and see me.

So, as you can imagine, it was all that much more of a relief when I was able to get in the car at the end of the day, drive far enough that I know I’m not gonna get recognized, and just smoke a fucking cigarette. I wasn’t ‘on’ anymore. I wasn’t pretending to be someone I wasn’t anymore. I finally had the world’s permission to be myself. And the first draw off of that cigarette said all of that in a wisp of carcinogens.

Obviously identity is a big part of this. I was part of the smoker clan for a long time and for whatever reason my desire to suck cancer down my lungs came to define me in a lot of ways, at least internally. And to be honest, being a nonsmoker has felt a lot like being ‘on’; it’s felt a lot like I’m walking through the world pretending for the sake of the kids that I’m somebody else. I feel less like I’ve managed to not smoke for two and a half weeks, and more like I’ve managed to trick everybody into thinking that guy who isn’t smoking is the real me. I feel pretend.

I’m sure at some point I’ll grow into this new self, but for now it’s kind of like the least comfortable pair of shoes I’ve ever broken in, and I’m not allowed to take them off an go barefoot, even for a few minutes.

Day Sixteen

Days Without a Cigarette: 15.75
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: $7.42
Time Saved: 22 hours, 18 minutes, 45 seconds

Holy shit, we’re measuring this in weeks now, aren’t we?

First of all, I missed you too. I’m not planning on keeping this blog a daily thing going forward, but it occurs to me that if I step away for too long, you might start to suspect I fell off the wagon. But no need to worry, Lucinda and I are both still holding strong. I haven’t been keeping as close a count as I should, but I’m down to something like five or six cravings a day, and they’re a little bit weaker every time.

And while we’re on the subject, I suppose I should take a second to define that term; because the word ‘craving’ is a deceptively meager word for the non-smoker, but at the same time, the general perception of it is a bit too harsh for the smoker who’s never tried to quit.

So first of all, it’s not at all what I expected. When I thought about quitting, I thought about the times I was unable to have a cigarette for an extended period – flights, workdays, long train rides, et cetera. During those enforced hiatuses I started off okay, then I wanted a cigarette. The longer the period, the more I wanted the cigarette. At a certain point, I was ready to rip my own arm off just so they’d put in for an emergency landing and I could have a cigarette. And that moment – the moment where I began to contemplate self mutilation – that’s what I figured a ‘craving’ was gonna be. I figured that once in a while, I’d reach that point and I’d just have to sit in a dark room wrapped in blankets, rocking back and forth for a few minutes and hoping no census taker tried to test me before it passed.

As it turns out, it’s not like that at all. I should once again point out that I’m still using a nicotine patch, so I haven’t actually started dealing with nicotine withdrawal yet. So maybe future cravings or the cravings of people who quit cold turkey are a little closer to my old perception of them. But for me, it’s just been an unscratchable mental itch. It’s akin to the anxiety I feel when I’m sure I’ve forgotten something important and haven’t figured out what it is yet.

They all start the same. My unconscious brain still hasn’t caught up with the program here so I’ll be getting towards the end of a meal or the end of a TV show or something – some situation that would have been followed by a cigarette any previous time in this millennium, and the thought pops into my head fully formed. I just see myself out on the porch smoking a cigarette and thinking, ‘yeah, that’ll really hit the spot.’ And that thought lingers for a third of a second or so before I remember that I don’t smoke anymore. And then I break that news to my unconscious brain again, and it gets sad again. And then I feel that displaced anxiety for a few minutes. And then I carry on with my life.

And to even say that it lasts ‘a few minutes’ probably leaves you with the wrong impression. The anxious part generally lasts for a couple of seconds, but sometimes the craving echoes every forty-five seconds or so and I have to go through it several times before I can chase the desire away for the long term.

I meant to count and time the cravings, but to be honest, they just haven’t been as big a part of my life as I expected them to be. Hell, I think about all the people who signed up to this blog in hopes of following me through this titanic gauntlet of self control and I almost feel bad for not having a harder time with it. Sometimes I wonder if I should spruce shit up and make up moments where I stare forlornly at a smoldering butt in some public ashtray just to add a note of suspense.

