November 8, 2010

When I woke up this morning, I never really thought I would be here.  A non-smoker.

I’d always had pretty amorphous thoughts about the whole thing, “Oh, I’ll quit at [some point in the future]” or “I’m sure I won’t be smoking by [age].”  But if you asked me a year and a day ago, or a year and three months ago, whether or not I would have actually maintained a commitment to not smoke, I don’t think I could have actually pictured it.

I smoked from the time I was a sophomore in high school until I was 25 years old.  Ten years, effectively.  I went from anywhere between a pack-and-a-half-a-day smoker, to a five-smokes-a-day smoker.  I was everywhere from selling back my textbooks my parents bought for me so I could buy packs of cigarettes, to dropping $55-a-pop for a carton.  I was everything from an unfiltered to menthol, and from Dorals to Marlboros.

It’s strange to thing that it was both such a long and short time ago.

I knew the hardest part of the additiction to beat was going to be the psychological aspects.  I was scared to death of what my life would be like without ever having another cigarette again.  It wasn’t a lifetime of not smoking again that was nebulous and terrifying: it was not ever having that single cigarette that I wanted so badly.

There is no sugar-coating to this story, though: quitting was hard.  The first three weeks, quitting sucked.  But it wasn’t the worst pain I’d ever been through, and it wasn’t even the most stressful time in my life, either.  But, much like the Smoking Cessation Coach (which was a work requirement to get my insurance premium reduced), it was a loss of something so fundamental to me, and I had to experience the fullness of emotion that comes with a loss of any kind.

I had to re-learn driving without smoking, an evening without smoking, drinking without smoking, celebrating Yule without smoking.  I had to relearn an entire life without smoking.

It’s nice not having to worry about whether or not I smell like smoke when I get home from work.  It’s also nice only having to make potty breaks on long road trips.  It’s equally as nice to spend a whole day with my parents and not feel like I’m crawling out of my skin because Oh my God, where am I going to be able to sneak a cigarette?

I know that I will never be able to “casually” smoke.  I know that I am one cigarette away from being a full blown addict again.  But I don’t rage against the system: I have accepted that I will never be able to have “just one,” and I continue to live my life, and fill it with other things.

After a while, I saw the benefits of not being a smoker.  After an even longer while, I could say with conviction that I was a non-smoker.

It feels good to be here.  I have no idea why I didn’t quit sooner.