my very first cig was a drum. and i realized why people smoked. i was so fucking dizzy i had to sit down. i’ll never forget where i was(1). i was sitting on a piece of lawn outside the art building of NCC with this kid named drew. it was so fucking heady. being bad, being dizzy, being deathly rebelliously hypocritically hip. my next pack of cigarettes was marlboro menthol lights. i have NO clue what made me go menthol. i have never since smoked the menthol. in fact, there have been many, many times i have gone without a cigarette in lieu of smoking a menthol. (gag.)
i was introduced to djarum clove cigarettes. fucking yum. they act much like cigars in that if you aren’t constantly inhaling/smoking them, they have the tendency to go out on you. this isn’t really a bad thing, as they can rip the shit out of your lungs in no time flat. they are leisure cigarettes and not for a fast smoke or a regular smoke, in my opinion. not to mention, when smokes were under two bucks a pack, these were often somewheres around five. they were spendy, but worth it, as a pack of twenty would often last a month, including all the bumming of the cloves that was just BOUND to happen. their exotic and expensive nature demanded it. they have been the closest thing to calling me back to a casual relapse in recent days, saying to me, “it’s not a REAL cigarette. it’s tasty and for dessert. it doesn’t have nicotine like the others. it’s more natural. it’s hip and delicious. it’s not addictive. it’s …..” bullshit, i’m sure. it’s like saying i won’t get drunk drinking absinthe. riiiight.
anyway, i soon decided that if i was going to smoke with the boys, i was going to smoke with my boys. just like at some point i decided that when shots were called for, i was going to do tequila, marlboro reds it was for me. i truly believe that was a defining moment for me, because although i hate to break everyone down into the “there’s two kinds of people” categories, by and large there’s two kinds of regular brand cigarette kinds of people(2). marlboro and camel. and i wouldn’t necessarily believe it if it didn’t happen to me, but i believe that they put a chemical ‘brand’ right into those babies. a special brand of addiction that goes beyond the regular heroinesque addictive properties they have already created; one that says … i will only smoke your particular brand of death, phillip morris. or RJR reynolds. or whomever. call me paranoid, but i’ll take it.
cause i’ve seen it over and over again. people who are just dyed in the wool marlboroites or camelheads. it’s weird. i was the same way. camels were disgusting to me. grossout. i mean, it’s all tobacco and formaldehyde, right? how much different can it be? well, ask any smoker who even remotely buys cigs on a regular basis (even those ‘social smokers’ (3) probably buy a pack once a week), and ask them if they have a ‘brand.’ i’d hazard a guess that 95% of them do. maybe with prices getting so jacked up, some of them are willing to forego their taste buds for their wallet, but even with the prices getting crazy, i doubt many are changing it up too much. the addicted want what we want when we want it, folks.
so i went from marlboro red to marlboro light to marlboro ultra light. a girl can only poke back the wild, wild west for so long before it gets to be a little rough up in there. i don’t know when the parliaments came into my life, but it definitely was pre-the big resurgence. i want to say that WI karie brought them into the apartment vogue one summer. they were light *and* had good taste. and they had a nice package, to boot. not to mention they were cheaper than the big brands. how could i go wrong? and that’s where it stayed until 3-10-05.
by then, i had realized i wanted to quit. i had been trying unsuccessfully. quitting for a month, smoking for a month. getting so crazy and irritable that i’d announce “i’m either going to smoke or drink.” nice. of course, no one’s going to begrudge you a cigarette then, right? quit for two, reward myself at 60 days. smoke for two more. at some point, i realized i had no chance at doing this myself, and i told god that i would keep praying for him to remove this smoking thing, but that since i obviously had no power to stop on my own, i was going to keep smoking just like i wanted to. smoke, smoke, smoke. and i did.
on 3-9-05, i had a phone call with my then sponsor that didn’t go as well as i had planned. i left the office and headed down to jackson street to get a cab to lakeview to attend my tuesday night women’s meeting. i was upset, and i was going to have a cigarette before i got in the cab. i started smoking and i was immediately dizzy. at that point, i was using cigarettes just like drugs. i would wait longer so that i was sure to catch a buzz and it was fairly disturbing to me, since my goal was to live a ‘sober’ lifestyle.