But ultimately the point of the blog wasn’t to be entertaining as much as to be informative. I mean sure, partly it’s here for other people who are quitting. They can read along, follow it day by day as they’re making their way through a similar journey, and have a sympathetic voice to accompany them. But it’s also here for people contemplating it. And if the ultimate take away I end of having is “well that was easier than I thought”, I can’t imagine a more valuable message to send to people in that contemplative stage.

I am a little worried about the scale widening out as it is. I’m into my third week now, which means that each individual day seems like less of an accomplishment. Day sixteen doesn’t seem any more impressive than day fifteen or any less impressive than day seventeen. At first, every hour was an accomplishment worth celebrating and that lasted for three or four days. From that point, each day seemed like a big deal. It always seemed like there was a major milestone on the near horizon. I was only a few days away from a full week. And then I was only a few days away from double digits. And then I was only a few days away from two full weeks.

Now I’m just a few days away from a few days from now. I mean, getting through the third week will probably still seem pretty big and making it through the first month certainly will, but will week six sound any more impressive than week five or any less impressive than week seven? And once I get past that second month, will the monthly milestones still seem like an accomplishment?

The further along I go, the less inclined I am to celebrate every day I get through. And I know I should still be patting myself on the back regularly, but it defies human nature to be excited about accomplishing something you’ve already done fifteen times in a row. And as each day adds a less and less significant percentage to my running total, I’m bound to start losing my enthusiasm.

But to be perfectly honest, I’m only worried about this in a sort of academic sense. In fact, I wouldn’t even mention it at all, but I’ve gotta build the suspense somehow.

Day Thirteen

Days Without a Cigarette: 12. 55902777
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: -$8.78

I’ve got a big test coming up today. If I’m playing the “Noah Quits Smoking” video game, I’m about to face off against my first boss villain: The Long Drive.

One of the big advantages I’ve had over most people in my situation is that I work from home and thus have no commute. Hell, my wife does most of the errand running stuff, too; so I managed to stay out of the car altogether for four or five days after I quit. And I’m sure that made those first several days much easier. But it also means that I haven’t had a chance to ease myself into this water. And tonight I’ve gotta dive into the deep end.

Okay… maybe not the deep end. I’ve got a long drive by British standards, maybe; not so much by American standards. I’m going down to Florida to see my wife’s extended family for their big Christmas Eve thing, and it’s about an hour and a half away. That doesn’t seem like much when you compare it to, say, the drive I took back and forth to Dallas a couple of weeks before I quit (29 hours round trip ). But something tells me tonight’s drive is gonna seem longer.

I’ve been smoking longer than I’ve been driving, and of all the activities I regularly engage in, it’s the one that had the highest cigarette frequency. When I was working, I’d try to wait two hours between cigarettes. I rarely made it longer than an hour and a half, but I’d try. When I was off of work and hanging out at home, I’d try to wait at least an hour, and generally make it a solid forty-five minutes. When I was driving,though, I doubt I’d ever make it thirty minutes between smokes. I’d smoke two on a fifteen minute drive. If I was going somewhere I wouldn’t be able to smoke for a while (eg anywhere), I’d light one cigarette off the last one just to make sure I was stocked up on nicotine.

Of course, it’s not like I don’t have any practice with this. I have, after all, ridden in other people’s cars in the past thirty years. And for at least the last fifteen or so, I haven’t been allowed to smoke in the majority of them. And as any smoker knows, these are some of the worst times to be a smoker. Because then, when you stop, you’ve gotta be the asshole that holds up the show while they stand off at the edge of the gas station parking lot trying to suck down a couple of cigarettes. And then you’ve gotta get back into a car full of nonsmokers stinking like a Marlboro. And if you’re anything like me, you don’t wanna be that guy, so you end up smoking too quick and getting all dizzy, or showing up at a rest stop and asking yourself questions like “should I pee or smoke?”

So in that sense, this shouldn’t be that hard. Hell, not only have I ridden in nonsmoking cars, I’ve driven other people’s cars and rental cars that I’m not allowed to smoke in, and I’ve done so for longer than ninety minutes more than once. So ultimately what I’m doing tonight is something I’ve done before. But in all those previous instances, I knew that (a) there was a cigarette waiting for me when I got where I was going, and (b) if I really wanted to, I could pull over at any time and smoke one. And this wasn’t just hypothetical. I’ve done exactly that on plenty of drives before.

