Thought Catalog

Some Questions I Have As An Ex-Smoker

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After smoking cigarettes for ten years, I quit cold turkey last fall. I hadn’t planned it that way, but I caught the flu and simultaneously ran out of stogies. Too sick to run to the deli/smoke, I decided to give quitting a try for the thousandth time. I felt better a few days later, so I began concocting statistics to help keep me away from cigarettes. “It’s been 2.5 days, my lungs are good as new!” and “It’s been seventy-six hours, I am no longer addicted to nicotine!” The statistics I recited were in no way grounded in reality, but it worked. I haven’t had a cigarette since October 2010.

It’s been a few months now, and I’m still trucking along. Still, there a few recurring questions I have that show no sign of resolving themselves.

Have I quit for good? 90% of ex-smokers relapse at some point (usually within the first three months). I’ve cleared that milestone, but not by much. I’m only nine months ‘clean’. Even a fetus could accomplish that. Watching people I know fall back into their old habit isn’t necessarily reassuring, either. An old friend of mine confessed to me that after four years of cig sobriety, he’d fallen off the wagon – going as far as to buy his own pack. Which, if you’re familiar with smokers, is extreme. Usually Ex-Smokers just bum cigarettes from Real Smokers to keep up the illusion that they are no longer at the mercy of nicotine.

My friend had never been the type to wake up at 3 AM and creep out to his terrace for a quick smoke before revisiting slumber (not that I know anyone who would do something like that) (Okay, I’ve done something like that, countless times) (Who hasn’t? Don’t tell me you haven’t). By my standards, this friend enjoyed cigarettes the way cats enjoy being on leashes – fleetingly, just for the novelty or perhaps, not at all. If he can’t shake cigs, what chance do I have?

Will my friends ever quit? Not smoking hasn’t turned me into a nicotine Nazi, but there are a few reasons I wish my friends would quit smoking:

  1. They’ll stop saying, “We still don’t know how the hell you did it.” Everyone I know was shocked when they found out I’d managed to quit. I don’t blame them – I smoked in such a way that, had we been friends, Joe Cool and the Marlboro Man would’ve sat my ass down to have a talk, Intervention style. The “If you can do it, anyone can” train of thought gives me Smoker’s Guilt, minus the fun and the addiction. And I don’t want it! I hope you kept the receipt, please return it at your soonest convenience.
  2. They will stop leaving me inside of the bar when they go out for a cigarette. Why is it that, when you’re the smoker, you’re Forever Alone? You leave your straight-laced friends sitting at the bar, you feel their judging eyes scald the back of your head as you walk away. It’s 20 degrees outside (because the weather is always uncomfortable and drastic when you’re smoking alone) and someone bums a cig from you without offering the obligatory casual conversation. You return to the bar and one of your friends sniffs disapprovingly, “You smell like… smoke.” Yeah I smell like smoke, motherfucker. What’d you think I was doing out there, playing hopscotch? This is only reality if you’re the smoker, though. If you’re not, then everyone smokes! Everyone except for you. You get to watch the drinks.
  3. They will save money. I save $91 a week. A WEEK. It’s insane.
  4. There will be no more of this, “Hold on, I just have to run into this store and buy cigarettes.” I don’t mind the inconvenience – sometimes I need a Diet Coke or toothpaste or Benadryl – but I remember that retched feeling. “MUST – PURCHASE – CIGARETTES – BEFORE – MOVING – ON – WITH – LIFE.” Talk about having a ‘slave to smoking’ moment. Sad.
  5. They will feel better about themselves. They won’t have to hide the fact that they smoke from their latest cig-hating conquest. They will be able to clear a flight of stairs without peering into Death’s hollow eyes. Their face will not become a hotbed for premature wrinkles. They’ll be happier.

Will I ever stop wanting cigarettes? Four months after quitting, I Quarter Life Crisis’ed the eff out – my relationship and job were both like, “Peace, homegirl! Enjoy your new life being single and jobless! P.S. A cigarette would be fantastic right now, huh?” I wanted to smoke the life out of everything those days, forest-fire status. I didn’t, but months later I still think about smoking on a daily basis. As far as I can tell, these thoughts aren’t triggered by secondhand smoke or alcohol – in fact, I’m still unsure where they come from. Which is why I can’t predict when the cravings will fade. According to my fellow post-cigarette friends, the answer is never.

