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Spinning Heads

Today I am not smoking. That's premature. This minute, I am not smoking. I figure my blood pressure is probably close to normal because on any other given morning I would have had at least 4 cigarettes by now. One when I first get up, with my coffee, another before I wake the kids up, another after the kids eat breakfast and go upstairs to get ready, another after they leave for school. This morning, I have had none.

Over the last 16 years, I've probably tried to quit smoking 20 times or more. Using various interventions. Well, the only physical intervention I used was the patch, but I've played lots of mental games to try to quit. I've cut back, smoking only on the weekends, only when I drink, limiting myself to a certain number of cigarettes a day, not smoking in front of the kids, etc. etc. etc. Since I'm writing this, it's needless to say none of those approaches have been successful.

Pregnancy worked once. It made me sick to smoke when I was pregnant with Chloe, so I stopped easily. With Peyton, it did not make me sick. I cut back but didn't quit. Before I got pregnant with Lily, I had quit smoking for 6 months. The stress of the surprise pregnancy led me to start smoking again. Ashamed. Hiding it. But smoking. What kind of monster smokes when she's pregnant? Only a horrible, horrible person, right? I don't think I'm a monster or a horrible person. I love my children with every ounce of my being. I smoked when I was pregnant. How do you reconcile that?

I am very honest with myself. I no longer say, "I could quit whenever I want. I just choose to smoke. I enjoy it. It helps me relax." That may be true for any number of "social smokers;" I am a full-blown addict. As I sit here writing, my brain is saying, "You could have just one cigarette..." I imagine this must be what it's like for all addicts. Lured by a needle, a line, a bottle, or in my case a cigarette.

The last time I tried to quit, I read a book, because that's what I do. Most crises in my life drive me not to church or to a bar but straight to the library. Anyway, the book talk-therapied you through the quitting process. Examined all the bad things about smoking, reminding smokers that those "good things" are just a trap to keep you addicted. All true. All good points. I didn't smoke for several days and decided that I'd overcome my addiction to nicotine and would reward myself with a cigarette. Really? Addicts everywhere just laughed at me, with me, whatever.

My kids have given up on me. They used to beg me to quit, come home after anti-smoking programs at school begging me to quit, fearful that I was going to die. Several years ago, Chloe left a butterfly-shaped post-it on my steering wheel that said, "You have a beautiful heart but black lungs." It hurt my heart. I hung it in the kitchen among other motivational quotes and notes and continued to smoke. Feeling ever more guilty about it. It still hangs there. I still smoke. And every time I see it, it stabs me in the heart.

People talk about how they just quit. My best friend just quit. Brad's grandma just quit. Lots of people you ask, "How did you quit?" Their response is, "I just quit." No intervention. Brad is talking about getting Chantix, but he said he didn't want me to take it because of reports that some people have developed suicidal thoughts while taking it. That simultaneously pissed me off and made me feel very cherished. I would hate to think I'd kill myself over a cigarette, but I understand his concern. Sometimes things get blown out of proportion in my world.

So I'm writing this, thinking I'll have a cigarette when I'm done. Just one before Lily wakes up. That will be okay. No, it's not okay. The talk therapy book stressed that once you make the decision to quit, you can never have just one cigarette. Never. Ever. Makes sense. Alcoholics can't have just one drink. They don't quit being alcoholics and become social drinkers.

Still it makes my head spin like when I was a little girl in Catechism. The teacher spoke of eternity: If you're good children, you spend eternity with God in paradise. That scared me, not God or paradise, but eternity. Going on and on and on and on without end.

Never. Ever. Smoking. Again. Makes my head spin.


  1. You describe it so well....that scariness of swearing something off forever, suddenly illuminating the power of "just for this moment..."


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