But, in keeping with the video game analogy, I’m all stocked up on potions (chewing gum), I’ve equipped my best armor (21mg nicotine patch), and I’ve already got the most powerful weapon in the game (the support of my wife). Not to get too cocky, but I actually kinda feel sorry for the drive to Jacksonville. I’m about to kick its little ass.

Day Twelve

Days Without a Cigarette: 11.51597222
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: -$14.18 (had to buy a second box of patches today)

Word of warning: Most of this post is just gonna be me bitching about a shitty trip to Walmart.

I’m not likely to get a better candidate for the day I give up and light up a fucking cigarette. This morning was the third time I’d gone into that store, each time for the same item. And it’s not like they don’t have it. They do. I can see it. But it’s sitting behind plexiglas with a lock on it and a little button that says “ring for service.”

See, I already more or less did my Christmas shopping and I’m pretty happy with what I got my wife, but it’s kinda generic. Like, if Scott Bakula Quantum Leaped into my body just as I was getting out of the car at the mall and saw “buy Christmas presents for wife” was the last thing on my to do list, he might have gotten her the same shit. It’s good stuff, but it’s not very personal. So I’ve got it in my head that I need one more gift… doesn’t have to be big one… that has “Lucinda” written all over it.

And then I see one in the electronics department at Walmart, sitting there, teasing me from behind a half inch acrylic wall. It’s not even particularly expensive. So I look around to see if there’s an employee nearby that can get it for me, but it’s Saturday afternoon the weekend before Christmas, so of course there isn’t.

And that’s on me. I get it. I stand there ringing the bell every minute or so for five or six minutes, but I figure the employees are run ragged at the moment and it’s probably gonna take forever to get to me. So I decide to come back when it’ll be a little more convenient for them. The Walmart here is open 24 hours, I’m a night owl, so I decide to come back at one in the morning or something, when they’ll be emptied out a bit.

So I do. And I have the exact same experience, only longer. This time I stand there for over ten minutes, ringing the bell every minute or so. I wander about a little, looking for employees, but on the occasion that I find them, they excuse themselves by uttering “I don’t work in this department” and scamper off without offering to fetch someone who does. After ten minutes plus of this, I give up and leave again. This time I tell myself that I must’ve stopped by too late. There’s probably one guy working the electronics department and I caught him at lunch or something. They probably don’t have their best employees working the overnights on Saturday anyway, so maybe I chose a poor time. So I elected to come back a third time, this time nice and early in the morning before the store starts to crowd up.

So this morning I get up early. I don’t really have to get up early, but I do. I get up a little after seven am (I normally get up around nine), feed the cats, hop in a quick shower, I’m at the Walmart before eight. I’ve literally planned my entire goddamn day around a trip to Walmart, but what am I gonna do? Tomorrow’s Christmas Eve and there’s no other store within an hour’s drive that sells this item because Walmart already put all the electronics stores around here out of business.

And by now, of course, I know exactly where I’m going. Hell, I even know the short cuts. So I b-line across the store to the item I’m after and I ring the bell. And then I start thinking maybe that bell isn’t the one that gets their attention, so I ring another nearby bell as well. And then I wait.

Now, my plan here was to just camp out. I damn near brought a lunch. So for five minutes, I patiently ring the bell. And when that doesn’t conjure up any keys, I go around to the counter in the department. And, again, it’s two days before Christmas, so even at eight am, there’s a line. So I says “can I get some help over here?” to the cashier, who’s in the middle of doing six things, and she nods to me as if to say “as soon as I can get to it.”

Five minute later, I’m still waiting. I’ve hit the bell a few more times, but more out of habit than any real belief it was making any difference. And five minutes later, I’m still waiting.

Now, ‘fifteen minutes’ doesn’t sound very long. And it doesn’t sound like long, because any time somebody’s waiting for two minutes they say “I was waiting there for, like, fifteen minutes.” But I timed this shit. I knew what I was getting into, after all, so I checked the time when I first rang the bell. It was 7:54. My last bell ring was at 8:09. That’s an insanely long time to be standing in an aisle in an effort to give someone else money. If they were giving me money, maybe I’d feel different. But I was the one with the fucking money in this situation.

