This is titled 0100B because I repeated a number somewhere and decided to resolve it here.
People in abusive relationships return to their abusers multiple times before leaving. I think this is because of the good times. You occasionally have a pleasant time and your brain is bad at reminding you that what brings you pleasure can also bring you pain, and that pain can seriously outweigh the pleasure… progressively. We return to our abusers (we might hope) out of love. Out of faith, however misplaced. There’s always something a little noble and sacrificial about faith. About commitment. Commitment is respectable, isn’t it? Persistence is admirable. Don’t quit.
I’ve been quitting all year. It started partially to outdo a friend who had failed, and partially because my colleagues are all non-smokers, and these are folks I want to learn from and get along with- so naturally, subconsciously or otherwise, there’s an element of peer-mimicking.
At my best run I went three weeks cold, had one cigarette, went another week, then relapsed. I’d only smoke at home, though- before and after work. It felt like some sort of progress, for a while. But the reduced smoking I think had “phase-shifted” me. I think I had passed the crest of my smoker life. I kept ashtrays at home, and I found them filthy and disgusting. I had to clean them out myself and it was gross. I was aware that I had constantly bad breath but I had adapted to that. In the 3 weeks that I’d stopped, I noticed how much cleaner and fresher my home was. I wanted it to stay that way. The seeds had been planted.
Each time you quit and start again, you feel like shit the next day. Your mouth is moulting. Your nose is stuffy and clogged with small particles. You sniffle in the morning as the mucus tries to clean it out. Some coughing and sneezing. A morning cigarette gets rid of these “symptoms”- and here it becomes easier to imagine alcoholism- a drink “cures” a hangover. A quick fix now which shoves the negative into the future, a multiplied megaton payoff like cancer or lung disease. The lung disease is scarier to me.
Your lips, tongue and mouth get charred and coated with gunk. You notice this in your ashtrays- I use porcelain white ashtrays, and you can see the film of gross yellow shit that forms on it- and I’ve seen the same thing on my tongue and teeth.
Every subsequent attempt to quit gets you more acquainted with life on the other side of cigarettes. It’s a brighter and more colorful world with a broader field of vision. It’s also noisier and more chaotic. This chaos can be overwhelming.
I don’t mean figuratively, by the way. One of the most immediate things I notice two days after I finish a pack of cigarettes (and I’ve verified this on multiple occasions) is that I see more color in the world. I believe that this is the effect of an “upper”. (Technically I believe nicotine is a depressant- a downer- so coming off cigarettes feels like “coming up”). The world literally looks brighter and more colorful. The movie Limitless captures this quite beautifully.
Unfortunately going off cigarettes doesn’t make everything super clear- the new sensory stimulus can be overwhelming- and you have to train yourself to manage it. (Now I’m reminded of Man of Steel). This is when it’s most tempting to smoke a cigarette because cigarettes relax and focus you. They do. I’ve tested this. They just have shitty side effects that are not worth fucking with.
As I write this, I’ve been off cigarettes for over a week, and I feel more resentment towards them than ever before. I have multiple sores in my mouth (almost always happens after I stop smoking- and actually more often than usual as a smoker). My tongue still feels shitty. My skin is starting to feel less tense- smoking dries out your skin and eyes and turns you into a prune.
As my body repairs the damage, I find myself moving away from the “compromise solution”- the idea that I’ll just smoke once in a while. No. Fuck cigarettes, they suck. They’re abusive. They’re seductive but they ruin you. They give you this illusion that you’re in control, that you’re self-medicating. But it’s a trap. Cigarettes are Chris Brown. They make you feel special and loved but then WHAM right in the kisser. (It’s always appropriate to mock Chris Brown mirite?) Cigarettes are cigarettes- a seductive illusion. Gold-painted shackles which eventually lose their luster.
So yes, that’s me and cigarettes- and to a certain degree, that’s me and video games, me and Facebook. Me and procrastination. And I’m sick of it. I’m tired of it. Worst of all… I’m bored. This is boring. A lifetime of struggling with addiction is freaking boring. There are many more interesting things out there, just outside the Cave.
Should I try to offer some sort of advice? I’m not qualified. But let’s try, let’s suppose I met 17 year old Visa. Cigarettes are nice, yes. You’re going to spend a lot of money on them with diminishing returns. You know what you should do instead? Save up for a guitar. Have lunch at more posh places- it might cost 2-3 times more but it feels about 5 times better. You’ll wish you were fitter.
No, that’s not helpful. You’ll want a ritual of some sort to escape the world. You know what’s my ritual, (yours 6 years from now?) Writing. The world sorely lacks good writers. People will pay you good money for it if you start cultivating the skill now. You knew all along that books are drugs. Revisit them. Explore your curiosity.
Also, I haven’t fully explored this myself, but I think meditation is going to be the bomb.
PS: I saw something on Tumblr about self-abuse and how you ought to think of yourself as a child as a mental exercise. Would you give cigarettes to a child? Would you feed pizza to a child until it got bloated and fat? Would you deprive her of sleep? Of course thid analogy breaks down because we’re not actually children- you wouldn’t have intercourse with a child but it’s perfectly acceptable- even healthy- to do it with consenting adults.
But questions about morality are good- replace sex with play, maybe- would you lie to a child just to get something out of her? Actually this is interesting to juxtapose with pg’s essay about lies we tell children. The point is that it’s an interesting mental exercise, a lens to examine yourself (and your treatment of yourself) through. It may shed some light on some things you otherwise ignore.
I have time for a few sentences before I reach work. I’d like to say that it seems to me that meditation is a fantastic thing to do when “bored”. Using Quotes because it doesn’t make sense to be bored in this day and age. We live in times too exciting for boredom. There’s always something to do.
How about this- boredom is really just decision paralysis. Too many things to do, all of them slightly out of reach, in a world that likes to put you in that state, and keep you there.
Meditation seems to allow the dust to settle so you can see more clearly. Here’s an excerpt from a failed vomit:
“It’s interesting how I’ve been so resistant to meditating daily. I just took 10 minutes to clear my mind and I feel so much better. I was staring into space and dots were connecting for me- and I realized I wanted to read a particular book on my shelf. If something had been different I might have wanted to code, or play guitar, or write. So that’s an amazing thing that meditation does- it simplifies decision-making. It allows the dust to settle so you can see more clearly. This is why you need to take walks. For perspective, for collisions. A walk is practically always a great idea. But we do it so little. We’re desk-bound.”