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What happens when you finish smoking…

You go insane. Think of the most unstable moment in your life, one where you have felt an ungodly level of stress, fear, and anxiety. Maybe you had to deliver a presentation to your department with your boss watching you only to later find out that your job is on the line and this presentation might save or destroy it. Yeah. Multiply that times 1000 and you have what it feels like to stop smoking and what I’ve been experiencing for the past three weeks.

I started my journey down the path of paper burning addiction when I was 13, stealing my Mom’s Merit Ultra Lights out of her purse. I devised a plan–after all, I had to have enough to get me through a local punk show at the Knights of Columbus! In high school, I finally managed to find a friend who was old enough to purchase my cigarettes for me at the local corner store. He took my $5.00 (yes, I’m old), bought my Kool Lights, and also took about five cigarettes as a convenience charge. I wasn’t fully addicted yet, so what did I care? My Mom (as far as I knew) never realized that I took her cigarettes and I didn’t have to go without my two smokes a day! Soon after I moved on to Newport 100s, and finally settled on my brand that would keep me company until August of 2012, Marlboro Menthol Lights.

What? You’re thinking when you look THAT bad ass, why even bother with smoking? My thoughts exactly! For those of you who don’t know, that’s me on the right–but I digress. At the beginning of this year cigarettes went over $8.50 a pack. I live on the East Coast where things are notoriously more expensive than anywhere else in the country, so I convinced myself for quite some time that being able to purchase my minty tubes of plant waste was a status symbol–like Starbucks or Versace–an addict defending her one vice. After all, I lost over 50lbs, I stopped eating crap, and I work out like a fiend six days a week. Why should I stop the one thing I enjoy having with my coffee? (Heh…) Once Keith decided to think about quitting, being the impulsive brat that I am, I decided to put them down and not pick them back up for as long as possible. That was almost a month ago and I have been the most miserable and emotionally unstable person you could possibly imagine.

Crying, shouting, swearing, are some of the verbs I would use to aptly describe my actions, where as if you ask Keith or my Mother how they would describe me, they would probably use adjectives like bitchy, rude, insane, overly sensitive, and spoiled. The best word directed at me was when I made it to the family of nouns when Keith looked at me dead in the face and called me The Devil after a nicotine induced meltdown and my Mom actually screamed back at me after enduring this behavior for the past month. They kind of managed to get me out of my own head for a bit, and I’ve tried to think before I act and let things go.

Now I had to embrace a new identity. What would I do with my best friend Kathleen who smokes two packs a day and still has the voice of an angel? What would she think? How would I deal with my Mother and Keith smoking in the house? What would I do when I drive? How will I grade my students’ papers? These any many other questions plagued my mind before I decided to stop buying cigarettes. After realizing that my best friend is still going to love me unconditionally and that my Mother and Keith just continue to treat me as normal (by still smoking in front of me), I began to quickly realize how many things annoyed me. Things like the phone ringing, people chewing loudly, dinner being over, the weather, planning ahead, and going to the bathroom became actions that would send me into a towering rage as shown in this video of Keith impersonating me:

Three weeks later I can say that the mood swings have died down a bit–I’m down to one every other day now, and I have more money than I know what to do with (so I’ve been spending it on books, office supplies, and athletic wear). I also paid for my half of me and Keith’s vacation trip with the money I saved from not smoking so far (over 150.00 already!) I like money and I like positive reinforcement, so Keith has been rewarding me with small presents for milestones and my parents have rewarded me by not kicking me and my incense (the smell calms me) out of the house. In less than 72 hours I make my way back to work and my last semester of coursework for my graduate studies. Between teaching and completing my own schoolwork I could easily blow through two packs a day mindlessly (Hello, 17.00 in a day!!) and happily. So, with three weeks under my belt, I don’t want to screw up–I’m an overachiever. That being said, I don’t care if people smoke around me or in front of me. I can’t expect people to cater to my needs and I’ve realized that not everyone smoking is happier, sexier, and definitely not richer than I am for now. Will I smoke again? I have no idea because I eventually want to have children. Will I become one of those people who can have one a year and be done? Maybe–but for now I’m focusing on the present and what I’ve learned in the past three weeks about myself as a person, and how you can’t treat others poorly because you are unhappy with your own decisions. So without further ado, to quote the great David Sedaris, who wrote an awesome article called Letting Go which is about ridding ourselves of habits, I have “finished” smoking.

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6 Responses to “What happens when you finish smoking…”

  1. Justin says:

    Hmmm… so you got all bitchy without the cigarettes? I feel like that’s normal. I was gonna say “the withdrawal symptoms should die down eventually” but clearly you’ve already learned that. Good for you for trying to change your habits (even if your reasons were a little random… lol). Having extra money is a great thing! :) My sister quit smoking when she had a kid because she didn’t want him breathing it in. I had to be around her “new personality” for a while and it was torture! Haha

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  2. Holly says:

    Yay for stopping smoking! :)

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  3. Joyce says:

    Congrats on being done with Grad school soon! It’s a huge accomplishment as well as quitting smoking. I don’t smoke either but I know people who do..I can only imagine the addiction and cravings – sounds serious. You go girl! :)

    Joyce @ carouselstreet.com

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  4. Deanna says:

    I’m so proud of you for quitting even though it sounds really terrible. I’m disappointed in Keith though, because you said it was he he started with the idea and he never followed through. But maybe it’s better that you two didn’t do it at the same time. Can you imagine if he was as irritable as you are right now? You two would rip each other’s heads off! You can help him quit after you finish the withdrawal yourself.

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  5. Grysh says:

    I didn’t know that people would have tantrums for not being able to smoke. I’ve been trying to get my boyfriend (or rather, girlfriend since I’ma bi; but she said she’d rather I call her a boyfriend) to stop smoking but it is so hard to do so. When I tell her to stop she calls me a control freak. -_- Glad you’re finally out of the smoking zone!

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  6. Blaze says:

    Congrats on quitting smoking! That’s tough to do for many people… my mom has tried to quit numerous times, all were failed attempts because something always lured her back to do it. Either that or stress caused her to go back. Glad you’ve quit, I’m on my way to completely quitting myself!

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