Monday, March 21, 2005

ad·dic·tion n. Habitual psychological and physiological dependence on a substance or practice beyond one's voluntary control.

I officially quit smoking on September 6, 2003. My profile on Quitnet (username “newlife24”) says that I’ve been smoke free for 562 days, 15 hours, 46 minutes and 5 seconds, have NOT smoked 8440 cigarettes, have saved 2 months, 4 days and 11 hours of my life and $1,686.00. 562 days might be a little bit of a stretch. Okay, 365 days is a little bit of a stretch. To be honest, I really have no idea how successful I’ve been, and can practically see the head shaking and hear the “tsk-tsks” of a number of people reading this on day 6 of a quitting process that has started more than once. (Allegedly, the average is 7 attempts before a successful quit and women have a harder time with it than men. Little bit of trivia for you. I’ve done my homework.)

Cardinal rule of addiction: you are always and forever an addict. Smoking cessation promotions are careful to make the distinction between a “slip” and a “relapse” so that you don’t feel like a failure if you break and have a cigarette one day. The way to ensure a full relapse is to feel like a failure. Ultimately, though – realistically - you can never do it again. Never. Ever. Once an addict, always an addict.

The non-addicts say this: “Don’t you remember how good it felt to be a nonsmoker?” Yes. Breathing was a good thing. Not smelling like an ashtray was a good thing. Tasting food was a good thing. It’s the addiction makes you forget, just a little at a time. It starts around your second drink, when you start thinking about how good it would feel to just have one cigarette. People at parties start to edge away when they see you coming in order to avoid the expense of supporting two people’s habits. Recognizing the pain in the ass you’re being, you buy a pack so that you won’t have to bum from other people. You wake up the next morning knowing that a cigarette will help your hangover. You’ve had a hard day at work. You’ve had a really good, filling meal. You don’t want to just throw them away. Complete addiction is when it starts to feel really good. You love how powerful you feel walking down the street, how safe. You hold fire in your hand. You stare death in the face with every inhale, every exhale. You are unstoppable. Powerful. Invincible. A total addict.

Once you’re addicted to a substance, it’s hard to get used to hearing people talk about addiction as a positive thing. Even if that last phase of addiction is the most insane (at least with regard to the stuff that will kill you), it’s certainly also the most gratifying. It’s the rush, the power, the part that causes people to invent addictions for themselves just so they can characterize how compulsive they are about something. I’ve been thinking a lot about other things that also produce that effect without carrying the label of addiction: weight loss was a big one for awhile; running is a new one; going out on a good date; a really good, stimulating conversation with a friend; the first bite of a meal you’ve slaved over, etc. Not really addictions, though. No taboo. No knowledge that it has to stop. No obstructing the knowledge that it has to stop. Even though those are the behaviors most advantageous to change, it turns out they’re also the most difficult to identify, come to terms with, and eliminate.

But look, just talked myself through another craving. ;)


Charles said...

Pimpin' ain't easy, and neither is quitting.

But whenever I slave over a meal, my food tastes like ash. And that's not a tribute to my cooking skillz.

And lastly, I crave cigarettes all the time. All the time.

Xtine said...

nice work maria. looks like it came together just fine.