In recognition of National Quitting Smoking week, two of Huffpost's young contributors, Miranda Frum and Daniel Alexandre Portoraro, have volunteered to quit smoking and keep a daily journal about it. Readers: Support them! And please share your own struggles about trying to kick an addiction, whether it was cigarettes or anything else. You can read the first entry here.
It's the most perfect addiction [...] if you aren't hungry it will give you an appetite. If you are hungry and there isn't any food in the immediate future, you can dull your hunger pains. It wakes you up if you are tired. It makes you sleepy if you're not tired; it helps you go to bed [...] It's the little glowing friend that never lets you down. Actually come to think of it, I can't think why I gave the shit up! But you have to because all the time it's being your best friend, it's being your worst enemy. -Christopher Hitchens on CBC's The Hour, May 12, 2009.
I wake up at 8 a.m., and under the advice of a model who told me "the less time you spend awake, the less time you have to eat," went back to sleep for another hour. So at 9 a.m., I forced myself not to reach for the pack, which didn't seem so difficult to do.
However, by 11 a.m., and after finishing a coffee that felt it was missing something, I realize I haven't really read anything. Not the Huffington Post, nor the New York Times. Not even Facebook or Twitter! I mean, yes, I had been to those sites, but reading the page was akin to reading a language one only had a rudimentary, if not laughable, knowledge of.
When a celebrity attempts to write a book, he often engages the services of a ghostwriter, id est, someone with a better control of the language than him. The reason being is that while the celebrity knows what to say, he's not sure about how to say it. That's what a cigarette is like for a smoker -- but for everything; he's like a ghostwriter you never realize is there, but once he's gone, you do.
By noon, I began to write one of the three speeches I would have to deliver at my debate society that evening. I was drawing a blank. I knew it was because I hadn't had a cigarette, but wasn't willing to give in just yet, so I pushed on ahead. And by pushed on, I mean poked at the topic the same way one pokes a stranger on the bus whose head is on your shoulder -- meekly, and half-heartedly.
Three speeches and I knew each one had to be good. Yet, I knew that none would be if I didn't have that goddamned cigarette in my mouth, inhaling the nicotine, feeling it run through my veins. Quit cold turkey? Ha! I was the turkey here; clumsy and inept. Not to mention a slave to that white tube crowned with cork.
So I gave in. Poof! Done! Failed! I had that cigarette and suddenly my nerves eased, and things became easier. I had the second. Again! Same thing. Work became suddenly easier to do, and before I knew it, I was at the store buying a new pack (I only had about five cigarettes left in the last one). Sad? Yes. Weak? I could see why. But could I put myself in that situation at the risk of work at hand? Absolutely not.
Yes, a cigarette is a crutch, as the cliche goes. If you've smoked, you'll know this. If you haven't, then it's a bit more difficult to understand why you see those people in the office fidgeting in their chairs when their pack's empty and it's cold outside and the store is five blocks away.
When you start to smoke, you have something that's being introduced to your body. As you continue to smoke, you become used to that thing in your body, and as trite as it sounds, it's as much a part of you as the blood running through your veins is.
Quitting smoking is like breaking up with a lousy girlfriend who you've been dating for a long, long time. Sure she hurts you at times, she puts you in a bad mood, she's not always at hand when she ought to be. But it doesn't matter, because like with everything, once enough time elapses, a dependency is formed.
And when one breaks up with a girlfriend, what often stops him? At times, he'll look about the room and find souvenirs of happier times. A photograph, maybe. Or a tie. Or maybe just the apartment, and the idea that she'll no longer be there will be so hard to accept.
Again, it may sound trite, but it's a similar thing for a smoker. A ritual is gone: no more conversations on the phone, no more cigarette breaks. No more trips to the store, no more dates. No more cigarette cases (archaic as they may be), or engraved Zippo lighters (always a nice thing to have); these are things one is no longer allowed to truly have (yes you can keep them, but the use is gone) when one leaves a relationship.
Think about a man who can no longer drink. What will happen to his beautiful collection of glassware? Those tumblers, highballs, cocktail glasses, champagne flutes; they're no longer his because he can't use them. They suddenly become the property of people he might have over, like those ashtrays a non-smoker so proudly bought and cleaned and placed in the center of the living room coffee table.
"All the time it's being your best friend, it's being your worst enemy." Surely that's not such a hard notion to grasp? But it's one that much harder to let go. Tomorrow, I have fewer excuses. And tomorrow, I won't be as ambitious in trying to go dry immediately.
Follow Daniel Alexandre Portoraro on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dportoraro