Will this affect my love life? One day, my roommate began pointing out how unappealing it was to date me during my smoking heyday. As he observed it, I’d wake up at the crack of dawn to suck down a cigarette and then crawl back into bed with my then-boyfriend, a non-smoker. “He never complained!” I protested, and my roommate looked at me plainly and said, “Yeah. I don’t know how. He must’ve really liked you…” That conversation confirmed what I’d already suspected – many of the guys I’d been interested in during my smoking years were likely grossed out by my unapologetic chain smoking. In that way, this could improve my love life. I have one less strike against me. It could also backfire – opposites attract, you know? Maybe I’ll only date smokers now despite having never done so before. I’ve kissed a few, but I was a smoker then so we probably canceled each other out. In some terrifying Gift of the Magi twist, I’ll probably fall in love with a smoker and revert. We’ll both sit around in warped armchairs watching Jeopardy reruns and puffing Virginia Slims into our seventies until one of us dissipates into a cloud of residual smoke.

How much do cigarettes cost? This is my favorite question. When I was a smoker, friends would ring me up to deliver the bad news personally. “Cigarette prices are going up again come Monday. Sorry, bud.” I used to reassess my budget every time the price of cigarettes ballooned. “They’re $11 now? Okay… switching to one-ply toilet paper and ordering the $5 Miller High Life / Whiskey combo until my next paycheck comes. That oughta do it.” Now, it’s like I have cigarette-cost amnesia. My roommate caught me side-eyeing his new cigarette brand a few weeks ago – Mavericks. He defended himself by telling me that they cost $10. “$10?” I thought. “You paid $10 for these prison inmate cigs?” And then it dawned on me – $10 is a steal these days. You know the situation is dire when you’ve reduced yourself to smoking the official cigarette of the McCain/Palin campaign.

I recognize that the answers to these questions are unique to the individual asking them and that, if I’m realistic, some of my fears may be realized. Either way, I’m cool until my next question is, “Can I bum a cigarette?” TC mark

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    • Anonymous

      This was great.

      Your poor ex-boyfriend.

      • http://stephgeorge.tumblr.com Stephanie Georgopulos

        LOL thanks. I think he’d agree that we’re even by now, though.

    • coffeeandinternets

      Awesome article.

      I just had a girl move in to sublet the other bedroom in my apartment for two months.  We Skyped for the interview and she knew I smoked inside, but that it was an ‘out-the-windows’ only situation and if it really bothered her, I could do it in my room.

      When she arrived yesterday, she walked down the entry hallway to me and the first thing she said after hello was, “Maybe we can not smoke inside this summer. I could smell the smoke when I opened the door.”

      Girl. “WE” will not be smoking inside. I will be. You do not smoke. And I will smoke in my room. You knew the deal coming into this apartment, and WE will not be playing any games with my nicotine habits.

    • Loserello

      Recently began CONSIDERING quitting.  This article helped me.  I’ll keep smoking – hell, I only pay $5/pack in Iowa!

    • Steven Bruno

      I bought one pack of Mavericks. And this new sickness may be my end of smoking days.

    • http://lifediving.wordpress.com/ lifediving

      “You know the situation is dire when you’ve reduced yourself to smoking the official cigarette of the McCain/Palin campaign.”

      GOLD.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

      Nicotine Nazi. #roflmao

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=707272007 Alex Thayer

      i bought a pack of lucky strikes like 4 months ago during las fallas in valencia

      i think i still have like 5 left

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1392661917 Olivia Tiberio

      Stephanie Georgopolus, we are with you.

    • http://maxwellchance.wordpress.com Duke Holland of Gishmale

      I once dated a girl who had two strikes against her: overweight and stupid–pretty much deal breakers, but I was lonely and trying not to be shallow (physically or mentally). Then I found out she smoked (she hid it for the first couple of dates). Dumped.  

