I quit smoking three years ago. It was tough. I’d been smoking for seven years and working on quitting for about five of those seven years. And I didn’t just take up smoking over time: I basically wrapped myself up in it over a weekend, and then I was (for good) a Smoker.
And I loved smoking, really. Loved loved loved it.
In college a boyfriend bought me nicotine patches to help me quit (he was quitting also, but cold turkey). But, we did them wrong, buying patches that were stronger than our addiction to cigarettes, and so, like the Tori Amos lyric, I became addicted to nictone patches.
I tried Zyban the year I was a residence hall director at the University of Minnesota. My student staff were very vocal about wanting me to quit, and I wanted to, too, to an extent. Zyban made me so happy—it is, after all, just the antidepressant Wellbutrin in a different hat. I found myself not wanting to smoke, and when I did, I felt sick to my stomach. Imagine! Aversion therapy in a pill. Then, a student in my residence hall fell from a lofted bed and died. I started smoking.
I tried Zyban again in grad school. Zyban is also like taking crystal meth. I stopped sleeping and was up all hours of the night doing little projects, reading, writing. I was a machine. I needed no sleep and never felt tired! I was also an emotional roller coaster—which face would I be wearing in five minutes? Nobody knew! And so, laughing to crying, thanking to chiding—you name it. My mirror had about seven faces. All of them crazy.
I finally quit on the patch, doing it correctly, then even cutting down the smallest patch into halves and wearing them for an extra four weeks. It worked. I quit smoking. I kicked the addition. But
there are nights, like last night, when the man in front of me at the convenience store buys three packs of cigarettes and I can smell that smoke on him, the brand I smoked, and I’m back. I’m craving. My head swims and all I can think is PUT IT IN YOUR MOUTH.
I remember the way an unlit cigarette smells: raisins.
I remember the way a first drag tastes: toasted peanut butter.
I remember the smoky goodness, the swirl of it sucking down into a lung, the flush in the brain—the way the world tilts forward like a car coming to a hard stop. Sending the smoke back out again, watching it leave the mouth and disbanding into the air…