At this point, I felt like I had three choices. One was to just lean on that fucking bell. I could here the little ‘ding’ somewhere in the distance when I did it, so I could just hit it repeatedly until someone came scrambling out with a hand full of their own hair. That was option one, but I’ve worked jobs like that. It’s not the guy listening to the bell’s fault that they’re understaffed. I’d just be fucking with an overworked person a couple days before Christmas if I did that.

The second option was to start pretending to steal shit. This works pretty well in my experience, especially in the electronics department. Nobody gives much of a shit about a customer standing in the aisle waving half a dozen twenty dollar bills screaming “someone please take this from me in exchange for goods or services”, but if they think you’re stealing, they usually come quick. Of course, they also call the cops and then you’ve gotta explain to the cops that it was the only way to make an employee show up. And the cops get it, but ultimately going through that process takes so damn long I might actually summon somebody with the bell quicker.

My third option, the one I took, was to leave. My third option was to, for the third fucking time, leave that store empty handed because the assholes who run it don’t give enough of a shit about their customers to fulfill the absolute minimum obligation of ‘being a store.’

So I call Lucinda, my rock, and filled her in on my morning so that I didn’t have to walk through Walmart just yelling “Fuck this fucking store and it’s fucked ass bullshit” to myself. Because damn it, if the Walmart employees couldn’t see me, they were gonna fucking hear me. And that was nice. It was nice to walk by customer service saying “I’d love to give these fucknuts some fucking money but they won’t fucking take it”, and it was even nicer walking by the Salvation Army bell ringer saying “…these monkey fuckers can lick my sweaty asshole…”

But as cathartic as that might have been, it wasn’t enough. And I got back in the car frustrated as all fuck. Screaming levels of frustrated. Ripping my hair out levels of frustrated. Far more frustrated than ‘inability to make required Christmas purchase’ justified. And I REALLY needed a goddamn cigarette. On the way home I even needed to stop by the pharmacy and pick up another box of nicotine patches and stare at that display of cigarettes behind the cashier as I did so.

But I didn’t smoke. And, to be honest, as much as I wanted one, I can’t even say that I was really tempted. I’ve got too much momentum. In fact, the only real reason I’m even blogging about it is because I’m still pissed off at Walmart and wanted to use the word ‘fuck’ a lot in describing my aborted effort to buy something there. I mean, I have to bitch to you about it, because it’s not like there’s a single person in that store or in that corporation that gives the feeblest squirt of a shit about the customer experience. They’ve concocted this bizarre system of spite retail where the people on both sides of the transaction can be maximally miserable and they still make money in naked defiance of Adam Smith. And they exist just so that when the retail sector finally does die, we the people will dance on its grave in unabashed revelry.

Fuck Walmart.

Day Eleven

Days Without a Cigarette: 10.64930555
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: $21.81

I’m a numbers guy. I’m pretty sure the way I open these posts gives that away. I should clarify that this does not mean that I’m good at math. I suck at math. But I like to quantify stuff and see the numbers. My brain is way more swayed by that than, for example, the ever so slightly longer I can inhale without coughing now.

So when Lucinda and I were talking last night and a new measurement occurred to me, I figured I should share it with you. Up until now, I’ve been largely focused on the dollars saved (mostly because carcinogens avoided isn’t easily quantifiable), but as I’m looking at a forecast that calls for nineteen straight hours of rain and general shittiness the following day and thinking about all the time my non-smoking ass won’t be spending standing outside in it, it dawned on me that I should also be keeping track of the time I’m saving by not smoking.

For context here, I never smoked in my house or my office. I always stepped out to smoke because if I didn’t at least enforce that restriction, I’d chain smoke. So most of my cigarettes required that I stop what I was doing, throw on a jacket or shoes or something, then pause my life for five minutes.

Of course, this wasn’t always the case. There were times when I was doing something outdoors already. I smoked in the car, so I never had to pause anything for the road cigarettes. And a lot of what I was doing was on my phone or a conversation with my wife that could continue on as I stepped outside.

But for every one of those conveniently timed cigarettes, there were plenty more that took me away from work or forced me to pause the movie, or show up at the airport a little early, or hold my friends up after dinner before we order the Uber.

