I have been a smoker for 21 years. That number horrifies me.
When I was 15, that was a number that I expected to hear out of an old lady's mouth, an old lady I was sure I'd never be, and yet here I am, admitting that I stole cigarettes and smoked them in the alley behind the mall 21 years ago, teaching myself to french inhale while my friend pilfered cosmetics that didn't make it into the trash compactor.
In the intervening years, my lungs could have been born, graduated high school, started college, and played their first round of beer pong. Instead, they have been scarred by an impressive amount of toxins, made to wheeze after nights of smoking binges, and suffered through more than their share of chest colds and infections. The poisons I have routinely sucked into my lungs I would not even dream of storing under my kitchen sink, but that's addiction for you.
I have been feeling under the weather lately to begin with, but more recently I started to experience a sore throat and heaviness in my chest. Naturally, I translated this to mean that I had throat cancer. If Adam Yauch can have throat cancer, I can have throat cancer. I spent the last two weeks fighting anxiety-induced insomnia, shaking through my own private fear of death under a blanket on the sofa while the sun came up.
Needless to say, it made smoking far less fun once it felt like each cigarette was my insurance against living to see tomorrow. I picked the ninth day of the ninth month of 2009 as a memorable date to quit, and then I did. That was four days ago.
Day One and Day Two went by swimmingly. I barely noticed that I wasn't setting sticks of compressed plant matter on fire and sucking on the embers. I did notice, however, how yellow my teeth are. Yuck. I also noticed that the parking lot at the corner store stinks like urine and fried chicken. I could have done without that, too. And then I discovered that the Palinode and I were sharing some kind of viral sore throat thing, which meant that I was probably not heading for death quite as soon as I thought. Yay for me.
Yesterday, Day Three, was met with a bit of trepidation, but I managed to maintain a cool exterior for all but a mere 10 minutes of it. I became unreasonably enraged when another person in my building dared to do laundry when I wanted to do laundry. I marched back up to the apartment from the laundry room and told the Palinode, while thoroughly flexing my jaw muscles, about how I WANTED TO DO LAUNDRY BUT BITCH WAS THERE, to which he responded by stroking my arms in a way that was meant to soothe while he said "Shhh, shhh, it's okay, love." At first, I was pretty sure that I could claim temporary insanity when the authorities were called to help remove his head from where I'd jammed it in the closet door, but then I figured out what was going on: EVERYTHING FUCKING SUCKED. So, I took a nap, everyone was allowed to live, and the sun set on Day Three.
Today was Day Four. I spent the first three days holed up in the apartment chewing the skin off my lips, but I knew that I couldn't stay inside forever, especially when I was so in need of miniature human skulls for a project I'm working on. I ended up doing surprisingly well in the outside world, considering the fact that every smoker who ever smoked in this city was outside smoking like it was some kind of Festival of Smoking or something. I entertained myself by secretly mocking every smoker I saw for their physical flaws.
Hey, I had only been a non-smoker for three-and-a-half days at that point. It was taking all I had not to jump the kid with the backwards hat in the alley and steal that extra cigarette he had wedged behind his ear.
I've gone a bit downhill since then. Since late this afternoon, I have cried no less than three times. The first time I cried, I cried because I was certain that the Palinode no longer loved me. The second time I cried, I cried because Adam Yauch has throat cancer. The third time I cried, I cried because it was so pathetic that I had cried about the Palinode not loving me anymore and Adam Yauch having throat cancer.
I am not so much owning this bitch known as Quitting Smoking as much as I am riding her like a barroom mechanical bull, which is not nearly as sexy as it might sound. Think less busty cowgirl in a miniskirt and more puffy-eyed addict who can't be arsed to pluck her chin hairs when there is so much not smoking to be done.
Still, I have made it to the end of Day Four, and I am still quit. I may be clenching my jaw, crying on the cats, and scarfing down the occasional Boston cream doughnut, but I am still quit. I might have made a couple of impulse purchases I can't afford and downed pints of beer to keep from eating my own fingers, but I am still quit. I even might have tried to subtly duck my head into a cloud of exhaled tobacco smoke just to get the stink on me, but I am still quit.
Day Five? Bring. It. On.