Friday, February 13, 2009

Day X

No Smoking LogoYears ago, I heard about the following interview with Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. When Simone was asked what the most important thing in her life was, her reply was a gushy, "Oh, Jean-Paul!" Asked the same question, Jean-Paul replied, "Cigarettes." While I've never checked to see if this story was apocryphal – and I suspect its intent was a dig at Beauvoir – like all myths this story holds a grain of indelible truth: if you're a smoker, smoking is the most important thing in your life.

Quitting SmokingThere are tons of resources and methods to help smokers quit. People use nicotine gum, patches, sprays and lozenges, hypnosis, acupuncture, massage, yoga, Chantix, Wellbutrin, cinnamon toothpicks and Panda licorice. Smoking cessation classes are regularly held around town, or your job might have smoking cessation resources as part of its Employee Assistance Program. Online, there are sites from organizations such as MedLinePlus and Smoking with useful tips and information. I found the site to be the most useful, especially Joel's Library. What the site lacks in polish and funding, it makes up with the most thorough post-smoking FAQ I've ever seen.

If you're in the unhappy circumstance of being around a quitting smoker, please keep in mind that the person is not only withdrawing from an incredibly potent drug, but he or she is also going through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. For those of you never-smokers out there, try this experiment: skip a teeth-brushing or a meal every day for several days, and observe how that gap in your routine consumes the rest of your attention.

Still Life with WoodpeckerLike the bittersweet end of long-term relationships, I can't help but sink into sentimentality when I think about cigarettes. The Commander-in-Chief may still be a smoker, and I agree that now would be a horrible time for him to quit. The late Joe Strummer proclaimed that “Nonsmokers should be banned from buying any product a smoker created,” which would encompass just about all our art, music, literature and film. But the most poignant paean to smoking I've read:

"Three of the four elements are shared by all creatures, but fire was a gift to humans alone. Smoking cigarettes is as intimate as we can become with fire without immediate excruciation. Every smoker is an embodiment of Prometheus, stealing fire from the gods and bringing it on back home. We smoke to capture the power of the sun, to pacify Hell, to identify with the primordial spark, to feed on the marrow of the volcano. It's not the tobacco we're after but the fire. When we smoke, we are performing a version of the fire dance, a ritual as ancient as lightning."

Editor's note: the Author is on Day 21 of Cold Turkey Quitting.


E-Rock said...

What stage are you in?

am@main said...

E-Rock, everytime I think I've hit 5, I usually cycle through the other 4. Especially "Bargaining".

Anonymous said...

When I quit several years ago, my mind tried to play tricks on me. The little voice in my head said, "You've been smoke free for three weeks now. You could just have one..." Bargaining.