Most smokers, in my experience, will tell you that it takes them about five minutes to smoke a cigarette. And most of them are also wrong about that. It took me about three. I’m pretty sure we assume it’s five either because we don’t want to admit how quickly we’re sucking them down, or because we associate them with breaks at work so we unconsciously pad the time. Either way, a cigarette usually took me about three minutes. But, when you add the aforementioned jacket donning and shoe finding, plus the walk to where the cigarette can be smoked (which is usually just to the front porch, but sometimes is down fourteen stories on a slow elevator and across the parking lot), and all the shit that goes with it, it’s probably fair to say that a cigarette break, on average, took about five minutes of my time.

I smoked a little more than a pack a day. If you’re following the dollar amount closely, you’ll notice that I accounted for two packs on day seven. That’s because I smoked twenty one to twenty five cigarettes a day, not twenty, and that shit adds up. So let’s take the average at twenty-three a day and five minutes a smoke. That’s 115 minutes – one cigarette shy of two hours – every day of my life.

I’m pretty meticulous about getting my eight hours of sleep every night, so pretty much one eighth of my life was spent either smoking cigarettes or coming or going from a cigarette. Which means that by the end of today, I’ll have spared myself twenty one hours and five minutes of cigarette time.

And again, I don’t know how much of that lined up with my normal daily activities, but in truth, most days it wasn’t much. I don’t have a commute and I don’t spend much time outdoors. On most of the last eleven days, pretty much one hundred percent of that time would have been an interruption.

I know that the point of quitting is, by and large, to add hours to the end of your life, but it would be a mistake not to reflect on all the ones I’m gaining every day.

Day Ten

Days Without a Cigarette: 9.70347222208333
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: $16.41

At this point, every day is still a milestone and every activity is still an accomplishment. When I got off work last night, I went downstairs and got about halfway through dinner before it occurred to me that I didn’t even crave a cigarette after work. Hooray me. Today I finally went Christmas shopping and I walked right by two people smoking outside the mall. First time I’ve actually seen real life cigarettes since I quit, and I didn’t even want one. Kudos Noah!

And at this point, being a nonsmoker is still so novel that each of these occurs to me and I take time to congratulate myself for them. Every day is worth celebrating, and every new experience is worth applauding. But it won’t always be that way, and that’s what worries me the most now.

At some point, it will all become routine. Eventually, I’ll go a whole day without craving a cigarette and I might not even notice. I’ll pass my six thousand one hundred and third real life cigarette. I’ll reach day 139. And even though, in the long run, that’s every bit as important as reaching day 3 or day 7 or day 10, I’m obviously not going to celebrate it the way I’ve celebrated those much smaller milestones.

At a certain point I won’t blog about it. I won’t talk about it. Nobody will pat me on the back for making it this far. I’ll just be a nonsmoker and me not smoking cigarettes will be expected rather than lauded. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I could probably still toss out a post that says “This is my 3,336th straight hour without a cigarette” and get a bunch of likes; but it’ll be impossible for me to maintain the enthusiasm I have now for months or years to come.

Of course, the plan is to be over the addiction by then. I don’t need to stay at peak motivation forever, I just need to be a little more motivated to quit than I am to smoke. And hopefully I can maintain that balance. But will my enthusiasms wane in conjunction? That’s what I worry about. I know far too many people who have quit smoking for months or even years just to wind up back where they started. I know it happens, so I feel like a big part of my job at this point is figuring out why before I have to face whatever demons bested them.

Day Eight (Part Two)

Days Without a Cigarette: 7.85625
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: $5.61

Tonight would have been the perfect night for a cigarette.

So here’s the story – here’s the astronomical confluence of events inviting me to smoke tonight: My house is old. Shit doesn’t line up just right. And if you don’t latch the deadbolt, it’s easy to think you’ve closed the front door when you kinda haven’t. So you close the door, you take a step, the door pops back open.

Now, when you notice it popping back open, it’s just inconvenient. But when you don’t notice it, that’s when it becomes a real pain in the ass. Because I have four cats, and they’re all indoor cats. At least, to the extent that we can control that. Loki’s lazy ass isn’t gonna bother going outside when he knows there’s food inside. And Peekaboo and Binky just got the hell out of that outdoor life and aren’t in any hurry to get back to it. But Lilah is always up for a rousing game of “chase me around the yard in the dark for forty minutes.”

