I need to stop smoking. I know, I know, you didn't know I did. I shouldn't smoke, I know I shouldn't. And I don't, not really. Except in periods of extreme stress. Like graduate school. Or the past few months this summer.

My husband smokes. It's one of the things that drew us together when we first met. The danger. The excitement. The illicitness. The fact that we did this thing that not everybody else did. Except this was Wales, and actually quite a few of our friends smoked. Roll-ups only, of course. Nobody smoked filters.

My husband still rolls his own, even after all these years. They taste better. And burn slower. None of those incendiary additives they put in filter cigarettes to make them burn faster so that you'll light up more. I used to be able to roll my own, back when we were living in Wales and I was working on my dissertation, but I'm out of practice, so my husband has been rolling cigarettes for me these past few months. He even makes a few extra for me in the mornings so that I have cigarettes while he's at work.

I like smoking with him. It's companionable, sharing a smoke. The nicotine goes in and you feel calmer, better able to stay in the moment. It takes us outside (my husband never smokes in the house*, not even in the dead of winter when it's below zero Fahrenheit and there's snow covering the porch). It gives us a pause when we're in the middle of an argument, after sex, when we first get up in the morning, at the end of the work day. Time together to reflect and commune. Time together that we might not otherwise take.

As we haven't been, all these years while he's been smoking and I haven't, when he goes out on the porch by himself and I stay inside because it's cold or the mosquitoes are biting. Not that I couldn't join him anyway with a cup of tea, but it's not really the same. I'm going to miss it. I have missed it. I wish that I didn't have to quit.

I stopped smoking fifteen years ago when we were trying to get me pregnant with our son. I remember that week well.** It was summer, like now, but hot, record levels, hotter than it's been any summer since we moved here. People were dying of the heat. And I was trying to work in the library where it was air-conditioned all the while jonesing for a cigarette. I'd been smoking pretty hard for about five years, and the withdrawal did more than make me anxious. It hurt. Physically. I remember that feeling well, too, because I'm having it now.

I don't like this feeling. You can feel your synapses crying out for relief. "Give us what we need to work again, you're killing us!" And all your muscles ache and your every nerve throbs. You have only a pinhole's worth of concentration. And heaven forbid anything makes you the least bit anxious. Like driving in Chicago traffic.

I was driving around Chicago all day yesterday, and I didn't have my care-package cigarettes that my husband had made for me because I didn't feel comfortable smoking anywhere that I was going to be. It was quite a trip. Everything vivid and urgent, me cautious lest I upset anyone and not be able to cope with the fall-out. And the anxiety, oh my. Except that there were also moments of calm, like when I was sitting in Starbucks with my iPad and the free WiFi surfing for blouses. Or when I was in the department store dressing room trying the new blouses on. I need to remember this for when I stop smoking next week and start feeling anxious: do something that helps me feel calm.

Except, of course, that's why I started smoking in the first place: it makes me feel calm. Maybe it's the breathing. Maybe it's the time it takes to step outside, watch my husband make the cigarette and light up. Maybe, okay, very definitely, it's the nicotine. But it works. At least for the moment when you're having the cigarette. And for some moments, sometimes even hours after that. Until your synapses get stressed and need that cigarette again to help them de-stress.

But it's time. Yesterday taught me that. I had hoped that maybe if I kept myself to only a few cigarettes a day (5 or 6, sometimes 7) I would be okay, not get fully addicted again, but I was kidding myself, I know. It's just that back in May when I was first fighting the Balrog, smoking really, really helped me get through the conversations my husband and I had to have. But now I'm just doing it because I like it, so I need to stop. I do. I know I do. Just not today.

I wish my husband would get up, I need a cigarette.

*As you know, we live in an apartment, not a house, but the phrase doesn't work with an apartment: "He doesn't smoke in the apartment." But he does in the foyer?
*The week I was stopping smoking, I mean, not the other one. Okay, you caught me, I remember that one, too! We were young, well, young enough. It only took a month.


  1. You could always try these...


  2. LOL! The problem is actually the nicotine, though. I tried the gum back when I first moved to Chicago, but it really doesn't help. You just get addicted to the gum. Plus, it gives you a really strong hit of nicotine, worse than with a cigarette. Alas, the only real solution is cold turkey. Prepare to be inundated with blog posts next week--my other addiction!


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