Thinking about cigarettes again. I went a long time without, around 6 months or so. Then I had a couple of circumstances where I was feeling particularly wistful, and I was around smoker friends who seemed particularly happy and comfortable, and I gave in– I smoked with them. And it was neither pleasant nor unpleasant. It wasn’t as weighty as I had imagined it would be. It wasn’t a big deal. Life went on the next day– I was coughing a little, my mouth felt a little icky, but within a few days it was more or less back to normal. I felt a sense that I didn’t properly enjoy the first cigarette after a long time– you never do, you need to smoke several cigarettes before your tongue and lips and lungs are all “warmed up” for cigarette enjoyment. You need to burn and numb yourself, in other words, before you really get into it. I imagine it’s the same for a lot of drugs. You probably have to be doing them on a fairly regular basis to really enjoy it properly, without getting all caught up in the novelty of it.
I think I felt really bad because I was betraying myself in the process. Maybe. I don’t know. I told myself I’d quit, and I told a lot of other people I”d quit, and even while I was smoking from time to time, it felt like I was still on my way out. I have never been able to enjoy a cigarette the way I did when I was a teenager, when I was young and reckless and didn’t have any doubt that some day in the futuire I would figure out the optimal balance for me, and that my health would be repaired and none of it would be an issue. I smoked when I was on holiday– cigarettes were cheap, and there was something comforting about smoking when I was away from it all. I don’t know. I’m just rationalizing it. A part of me still loves cigarettes and smoking even though I recognize that it’s bad for me, that it fucks with my mouth and teeth and breathing and my digestive system and it makes it harder for me to sleep, all sorts of bad stuff. Sometimes I want bad stuff, you know? We’re going to die in the end, and nothing will matter, why not light up your nervous system a little? I get into those wistful moods sometimes. Whiskey and singer-songwriters in smoky old bars. Why not smoke, eh? Well, you can’t enjoy a cigarette in a one-off sense, you have to smoke quite a few. You could smoke during a night of drinking. Or you could smoke a few packs over a week. But that’s it. It’s not quite right to smoke at home, you stink up your house. Although there’s something nice about smoking with friends you invite over. It’s just… the ritual element of it. I believe it’s written up in Ritual Interaction Chains. I’m sure that applies for other drugs too.
Well, I’m clean again. And my body has been going through the repair process again. It can be messy and ugly. Coughing, sneezing, digestive discomfort. And I know that going back to cigarettes is not a solution. We’re on separate paths now, me and cigarettes. I cannot be a “Lifer”. My dad and my grandfather were lifers. Cigarettes do too much damage to your face and skin and hands. The moment you start smoking you’re doing yourself damage. And I’m vain, I don’t want to damage myself. And I don’t like how cigarettes dull colors, and just generally make you tired and lethargic and give you bad breath. Funny how I’m saying all of these things now– I’m pretty sure none of these things would’ve convinced me to quit earlier. It also reminds me of the difference between logical thinking when positive and logical thinking when negative. We focus on different things and see the same things in completely different ways. When I was entrenched in my smoking habit, the idea of caring about my looks felt vain, silly. Cigarettes were my way of saying, “I’d like to destroy myself on my own terms, in my own way. I’d like to hang out with other people like that, who don’t judge,” etc. There’s a way of crafting a very believable narrative or identity around it. But I think it’s pretty clear now, especially after having been on both sides of the fence, that the narrative is constructed after-the-fact.
So there’s a lot of stuff to unpackage there, a space where I think a lot of conventional wisdom must be wrong. About why people do things. About what motivates people. About how to be successful. About how to be happy. The funny thing, I think, is when you have journalists and writers who write “how to” guides. The important question that doesn’t get answered– do these journalists and writers apply these lessons to themselves? Are they happy, successful, motivated, fulfilled? This is something that a lot can be written about, and I think Nassim Taleb covers quite a bit of it so I won’t go there. My focus is on my own reality. What are the implications of these after-the-fact rationalizations? I’ve changed my ideas and perspectives and motivations and self-perceptions and stuff depending on the circumstances, depending on my emotional state, and due to my blood sugar levels. The blood sugar thing is really getting to me now– it’s amazing (and yet completely sensible on hindsight) how much of everything about my life seems to be determined by my blood sugar levels. All of this is currently psuedo-science. I don’t know the specifics. I don’t know the details. I haven’t done the experiments yet. Everything I know is piecemeal, provisional, and definitely wrong. It would be wrong to say “know”. I don’t even want to say “believe”. The map that I’m using to make sense of myself and my own life is obviously low-res and flawed.
So what then? I guess I have to start from scratch. Let’s write the next one thinking about the blood sugar problem.