      • http://stephgeorge.tumblr.com Stephanie Georgopulos

        Lots of people hide it on dates, seems counterproductive. 

    • John Warmuth

      I told my friends I would stop quitting when it stopped being the best part of my day.  I just got a lot of sad, strange looks, and now I have less friends :'(

    • Anonymous

      “You return to the bar and one of your friends sniffs disapprovingly, ‘You smell like… smoke.’ Yeah I smell like smoke, motherfucker.”

    • Guest

      There’s a deli right off the Myrtle Av stop on the J train I think that sells cigs for 6 dollars

      • guest

        there’s a bodega on Wyckoff and… Himrod maybe?  maybe Harman that sells the cheapest cigs for like 4 and the like good brand ones for 6 or 7

        not that I care because I totally quit

    • damo

      i could quite happily give up every cigarette except for my “first thing in the morning” one. that, i cannot do without.

      • http://stephgeorge.tumblr.com Stephanie Georgopulos

        That was my favorite, too. 

      • Angela

        Oh God yes, and after a meal please!

    • http://tattoosnob.com Julene

      After a few years cigarette free, I finally broke down & started buying multiple packs weekly. Depressing as hell. I’m on day 3 of making another attempt to break my ties with nicotine and let me tell you, I can’t think of anything except how much quitting sucks. (But that extra $24/week might come in handy!)

    • Anonymous

      American Spirit Blue Pack.

    • http://www.negativesmart.com/ Candice

      I’m the designated drinks/purse watcher around here, but there’s no one assigned to watch me. So I’ve decided that while abandoned I can consider myself single, and it is therefore just fine to allow someone to buy me a drink. Conveniently, I am able to easily avoid having to talk to that person for longer than a few minutes by having everyone come back inside.

      • http://www.facebook.com/gregpphoto Greg Petliski

        Yer a bitch.

        • http://www.negativesmart.com/ Candice

          It’s okay, I’m coming to terms with it.

        • http://www.facebook.com/gregpphoto Greg Petliski

          Thats all that matters in life. Embrace who you are.

        • http://www.negativesmart.com/ Candice

          It’s okay, I’m coming to terms with it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/gregpphoto Greg Petliski

      Hey we both quit cuz of the flu! I had about six years under my belt, and I too went cold turkey. When youre that sick, you get a great head start on quitting.

      • http://stephgeorge.tumblr.com Stephanie Georgopulos

        Definitely the most effective method, in my opinion. 

    • Msveronicachastain

      I quit almost 3 years ago cold turkey and every once in a while I think a cigarette would be sooo good right now. But that usually passed pretty quickly though I don’t think I’ll ever rid of it completely. One of the weird things is realizing I never set foot inside a convenience store anymore. I only use them for gas now.

    • anon

      My fav line: “Yeah I smell like smoke, motherfucker. What’d you think I was doing out there, playing hopscotch?”

    • Mary

      Try the electric cigarettes! I hear good things! 

    • Mary

      Try the electric cigarettes! I hear good things! 

    • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

      The best part of taking up a vice is that you get to enjoy the vice for a bit, then enjoy the bragging rights of quitting; on the other hand, if you don’t take up the vice to begin with, no one is impressed by “I never had to quit cold turkey because I never smoked in my life.” 

       It’s time you move onto something new.    How do you feel about fast food restaurants, chain restaurants, and fried foods? 

      • http://stephgeorge.tumblr.com Stephanie Georgopulos

        I’m partial to gambling. 

    • Ghunter

      cigarettes are so cheap in the south it’s crazy.

      • Norwegianraccoon

        oh man sooo true :D

    • http://twitter.com/t_baugh Travis Baugh

      Are they really that expensive in NYC? A pack of American Spirits, which usually costs like $1-2 more than a pack of Camels or Marlboros can be got for like $5.14 in California…

      • http://stephgeorge.tumblr.com Stephanie Georgopulos

        My roommates spend about $12, and a friend told me she saw a pack for …$16 (OMG) in Manhattan. That’s the high end, but damn does New York have a shitload of cig taxes. 

    • Anonymous

      I quit smoking because of my ex-boyfriend because he never smoked or liked it.  Ironically enough now he smokes.

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