I started when I was 14 out of pure teenage curiosity. One cigarette “every now and then” surely progressed into social smoking when I started art school, where I would bum cigs of my friends at parties. After a long stint of not smoking due to the protest from my boyfriend at the time, I started buying packs. I was 18 and old enough to know better.
Smoking really became this wonderful, curious treasure when I backpacked around Europe. Not only did the cigarettes make me look elusive and cool, but they felt amazing and they calmed my nerves. In the mornings I would wake up and need one, followed by a couple more after breakfast, one during lunch, and about 10 at night. I needed one right before I fell asleep. I knew this was becoming a problem I no longer could control. And now, I’ve quit about a hundred times, and hundred times I can’t do it. I just…can’t
With all the media hype and logical science telling me that smoking will kill me, why do I do it? Why do I so stubbornly insist on shortening my life? One excuse could be that I’m addicted. The other is that I simply like it – I like the way I look, I like the way I feel, and I especially love that quick, euphoric high after the first drag. People that I admire smoke: Lady Gaga smokes Marlboro Golds, Christopher Hitchens smoked extensively – albeit killing him in the end – Hunter Thompson, Audrey Hepburn – all these glamorous people indulged in this habit.
I think part of the desire is my love for the vintage past: the hippy sixties of free love and scandalous rock and roll; these were the times I should have been alive in.
In the mean time I need to find out what’s going on with my body – why can’t I just stop? The NHS website says that nicotine effects the balance of noradrenaline and dopamine in the brain, causing an immediate head rush that gives that wonderful high. When you quit smoking, the loss of nicotine changes the levels again making you anxious and irritable. Some research says nicotine is more addictive than heroin. This is starting to make sense.
As I’m writing this, I want one. I want to pop outside for a minute, to take some time to collect my ever racing thoughts and relax. Smoking became such a lovely companion on my trip when writing, and those memories I cherish through the love of the cancer stick.
If I’m honest; I don’t like the way I feel or look. I look tired, my skin appears grey and dull, my breath is stale and my mouth feels like I’ve been licking cement. I’d love to be able to enjoy just one every now and then, but it’s becoming pretty obvious that that’s simply not the case.
So I’ll stop. I need to. And I need your support, whoever might be reading this. The idea that I might die at 50 or 60 terrifies me.