Coffee and Cigarettes
It has been one full year since I quit smoking. This is the longest I have gone without nicotine; the previous record was about 4 months. I do not view myself as a strong-willed individual. The fact that I’ve made it this far is thanks to friends and family, as well as financial and medical issues. I think about smoking everyday and the fond memories my brain clings to gloss over the hacking and nausea and occasional segregation from social circles.
I jokingly blame my sister for the habit. She came down to visit me in Atlanta in 2004 and to visit with some friends. We met her friends at a pub with an outdoor smoking area. One of them was chain smoking. The scent was sweet and alluring. The pack had a palm tree and the words “Bali Hai”. She gave me one (under my sister’s disapproving glare) and it was wonderful. Bali Hai is a product of Djarum clove cigarettes. I began seeking them out and eventually fell under the lure of the “Djarum Blacks”. I became a regular at cigar and liquor stores since other places often didn’t sell them. Even though they were harsh on the lungs, I saw an appeal to smoking thin black cigarettes. I hear recently they’ve gotten thinner and places are charging the same for nearly half the original pack size. So while I miss them, it’s a good thing I sought something marginally less harmful. Marginally.
(Beautiful, aren’t they?)
Drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes helped me lose some of the weight that I have since regained. They helped keep my appetite down, obviously, with the side effect of malnutrition. Occasionally when I’m drinking coffee I get the urge… the nostalgia… I remember… I also remember the next stage which is when I discovered “Dreams”. Sounds girly? Yes. Think it would taste girly? Yes. They were some sort of off-shoot of cigars, mixed with a range of flavors. My favorite was Chocolate Mocha. I blew a lot of money on these specialty cigarettes, but it felt like it was worth every dollar. The flavor was much more palatable with food and coffee, and whilst not great with alcohol, I could smoke more of them and not get as sick as when I was smoking cloves. But alas, thence came Obama. Obama’s policies on smoking (which I don’t disagree with, but was affected by at the time) included banning flavored cigarettes. Dreams and there ilk were out. Djarum was still around, but they had to lose their Vanilla and whatever else they had. I hear these banned treasures are allowed in other countries. Yet, I have been too poor to demand import. But look what we are missing out on:
I smoked for the duration of working at my hell-job (customer service). That 4&1/2 years saw my evolution to the inevitable: menthols. Most of my break time was spent in the smoking area, which had a gazeebo for some reason. Smoking out there was a relief and a reason not to socialize. Have I mentioned I have social anxiety? I have social anxiety. Smoking briefly assuaged it. I was making crap money at the time and when I moved into an apartment by myself I had to face facts: quit or downgrade. My drinking habit needed money, afterall.
I began with Camel’s Turkish Silvers, but even that was too pricey. I found myself one day asking sheepishly for a pack of Newports. (Buying cigarettes was a cause for anxiety because I either felt judged, or was upset that I had to ask a stranger for something that was ~behind the counter~.) I tried to keep the count low, but as my drinking got bad, my money got tight, the job got harder to deal with, and my health (brain-wise) kept deteriorating, the cigarettes helped relieve the depression. So when I quit the hell-job I figured I might quit smoking. That didn’t happen. It couldn’t happen. I was now under the pressures of no money (begging the family and trying not to let them know that at least $40/mo was for smokes), an even worse drinking habit, and the depression that follows job searching… the addiction would not go away.
Finally, I was shipped up here to Long Island. I experienced a shock when I found that while Newports in GA were around $4/pack, they could be anywhere between $8 and $11 here. I definitely had to cut down. I know Mom reads this, but I have to say she was an enabler for my first few months up here. Living with Dad, I was constantly supervised and judged aloud (now that he knew, since I hadn’t told either parent for the 6 years prior). At Mom’s I felt freed from the restraints of a rather conservative home life. Then I’d go back to Dad’s and get a lecture about how *he* had to quit because Mom had claimed allergies and wanted him to stop before the girls were born. He used to smoke pipes. Someone can correct me on this, but pipes, I feel, don’t have the same high/effect from the carcinogens and pure toxins that come with cigarettes. I would loved to have smoked pipe tobacco as an alternative. Other than nicotine, I have a desire for the actual act of smoking. Chewing on gum or a toothpick satisfies nothing. (If you are interested in pipe tobacco and/or beer reviews, check out Pope Crisco’s Intoxico.)
The family nagging was only a small portion of my reason to quit. (After all, I still have a rebellious streak.) My money was (still is) non-existent. When I asked for money for bills, the family did not show an enthusiasm for my cigarette needs. With my new health care, I got to see a handful of doctors in regards to my brain and general check-up. Every single one of them gave me the “you will die” lecture. But really, I have my friends to thank for a good portion of my quitting. It is hard to quit on your own. It wasn’t so much the fact that most of my friends were harassing me, but they would actively get involved. Sarah was a big help, Rob has been an inspiration (having quit a few months before me and still not smoking), my sister prevented me from bumming off her friends anymore, and there was a positive response instead of disapproving nods. When I vocalized my urges, I got appraisal for my progress so far.
So here’s to one year without cigarettes. My coffee will just have to go on without the death sticks for the time being.