I am not usually proud to be a quitter. I am today.
I never thought I’d start again after I stopped for so long. Once I get used to a part of myself, it becomes difficult to remember how I was before it existed. Other people have fine memories; mine has never been shoddy, but it works differently than most folks’. I understand this now.
I quit smoking. Again.
In January of 2000, right before Chad decided he had to go away and figure himself out for a little while, I quit smoking. I had smoked – been a smoker – for ten years. At my peak, I smoked a pack a day. When I quit, I was smoking about half of a pack of menthol longs. Disgusting things, those, and I was not sorry to make the decision to give them up.
I gave them up to prove something to Chad: that I could be more of the person he wanted to be with.
And it was a successful quitting, at least until last fall, when everything I had built with Chad had fallen apart and I felt I needed something symbolic to separate who I was with him and who I would become.
I picked a deadly habit to mark my rebirth. O, the irony.
Smoking has never been fashionable to me. It’s obvious, when you’re a smoker in California, just how much of a social outcast you can become. This isn’t the fun kind of social outcast I’m talking about. No. No, it’s not fun; it was never about fun. When I first started, I did so because my high school boyfriend and I were bored, and on some level I knew it would upset my mother greatly. I wasn’t very good at rebelling, but this was one thing I did do that I knew neither of my parents would approve of.
And they didn’t. My mother was distraught, and my father was disappointed. I pulled away from each of them a little, and in doing so, found more of myself. The nasty habit remained, the thing that causes cancer, emphysema, heart disease, death.
I never kidded myself about this, but when I accepted mortality, I thought a lot about the possibility of dying because of this stupid, stupid thing I refused to quit doing. Dying in theory can be dealt with. Actual deterioration of the body, not so much.
I want to be healthy, now. I want to live a long life and contribute much to the world. I want to run up a few flights of stairs and not be winded. I want to smell like a human being, not like burning ashes and chemicals. I want to do active things like dance and sing without impairment.
Most importantly, I do not want my friends and family to watch me die. I want to outlive them all, not because I want to live as long as I want to live – although who doesn’t aspire to this, in some small way – but because I am strong enough to help my loved ones through loss and grief, and I need to be around long enough to do that.
Even so, I realize this thing I have done may have already caused the irreparable damage I am now committed to avoiding. It may already be eating away at me, and regret won’t change a thing about that. It can’t be fixed from now backwards. All I have to focus on is this moment, and the next, and then whatever comes after.
And hope. And always hope.