I used to adore smoking. Not the partaking of a joint or anything like that, just smoking normal, tobacco-filled cigarettes. There, I’ve said the ‘S’ word now and I don’t care: if anyone wishes to rain fire and brimstone down upon me because I dare to mention such a social travesty in our health-conscious, non-culture of the 21st century ‘Tweenies’, then feel free to cast your misjudged, self-righteous indignation my way, for I can take it! I’m neither embarrassed about nor regretful for the many years my body suffered at the hands of nicotine, tar and the many assorted chemical ills within each cigarette I interned. Those little alabaster sticks of addiction, whether machine-crafted products of Capitalism or hand-rolled creations of artistic genius, merit a far greater acknowledgement for shaping our collective Western culturalization than their currently-held disdain belies (for another in-depth analysis on another day, though).
During the 15 or so years I spent time inhaling carbon monoxide and exhaling (mostly) carbon dioxide, my life was governed by smoking, day in and day out and regardless of money, health or common sense, not much could come between my fags. I’d awaken each morning feeling like Death had been cheated for just one more day and immediately reach for my packet of cigarettes, sparking up a tab before I’d even managed to grotch up the phlegm from last night’s tarring session. It was always this very first breath in, with the smoke snaking around my stained fingers, coiling up my dehydrated nostrils and biting at my sleep-deprived eyes, which instantly quietened the craving voices in my head and flushed my system with an extremities-chilling burst of adrenaline that kick-started my day off. Then, across the hours of daylight and night time, I would ingest on average between 20 and 30 cigarettes – which could fluctuate wildly due to stressing out or out socialising – and I’d eventually crawl into bed, still reeking from stale tobacco regardless of how much bathing had been undertaken.
Drifting off to sleep may have taken some time due to my brain yearning for yet another fag, then I’d personally have to endure the slow settling of the gelatinous slops that had built-up inside my chest cavity: countless times I would bolt upright in bed, clutching my breast and gasping for air, not from any pain but sure my heart had just missed a beat or my last breath had failed to oxygenate a lung or my blood had just blocked an artery. Finally, I would lie down again and slowly relax into sleep, only to wake the next day and repeat the whole cycle of addictive abuse once again: it was a perpetual, nicotine-suckling curse, which one ex-Heroin addict mate had stated as he waved a lit cigarette in front of my face, ‘You know, I’ve kicked the gear but there’s no way I can ever give smoking these white bastards up, it’s just too f**king hard!’
Anyway, it’s now four and a half years since I last puffed on my final tab and through this interim period of decreasing fury, I’ve slowly adapted to life without smoking but believe me, it’s been an astonishingly difficult thing to attain. I’d personally packed-in smoking on numerous occasions in my past without much hair-tearing, but this last time tested my failed willpower to the hilt. At first, I chewed 4mg NICORETTE® nicotine gum to help with the almost-Schizophrenic change I found warping my everyday psyche and this helped immeasurably, but as days turned to weeks, this jaw-strengthening fixture was costing more money than smoking itself! My financial situation had played a major factor in quitting the Cancer sticks – along with my rapidly-declining health and the knowledge that both my Parents had succumb to smoking-related deaths at ages I’m very close to now myself – so to be still out-of-pocket AND constantly livid was too much to bear and called for drastic action.
I dropped the NICORETTE® for Boots’ own-make nicotine gum and stepped down to the 2mg packs because of a special offer, thus killing two potential mental breakdowns with one cold-turkey decision. Unwaveringly, I continued onwards with my battle against my own personal enjoyment, unabated and sure that I had finally managed to ‘Just say no!’ to coin a chorus from a song sung by the cast of Grange Hill. In every aspect my life appeared to get better; my health came back – along with about a stone in weight around my gut from eating – and after about six months, I stopped coughing up coloured phlegm, its tint having gone from black, through brown and finally to clear once more. The tobacco stench drifted away from my clothing and flat once I’d stopped refilling my personal space with expelled smoke and so, I became blatantly aware of other people being draped in their own cloud of misted tar, something that now literally sickened me (I know, I’m a Philistine). Finally, I could actually scrub the yellow-brown staining from my index finger, middle finger and thumb to keep the dreaded public sign of a smoker at bay forever.
Roll on twelve months and all cravings had dispersed from within my body, my mind was clear and any thoughts of the little white paper rolls of ignited joy making a comeback were well and truly over: post-tobacco enlightenment had been achieved. Then one day, as I pulled yet another nicotine gum from its sealed, foil-covered pit and popped it into my mouth, I realised I’d actually been masticating the little yellow squares of plastic for over a YEAR and was now addicted to nicotine gum, rather than nicotine from cigarettes! I might have been healthy once more and my lungs’ tar-free, but as any addict will testify, if you come up with a thousand excuses then one will eventually make enough sense to justify an untimely willpower crumble.
Luckily, I realised I’d reaped enough benefits from my abstinence to break my subconscious’ jabbering and not return to the land of smoke, coughing and pulmonary thrombosis, so had to kick my new medically-induced addiction from scratch. So, I finished off the last sheet of Boots’ gum and then opted for normal chewing gum as a substitute to overthrow this secondary nicotine dependency, something that appeared to be harder to kick than the fags in the first place!
As I stated earlier on, it’s now been four and a half years since I first packed in smoking cigarettes and it’s been three and a half years after the final piece of Boots own-brand nicotine gum sloshed inside my mouth, so an addiction that started in my teens has finally been tamed. Except it hasn’t really been conquered at all, due to the fact I’m STILL chomping normal chewing gum each and every day without fail: the old ’hand-to-mouth’ action may have been sorted out, but the constant need for my mouth to have an activity is an ongoing concern.
This gob anxiety is now addressed by two packets of Wrigley’s Extra Ice® a day and although any flavour will do, this newest addiction of mine must be slaked by this very particular brand of chewing gum and I cannot deviate from its choice. It now costs me about £7.50 a week to maintain the cacophony of my brain’s fervour and I’ve come to acknowledge I may be stuck gnawing this gum well into my old age, at a time when I only have my own gums left in my mouth to deal with any chewing…
I used to adore smoking, I really did. I’m not saying it is better not to smoke just because I don’t inhale anymore; it’s just a different perspective as I live my life free from tobacco. I grant you, things are pretty boring now I’ve canned the ‘S’ word, but if life begins at 40 as they all keep saying, then with a lungful of clean air and a mouthful of Extra Ice, here I come!