Fighting the good fight [by Patrick Ronan]
At about 1:30 a.m. this past Saturday morning, I succumbed to a higher power. A greater force that has complete and utter control of my life.
It had been 4 ½ weeks since my last cigarette. Dec. 7. That was my last drag of a Camel Lite before I tossed and turned in my bed for three hours. I couldn’t sleep. Was it because it of Pearl Harbor Day?
Unfortunately, when I think of Pearl Harbor, I think of Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett. I’ve only lost sleep over those two guys once or twice in my life, but it wasn’t on Dec. 7, 2008.
I lost sleep because I needed to quit smoking. I’m 24 years old and I’m killing myself with a habit. An expensive fucking habit.
So I quit. The first week wasn’t terrible. Joined a gym. Started running on the treadmill. Started eating better.
As Week 2 of not-smoking approached, I became very tempted to buy a pack. So I fought the urge and bought a nicotine patch (also expensive). The patch helped me tremendously. Lost the urges. Lost the mood swings. Still running on the treadmill. Still feeling pretty healthy.
My two-week cycle of the patch ended two Fridays ago, Dec. 26. Suprisingly, coming off the patch wasn’t too bad at first.
Then this past Friday night came. I was well beyond four weeks of not smoking. Truthfully, I had just six ciggs over those 4 ½ weeks. Mind you, all were smoked when I was at a bar. No coincidence. There was alcohol involved. More on alcohol later. But still, six ciggs in a month was pretty damn good. When I used to smoke, sometimes I’d have six ciggs before I went to work. Six in four weeks. I could live with that number. As long as I didn’t buy a pack … it was all good!
Anyway, back to Friday night. There was a perfect storm of elements that led to the purchase of 20 Camel Lite cigarettes. Some would call them excuses. I call them elements.
I had commute to work in Pittsfield two days in a row. That’s about an hour round-trip, two days in a row. Doesn’t seem all that bad, and it’s not. But if you’re used to smoking in the car, an hour is a long damn car ride.
Then factor in I was working layout duties at The Berkshire Eagle. Laying out a newspaper is a lot different than writing for a newspaper. Page design is a marathon. Writing is, most of the times, a sprint. That’s why most journalists write one, maybe, two stories a day. The writing of the story doesn’t take up the entire eight-hour shift. There are much-needed breaks for mental rest in between the writing.
You can take a physical break from layout, but there’s really no mental break. You’re still on deadline. The newspaper is printed even if you don’t finish your story. However, the paper does not go out if you don’t finish your layout. It’s a whole different type of pressure. The kind that gets you craving a cigarette.
So I caved. Like the Patriots in last year’s Super Bowl, I crumbled. Choked.
While I am definitely hating myself for buying the pack of ciggs and chain-smoking the whole ride from Pittsfield to North Adams, I have since forgiven myself.
It’s a habit in every sense of the word. Once your body stops craving the nicotine, it’s just the routine of smoking that’s the toughest to combat. Driving. Enjoying a coffee. After eating. While drinking alchohol. It’s about fighting those urges to supplement your boring daily routine with a little stick of nicotine, which provides the neccessary “high” to engulf the boring moments with a thick cloud of smoke.
For me, it’s this simple. Cigarettes make you feel alive when you’re fealing dead. Not literally dead; your heart is still beating and you’re breathing. But in the repiticious cycle that is life, there are little lulls that cause an extreme sense of non-living. You could call it depression, but that’s a bit too clinical for me. We shouldn’t name our feelings. That’s how people end up feeling worse, because they’re diagnosed. Labeled.
Life is about feeling alive.
Some people turn to lifting weights. Some people turn to shopping. Some people turn to gambling. A lot of people turn to alchohol. Most every adult is guilty of that in some respects. But my vice, along with millions of others in this country, is cigarettes. The most infamous killer. The Taliban has killed loads of Americans. They’re evil! But cigarettes, they kill a shitload of people every single day. But they can also be bought at every corner store or grocery market. You know, the same place we buy our food and groceries.
Odd, isn’t it?
But it’s just a habit, plain and simple. A habit that can kill me. Thousands upon thousands of people die every year from cancer. People also die from car crashes, drowning, falling down the stairs, gun wounds and bombs. I can live with this habit. For now, at least.
Special Buntology contributor Patrick Ronan is sharing his experiences with cigarette addiction and the ongoing struggle to kick the habit.