the familiar dizziness came on, but grew in intensity at an alarming rate. i was soon so dizzy that i could barely stand. the beautiful alcoholic/addict i am, i swayed before the taxi stand, thinking, “i just want to finish this. i don’t want to waste my cigarette.” i couldn’t even get halfway through before i realized i might pass out if i continued. i threw the cigarette down, stumbled as i tried to step on the cherry(4), and wavered my way over to a cab. mind you, this cab was no more than ten big steps away from me, and i could barely make it. it was horrible. i looked ridiculously drunk. i got in the cab, put my stuff in, reached to close the door, and fell and missed the handle. missed the door. completely. like a total wasteoid. i’m sure the guy thought i had gotten completely blasted at lame-os, or whatever that union station bar is. i told him the address and away we went. i was completely confused. i knew i was obliterated on 1/2 a cigarette.
the next day, i was standing outside of 222 s. riverside again, waiting for my friend, jason, to go get some lunch. it was cold as hell and in the middle of this cigarette, it just came over me. i was done. period. end of story. no more cigarettes. i was going to put my lighter in the pack, we were going to walk over the bridge to wacker, i was going to see a man asking for change, and i was going to offer him my cigarettes. done deal. no more ‘i’ll quit at the end of the month’ or ‘the end of this pack’ or ‘the end of the day.’ not even the end of the cigarette. right fucking now.
i put the cigarette out. i put the lighter in the pack. i had 12 cigarettes left. the man asking for change would be happy enough for not getting money. jason came out. we walked over the bridge. sure enough, there was a man. there was sometimes, there wasn’t others. but there was this day. because there was supposed to be. because god was doing for me what i couldn’t do for myself. and that was that. and i had no cravings and i had no urges and it didn’t smell good for quite some time. i continued to pray about it every day for quite some time, too. i’ve fallen off it, really. i need to get back on that horse, i guess. keep me sober, away from a drink/drug…. and a cigarette. maybe that will help all those cigarettes from seeming so alluring in these days of wine and holly and glogg.
(1) it’s funny that most of my life is so void of memories, even things i try to remember, things i strain to remember. and then there are these snapshots, these absolutely crystal clear moments in my mind that are perfectly indelible, completely timeless and inextricable from my mind. some good, some bad. i just don’t get what exactly makes the cut, though.
(2) this is pre P-funk resurgence, of course … so, you can see there’s already more than two kinds of people, so stick with me. and of course, there’s the menthol lovers, the super skinny cigarette ladies, the long cig smokers (if you’re my mom, you’re a super long menthol smoker — gag, gag, gag!), there’s the handrollers, there’s the non-filters (grandma most of her life), there’s the genericos (grandma in retire-y/cheapo part of her life), there’s the foreign/spendy/trendy/hipsters, there’s the ‘i don’t care whatever’s two for one/on sale’ peeps, and the ‘i don’t really smoke/i’ve quit/i just need one to tide me over’ people who will fucking bum you to death if you let them.
(3) i put it in quotes not really to mock. i was a ‘social smoker’ for a long time. and i really wasn’t addicted. i believe that to be true. i didn’t have withdrawl symptoms when i wasn’t smoking. i wasn’t thinking about it, i wasn’t having physical need for it. it really was an ‘enhancement’ to other activities like drinking and smoking pot and hanging out with friends. but much like AA literature talks about how there are alcoholics who have drunk themselves over an invisible line, i truly did this with smoking. after i got sober and found out there was but one ‘legal’ buzz available to me, i smoked myself silly. and i got to the point where when i wanted to quit, i couldn’t. i become powerless over something else. motherfucker. it sucked. i started thinking about it with the reasons i gave in my head why i *wasn’t* an alcoholic … i didn’t smoke alone, i didn’t smoke in the morning, i didn’t smoke at work …. uh-oh. we all know how that drinking thing turned out. at some point, i had to realize i was beaten before it could get better. same old story, really. but, i say this only to say i really was a ‘social smoker’ and at some point that spiralled out of control. sucks. i believe in the idea of the social smoker, i just am fearful of the power of the shit they put in the smokes -and- the reasons why people come to rely on them.
(4) i’m so weird about putting cigs out. even in an urban environment, where i’ve lived for nearly all my adult life, i am insistent about stepping on my cigarettes and making sure they’re out. which is fucked up when you think about the fact that i’m NOT worried about the fact that i’m littering. gah.