Wednesday, March 19, 2008

nicotine and love: an undying relationship

(original post: september 15, 2007)

people don't change unless they want to. it's like quitting smoking. you can't do it until you really really want to. because otherwise, even though you know it's bad for you, even though you know lighting something and inhaling it into the only organ that we have that makes us breathe couldn't possibly be a sound way to ensure it will still do so sometime down the road, you won't quit until you are absolutely ready.

my father smoked for thirty-five years. he smoked a full pack, and sometimes two packs of camel wides for the last ten years he smoked. he would cough and weeze and mumble about how he needed to quit and how every cigarette was going to be his last. until the next one, and the one after that. i never thought that man would ever stop his beloved habit.

but, like all beautiful romances, this one too bit the dust. after going to see his doctor who told him that if he didn't quit smoking he was not going to live to see sixty. he was fifty-four at the time. i guess a six year death sentence was enough for him to drop the reigns. he quit, about two weeks before our annual christmas trekk to the mountains.

that was an amazing road trip. three dogs, one with a vengeful stomach problem, my two brothers, my brother's girlfriend who is allergic to everything, my bitter french catholic grandmother who had just gotten married and divorced all in under three months, my mother's stop and go driving skills, my father going through nicotine withdrawls, and me, crammed in the backseat with presents and luggage and groceries. all in one big expedition.

all i wanted to do, was smoke a fucking fag. but my arents still didn't know i smoked, or rather, denied that i did, so i couldn't.

i'll tell you, if that's not a fucking slice of heaven, i don't know what is.

but dad did it. he smokes cigars now, which, to me, kind of cancels the whole triumphant quitting thing out. but shit. i guess if you're gonna go, you should go out with style. it's havana time.

now, me, on the other hand, i don't know when i'm going to quit. i know i have to, i know i shouldn't do it because of the career i'm in, and blah blah blah. listen, smoking is not something that has ever been branded as the "goody two shoes" habit. it wasn't sandra dee who started the trend. james dean, marilyn monroe, tommy lee, most of the bad guys in movies, and teenagers full of angst and revolt... it's not a happy coincidence that they all smoke.

smoking is rebellion. rebellion of the body and what it was meant to be used for. inhaling is like telling everyone "i don't fucking care" and doing it with a certain... je ne sais quoi... penchant for masochism, maybe?

smoking is the habit of habits, the queen of hearts, if i may. i say this because we all know what type of people they are. smokers will befriend other smokers because there is a common ground they share. and many non-smokers do that whole coughing thing and wave their hand in front of their face as if there were carcinigeous bees flying all around them. my favorite non-smoker line is "did you know that's bad for you?"

gee. thanks. did you know that you're ugly? at least i can quit.

so, here we have this attitude and now a habit that runs through our blood and makes us crave more. how is this any different than quitting a person?

it occured to me the other day that quitting a cancerous love is alot like quitting smoking. especially if it's something you don't really want to stop. if you cheat, only with one little cigarette, it sets you back to day one, and you have to restart all over again. your heart still craves the nicotine no matter what your head tells it.

love has the same effects that ciggies do, quickening the heart and temporarily releasing tension in the muscles. it puts us in a better mood and makes us forget that there are things out there that are bothering us. love is a longer version of a cigarette break, then.

but when something goes wrong, when you know there is something that has poisoned your heart, a cancerous sort of love... when you know that the only thing that's right is the one thing you don't want to do... quitting smoking is harder than beginning the habit. it's always harder to stop.

you get mad at yourself when you slip up. when you cheat. you were doing so well. you were making progress, getting stronger without the need for nicotine. you didn't crave one as much after a hard day, nor did you think to buy a pack when you stopped to get gas. you are on the path to washing your hands of a bad habit.

but then, one night, you find one single cigarette lying on the floor of your car. you put it to your mouth, taste the sweet musk of the tobacco, and delight that the paper filter still fits perfectly betwixt your lips... there is a lighter you never through away, and it ignites easily under your thumb as you watch the flint spark in front of your eyes. your heart is racing... it's been too long since you felt the fire in your chest, and as you inhale, you feel it run through your veins, under your skin, the length of your body... the smoke ropes up and into your nose from your mouth and you are reminded of the memories you and the cigarette have had in the past... lying on beach blankets and shivering under the cold mountain sky, singing in the car, or coffee in the morning. it is an old friend, who has been there for a long tme, and without ever reaizing it, you had fallen in love.

cigarettes give you cancer. lovers can too. both kill you in some form or fashion. both betray the relationship you never intended on being so strong, that you never knew you had depended on so heavily. and both, you miss when you quit.

one of my favorite quotes of all time is from the writer oscar wilde. he states, "the only temptation i resist, is to resist temptation." i believe oscar wilde died of complications due to alcohol and opium abuse, sometime in his thirties. as far as it pertains to me, i'm hoping that my resistance to resist temptations will eventually make me understand that i am responsible for my health, regardless if it's mental or physical. i'm the one who doesn't want to quit smoking, because smoking is so damn enjoyable, and therefore if i continue to do so i will perish underneath a nicotine hand.

i think oscar wilde was right, though. hey. at least he was honest with himself.

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