Jones has long been a good friend to me. We’ve laughed, cried, and even experienced a few mentally unstable moments together. And there he has been, ever a willing accomplice to my needs, and always the first to remind me what it was I was needing in the first place. We have trekked through my adult life, one day to the next, me in my mock confidence, him waiting in the wings indefinitely, never far off when I call him forward, anxiously awaiting to ease my cravings.
As a younger woman, Jones woke up with me every morning, as the first of my arrogant inclinations snapped at my heels aggressively. If I didn’t move fast enough, my brain, devoid of my imminent a.m. vice of dark coffee -bold and strong, and thick with cream, would jump at the lack of it, and squeezed at my temples, like a mafia reminder that I have little leverage to leave the safety of my so-called friends.
Jones became ever necessary in my life as I collected vices and addictions over the years. Sometimes I called on him to satiate a hunger.
And sometimes to gratify a desire.
But, more often than either, I beckoned him to temporarily satisfy a need. And the worst of those many needs, which once was merely a desire, has been smoking, my smelly, ugly adversary.
I know all the statistics, I’ve heard all the horrors. To say I have wrestled with them would be an understatement; to say they have easily overtaken me, would be lie. And while this is true, over the years I have had many reasons to relax into the truth of the statistics and horrors, and judge myself at the very thought of taking one more puff ever given the knowledge I had been assaulted by. I have watched loved ones struggle with smoking related cancers, dispelling their ignorance in their fervent wishes to turn back the clock and make different choices. I’ve seen photos of the lungs of a smoker, starved of oxygen, tarred and black from years of self-inflicted damage. I’ve been witness to the premature erosion of collagen and the slackening elastin in the faces of many I care about- myself, included. I’ve reconciled that I’m encroaching on the clean airspace that non-smokers have no choice but to breathe. And I’m all too aware that I smell. Awful.
So I hide in shame- banning myself to the back of the smoker’s closet so as not to object myself to scrutiny. I cram my purse with breath mints, lotions, and body sprays to cover the offending odor, and wear a coat over my coat when smoking, in an effort to easily shed the evidence.
The truth is, though, I don’t want to smoke- I hate smoking, I hate myself for smoking. But Jones, my very good friend, is still there, ever supportive of me and my addictions, and willing, as always, to satiate them- and, because I’ve asked him to, to assist in keeping it a secret.
Yes, this is a coming out blog. And, as well, a goodbye.
Today, as I have done so many times before, I have sent Jones packing. It is true that I, like many smokers, have failed many times at quitting with much longevity, yet I’ve succeeded as many times in quitting smoking in the first place. The facts cannot be shucked away: My body has a long standing rapport with cigarettes, and my brain has a complicated relationship with addiction. But, I have repeatedly made efforts to change this, and each time I “fail”, I adjust my perspective a degree or two.
This time, I’ve decided to let go of all the shame associated with smoking, and as well, my addiction to it. I’ve spent so much time hiding, avoiding, embarrassed at my need for something that I am so well aware of is, at the very least, making me uglier, and is literally killing me.
So, here I am patting myself on the back for being willing to get in the thick of all this quitting smoking business yet again. And I’m feeling pretty good about changing my attitude, as well. Here’s the thing: I’ve been a smoker off and on for the last twenty years. That’s just a fact I cannot contradict. And I’ve quit far too many times to count- to the tune of years at a time, in some cases. Why should I feel such deep shame in the addiction when I have fought it so diligently?
Instead, I commend myself at the damage I have inflicted upon it in our ongoing rivalry. While it has won many times, I keep fighting, shirking complacency that so easily wishes to settle into my bones, weary at the fight, tired into submission. But my pride trumps my resignation, and rather than lie down, I paint my face blue, and charge at my enemy, carrying with me a newfound attitude of transformation.
The addiction will be there tomorrow, lurking around my brain, expelling all sorts of chemicals to make me irritated and no fun to be around. My head will pound, and my body will ache in the beauty of withdrawals. And, likely, my old friend Jones will be right outside my window, trying to force his way in with a screwdriver. But, I’ll be there too, human as I’ve ever been, hyper-aware of my ability to succeed, instead of focusing on the struggles that assist me in failing.
Today is Day One. And as the saying goes, “One day at a time”.