So I’m heading downstairs for a drink and I see my wife frantically poking around the bushes with the flashlight on her phone and I know immediately what’s happened. I hop in, grab a better flashlight, then come back out to help her herd a cat. And yes, this is a synonym for a frustrating undertaking. And yes, frustration is my biggest trigger.

But it’s also one of those guilt free cigarettes, right? Because I’m already walking around in the yard anyway. I’m not taking time off of work to smoke a cigarette, I’m taking time off of work to get the cat. The cigarette is just to keep me calm while this fat fucking klutz of a cat suddenly turns into Barry Sanders every time I pin her down by the Azaleas.

But here’s the thing: As I’m doing this, I’m reflecting on what a perfect time this would have been for a cigarette back when I was a smoker, but I didn’t really want one. The noteworthy thing about it is that it didn’t overwhelm me with temptation. I observed it almost like I was some outside anthropologist trying to build up suspense on a nature documentary. But it never even rose to the level of a craving.

I did have cravings today. I kept track. There were five of them, and two of them were really strong. But there were only five of them. After dealing with three hundred and sixteen a day for a couple days, that’s a pretty easy gauntlet to run.

I’m cautioning myself against hubris because that kicked me in the balls once already, but if I had to put money on me, I’d finally be confident throwing my chips on the ‘never smokes again’ square.

Day Eight

Days Without a Cigarette: 7.56041667
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: $5.61

There’s some part of me that’s pissed off that the nonsmokers are gonna win.

I know this is stupid, but it’s also human nature – I spent thirty years of my life on “team smoker”, looking to my teammates and saying “can you believe these assholes on team nonsmoker?” And now I have to concede defeat and admit that theirs was the better team the whole time.

What’s more, I have to admit that their tactics were effective… eventually. And I really want to tell you otherwise. I really want to tell you that all the assholery was a waste of time, but it wasn’t. Every holier-than-thou rant from some nonsmoker about how stupid and disgusting my habit was sank in. Every one of them stuck. And in the moment, sure, I was smoking two cigarettes at a time in spite. But later on, when my brain revisited the moment in hopes of back filling a good argument into my mouth during the exchange, it would discover it couldn’t. At best I’d note some hypocrisy and hide behind a feeble tu quoque when I thought of something somewhat unhealthy that they also did, but ultimately I’d have to admit that my side didn’t have any good arguments.

Now, to be clear, I’m not recommending being an asshole to smokers, and I have no intention of turning into one of those people. Those people did help nudge me along towards making this decision, but I still fucking hate them. Whether or not your assholery is effective, you’re still an asshole.

Of course, I’ve gotta admit to a little bias in this assessment. After all, I was team smoker for three decades, but I’ve been team asshole for even longer.

Day Eight (Technically)

Days Without a Cigarette: 7.03541667
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: $0.21

Alright, so it’s barely after midnight, and I didn’t quit at exactly midnight last week, so this really isn’t day eight. Hell, I didn’t even bother adding in the money for the pack of smokes I didn’t buy this week, but it’s still worth getting excited about. And not just because we’re used to dividing days into chunks of seven.

See, as anybody who knows me is aware, there’s a difference between “an eight hour workday” and “a full workday” in my life. And the way I set this up, I had last Thursday all the way off (a rarity in my life). I had Friday mostly off (about a 3 hour work day). I had half days (or so) Saturday and Sunday (5 hours or so). Then Monday and Tuesday I stepped back in for eight hour days. And it was tough. Working is when the not smoking thing gets to me the most (so far).

But Wednesday is a ‘no fucking around’ kind of day for me. Hell, that’s the main reason I decided to quit on a Thursday; it meant that I’d have the maximum amount of time possible before a Wednesday.

So this Wednesday was about typical. I started work a little before 10am, and I wrapped up a little after 12:30am. I had an hour off in the middle of it somewhere to eat food and wrap some presents for Lucinda. So all in all, about a thirteen and a half hour workday. You can see why I was a little worried going into it, knowing that ‘being overworked’ was gonna be a huge trigger for me.

Well, I pushed through it. And for the first time, I actually started to fully grasp that somewhere in my future were whole days when I won’t think about cigarettes. I’m not sure when they’ll come, but I can see them from where I am.