November 23, 2008

On quitting

I am by nature somewhat anxious. I agonize over important decisions, and unimportant ones. I worry about stupid things I said or did. Or things I haven’t done yet. I have trouble sleeping. Etc.

Stress management literature suggests various behaviors to help deal with these feelings of anxiety – deep breaths, calling a friend, going for a walk. Since none of these suggestions have been AT ALL effective for me, I once asked a friend for his suggestions. He answered: drink, smoke and eat. Heh. I can do that!

But as I’ve gotten older, the appeal of drinking has begun to wane (somewhat). And I found that I genuinely enjoy eating healthy, mostly natural foods in smaller quantities. So that just leaves smoking.

And sweet Jesus, do I love smoking.

I love that it distracts me, that it gives me something to do with my hands, that it soothes me, that it breaks up every work day with a much-needed excuse to step away from my desk. I love the aura of danger and reckless self-neglect and frank stupidity that surrounds it. I love lighters and ashtrays and the way a cigarette looks between my fingers. I love the way smoke curls up from my hand and my lips. And the tingling warmth that spreads through me when I take that first drag in the morning.

But as much as I love smoking, it doesn’t love me back. When I started smoking, cigarettes were less than $3 a pack. Not anymore. A $7 pack a day is a staggeringly beautiful skein of yarn in the first week. It’s a hot pair of boots in the first month. It’s a tropical vacation at the end of a year.

And quitting smoking means I probably won’t get bronchitis twice a year. It means I won't have to huddle outside on a frigid day, clutching a cigarette between numb fingers. The constant smoker's hack will dissipate. If I quit now I probably won’t get what I – charmingly – refer to as “puckery butt mouth.” It means the backs of my teeth won’t be stained brown within weeks of each dentist visit. My sense of taste and smell will improve (imagine if bacon could taste EVEN BETTER!!).

And most importantly, it means I’m much less likely to get cancer and die.

So for all these reasons, I am quitting. My quit date is January 8, 2009.

Wish me luck.