Thursday, November 08, 2007

I kicked the habit

Well, well, well.
Today is my one year smobriety anniversary. I should reflect.

Cigarettes were, and likely always will be, a symbol of cool, a badge of honor, a secret handshake. Cigarettes, in my world, were a way to flout the nerdly expectations of my peers, parents and teachers. I never wore the mantle of "high-achiever" well, believing it to be improperly assigned and not wanting the pressure of it, anyway. Which isn't to say that I didn't want to be smart. I just didn't want to be punished for imperfection. Cigarettes were also a way to exude a disaffected, wry cool that I wanted very much to give off. I blame Ethan Hawke and Winona Ryder in Reality Bites and Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction for this, at least in some measure.

For a long time, smoking was a bridge between worlds. The world of the goody two-shoes and the bad kids, and it symbolized my need and ability to straddle both. (I was an aspiring rock musician, after all.) And for a long time I was willing to overlook the negative consequences of smoking in order to maintain that dichotomy.

I suppose over the last eighteen months I've realized the uselessness and fallacy of that dichotomy. There is nothing glamorous about being stinky or coughing up a lung, and when my blood pressure hit hypertension levels, I knew that I could no longer be two people in the same body. As much as it's funny to be the vegetarian, yogini smoker, it doesn't necessarily feel good.

After a year of 100% tee-totaling (except for the two drags in the first week or so of quitting), I've realized a new identity. One in which I don't rely on smoking as a secret handshake or cause for continued relationships with people, or as a symbol or entree to social acceptance. It's good not to have such a little thing exercising a lot of control over me.

I used to think that I could quit and then smoke occasionally. I have done that several times before. But I also know that I love the act of smoking. I blow a mean smoke ring. People tease me about how thoroughly I pack my cigarettes. In college, to stay in comportment with my enviro leanings, I carried a pocket ashtray so I would properly dispose of my butts. The identity piece, the feeling of smoking in the rain on a porch, having a smoke with coffee or with friends for old time's sake-- I'm not sure if the pull of these things will be too strong for me to overcome, should I ever allow a single puff. I don't think I want to tempt fate now.

So I'll probably be posting about my second anniversary in a year.

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