The Good, The Bad and The Smoking

So, I'm smoking for the month of August. Yes, it sounds preposterous. If you've ever been addicted to cigarettes, you are thinking, "Really? Just August? How do you think you're going to manage that?" And that is a super fair question, given that I've heard countless times that cigarettes are more addictive than heroin.  I certainly know plenty of people who have been clean from said heroin and also divorced for decades from the subtle foe that is alcohol who can't or won't quit the tobacco. Other vices and 'character defects' leave them -- bad behavior in relationships, gambling, issues with food, their dance with the seven deadlies -- but they remain steadfast with their slow spiral down cancer lane.

I was always a social smoker and a social drinker. At least, to all appearances. I didn't drink (or smoke) alone. I didn't drink (or smoke) at work. I didn't drink (or smoke) in the morning. No problem, right?  But I learned that these were not the requirements to determine if one was an alcoholic. If you run with the people I run with, we are of the opinion that all that it takes to make one "probably an alcoholic" is  that "if, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely, or if when drinking, you have little control over the amount you take," you're most likely in the club(1). That said, I truly was a social smoker during my drinking days.


The collegiate smokes one of her first cigarettes.

It wasn't until I quit the drink and eventually tried to quit smoking about three years later that I found that I couldn't quit entirely that I realized I had become hooked on the old devil nicotine. I also realized that I was using nicotine as my last legal high. Although my use hadn't changed -- I normally didn't smoke a cigarette until after 5 p.m. -- I was now delighting in the dizziness that accompanied that first drag and the swirling menagerie of sensations that accompanied it. I was delaying my first smoke in the hopes I could get a little higher, a little dizzier. The anticipation was just as good as the real thing. God, that doesn't sound very sober, does it?

It didn't. I had quickly ditched the Red Bulls for the same reason. One night, I hosted a great party at my house. It was an evening of chatting with friends, laughing and enjoying other's company. It also involved copious amounts of chain smoking and downing energy drinks on my part. It was a late night and everyone eventually wandered home; I found myself lying in bed, looking at the ceiling, wishing I had someone to talk to, someone to bring me down from the energy I couldn't quite seem to shake, even after taking all the non-narcotic medications prescribed for my manic-depression, which usually sent me drifting off into slumber. Instead, I was vibrating to the high pitched frequency usually reserved from come downs from cocaine or LSD, neither of which were physical memories I cared to repeat -- especially not in sobriety, yes?

So, the Red Bull was out, and as soon as I realized I was saving nicotine for my last legal, I realized it had to go, too. But, this was easier said than done. Addiction is a bitch that way. That's the point that many people don't quite seem to get. YOU don't get to decide. The difference between an alcoholic and an addict of ANYthing is that there is NO choice. There's no deciding when/how/where/why/who. It just happens. No matter what you THINK you will do, no matter what you THINK you know about yourself or your situation, no matter what you THINK you have to do, you don't get to decide. The addiction/disease/demon/whateverthefuck you want to call it gets to decide.

I realized that despite my former relationship to smoking, I was currently whipped. So, if I was powerless, I needed a power greater than myself to cut the shit. And I just asked for help every day and kept smoking the way I wanted to. And one day -- WHAMMO. It was removed. Whap. March 10, 2005, I quit. Halfway through a cigarette. I got an intuition that there'd be someone asking for money when I crossed the bridge by Union Station, and instead of money, I gave him my over halfway full pack of cigarettes instead. And that was that. For probably six years. Not a craving.

Then maybe in 2010, in the fall, I started having cravings. The obsession to smoke came back. I know that my spiritual program of action was not at its peak, and I also believe that I was off my meds as well (one of the meds I take, Wellbutrin, has also been marketed as a smoking cessation aide -- it's also known as Zyban). I don't know if that was a perfect storm or what. But I probably had four cigarettes that November. And it was terrible, and that was it.  The next November, the same. This December, I smoked for a month. I bought a pack. But again, it left me. I think it may have also correlated with the return to Wellbutrin.

I have been unmedicated for close to six months -- this is part of the reason for this post and the relation to mental illness -- and am onboarding with Topamax and Wellbutrin again, but the Wellbutrin is the second to get on board. I decided when I started smoking again, I'd allow myself a month to go HAM (2) and then be done with it in the hopes that I'd be back on my meds and asking the universe for some good mojo as well. I'm a little nervous, to be honest, because I'm not back on track with either. But, I'm going to stick to my guns ... and start praying my ass off. You know. Like you do.

I have found that I've been declaring the August intention pretty loud and proud in the hopes that it will make me at least have some shame around not sticking to it. I also have found that I have some real shame around smoking in general -- I don't like kids to see me smoking and I don't like smoking around runners or people biking past me or old people. So, even though I know this already, I'm done. This is not the universe's will for me. I have no use for it anymore. I guess I just like to do things to fuck myself over sometimes. Like you do.

I needed to tell on myself and I needed to write. So, here we are. Smoke 'em if you got 'em. For a couple more days.

(1) Taken from p. 30 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous, if you want to read straight from the source.

(2) Go HAM -- one of my favorite phrases co-opted from hip-hop culture. As in going "hard as a motherfucker." Jay-Z and Kanye West are the progenitors, I believe.

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  • I love your honesty, Jocelyn, and wanted to ask what made you give your pack to the guy in 2005? It couldn't have just been the intuition b/c you could have bought another pack a block later, right?

  • Okay wait, not to ignore the main topic of the post, but I thought that "going HAM" was like "going whole-hog", which basically means the same thing as "going hard as a motherfucker" but now I'm confused as to where the term REALLY came from.

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