Essay

Wherein I Bid Adieu to Le Fraternité de Fumée

A look back at why I started smoking as a teen, and why my latest attempt to quit feels like the goodbye I've wanted to say to the habit for a while.

Don OfficeI’m a smoker. I admit that even though it’s been a week since my last smoke as of writing, all addiction is the same. I think I’ll have to always identify myself as a smoker, even if I someday start counting by years or even decades since my last one.

It’s an insidious thing how a means of escape from crowded parties and bars, or a break from work went from occasional crutch to outright addiction. I went out for beers with a friend last night, and my still recovering brain is trying to convince me that having my first cigarette in a week would alleviate the ache I’m currently experiencing. I am telling myself, both in my mind and here in this post that my brain is lying.

The “why I quit smoking” piece is a fairly common one, and it’s been done very well before (especially here). Since I’m loathe to add to the litany of them, I think there’s more value in me looking back with honesty about why I started smoking and kept smoking for so long.

Pete SmokingI know the health risks- I knew about them when I lit the first one more than a decade ago. I know the social stigma and all that.

A few weeks ago, I was given a hard line prompt to quit, and (because it came from a gorgeous girl I really liked) I agreed. I stayed clean all of two weeks- a week longer than she and I lasted- and eventually fell off the wagon on a drunken night.

Two weeks later/one week ago, I decided to quit again. I’d used the excuse that the woman who I promised to quit for wasn’t around anymore, so might as well smoke ’em. However, I admitted to and admonished myself: I agree with her. I already had, and I still do. That’s why I agreed to quit when she asked.

I didn’t agree to quit because she convinced me, I agreed because she asked. I was waiting for someone to ask rather than say “it’d be nice if you quit.”

Then when I got back on the stuff, I realized and admitted that I’d wanted to quit all along, so don’t let your brain trick you back into this.

Isn’t the cliche that people start smoking to fit in? Or look cool?

Don HotelI’ve never gotten that. I was neither “brought in” to the club by anyone, nor did I make myself known once I let myself in. When I first started smoking, it was to escape for five minutes if I was feeling anxious or depressed and calm my nerves. I smoked through two years of high school at a tight knit boarding school and only one fellow student ever learned of my habit before we all graduated.

If I needed to run away, I had a socially acceptable life raft in excusing myself for a smoke. If I felt like running away, the cigarette had an implicit timer on it. Once the fuse ran out, it was time to take a deep breath of cleaner air, and go back in.

A lot of smokers wax poetic about la fraternité de fumée, the refuge among fellow self-inflicted outcasts standing outside of bars and clubs, in a club all their own. That’s never been it for me. I generally preferred to be alone when smoking, and considered it a wasted cigarette if it was spent in the company of others. It’s why so few friends ever knew about the decade long habit.

If there’s any one thing every smoker shares, it’s a form of the death wish that Mad Men points out in its very first episode. However, it’s not a wish; it’s an awareness, a consciousness.

Betty ShotgunIt’s: “We’re all all going to die no matter how healthy we are, so why not enjoy the march to the inevitable?” Smoking is a “sexy” way to advertise your acceptance/enlightenment with regards to that inevitability. More than that, it’s a way to welcome it ever faster- a slow drip suicide.

That’s not me. It’s not who I am anymore, and it’s not who I want to be. I’m not the most well balanced, cheery, optimist- far from- but I have things I want to stick around for. I have work I want to get done. I have things I want to experience and I want to be healthy and present for them. I’m not the guy who wants or needs to escape and talk himself down while breathing in poison anymore. I want to be present.

Effective a week ago at the time of writing, I tendered my resignation from Le Fraternité de Fumée. I have other places to be, and I plan on being there for a while.

I’m grateful for being asked to leave that club.

Don Meditating.gif

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s