Sunday, July 11, 2010

Breaking up with myself

Have you ever had to break up with somebody that you still truly loved? Me too. Have you ever had to take a relative off of life support, or to a lesser degree put down a pet? You know how when you have an unpleasant, heartbreaking obligation looming, you start to feel sick as the chosen hour arrives? I’ve felt this way all week, and ten-fold tonight. The chosen hour is nigh. Tomorrow will undoubtedly be one of the worst days of my life. Tomorrow, I quit smoking.

The thing is, I love smoking. It fits like a glove with everything else I love. Cigarettes are particularly awesome after a good meal, after a bad meal, after a flight, and the cliche post-coitus. Smoking is great while writing, hanging out at a bar, or driving, particularly on a road trip. Smokes make the stress of watching sports more bearable, and are a great way to pass the time while stressing out about girls. Cigs fit with rock and roll, break up the work day, and help the flow of video editing. Chain smoking on an extended phone call moves things along. A cigarette completes a sitting on the beach with a good book and a strong rum drink. It’s the last thing I do at night and the first thing I do in the morning, thus it’s a habit that even bookends sleep. Traveling, writing, editing, drinking, socializing, walking, reading, bumming, fucking, flying, landing, driving, eating, sleeping, rocking, watching, cheering, agonizing. These are pretty much the only things I like doing, and cigarettes are a part of all of them.

I made an attempt to quit smoking last year. I was staying at my mom’s house in Baltimore. I had essentially no social life and no job, so it was a pretty stress-free environment. I slowly cut down to 6 or 7 a day and augmented that with Camel Snus and cheap cigars. I quit on a day that my mom and step-dad were out of town and never mentioned my plans to them in case I failed. I went one whole day with zero cigs. It was horrible. The down side of no job and no social life was the fact that I had absolutely nothing to take my mind off of smoking. I ate at Taco Bell, then had no idea what to do next. When I finish eating, I smoke. It’s the period to the sentence.

The next day, I feared I would break down. As the parents were out of town, I spent much of the afternoon in the hot tub drinking whiskey. It was my plan to get liquored up so as to not be tempted to drive to the store. While I succeeded in this portion of the plan, cravings won out and I walked to the nearest store to buy an overpriced pack.

I planned another attempt a couple weeks later. Hell, I’d been smoking for 16 years at this point, it was doubtful that my first attempt to quit since the mid-’90s would work. That attempt never came. I started working and quickly developed a smoking routine at the job. Then, I went to New York, and actually did fun social things. By this point, quitting seemed fruitless as I would soon be doing another US farewell tour and returning to Korea. Late summer 2009 would involve too many trips, too many parties, and too much stress to consider quitting again.

I don’t want to quit in America anyway. There’s every reason in the world to do so, of course. Cigarettes cost a million dollars a pack. You can’t smoke anywhere. Smoking isn’t as hip as it used to be. Whatever. I’ve always despised the rabid anti-smoking faction in America, and I always felt that if I quit smoking there, they would somehow win. I can’t be another notch on’s bedpost.

Quitting in Korea will be infinitely more difficult. Smokes are cheap. Smoking policies are lax. Smoking goes perfectly with drinking, and Seoul is one of the booziest places on earth. There is really no financial incentive or social incentive to quit. The only reason to do it is to do it for myself. If I had quit in America, I would have lost the argument. Doing it here makes it a selfish win. Quitting in America is LeBron. Quitting in Korea is Jordan.

This truly is like a break-up with myself. In a lot of ways, smoking isn’t what I do, it’s who I am. I’ve celebrated every win and lamented every defeat I’ve ever had in my adult life with a smoke. Every post (of mine) on this blog is tobacco stained. I’ve smoked with European dignitaries, Hollywood celebrities, and Indonesian beggars, but most of the time I’ve just smoked with friends. I’ve smoked for 17 years. I’m good at it. I was even sponsored back in the late ‘90s.

Like any break up, there will be a period of mourning. Unfortunately, every other break-up mourning period I’ve been through since high school involved tons and tons of smoking. I’ll also have to avoid good old alcohol for a couple weeks. I know that I’d be a sitting duck at the bar next weekend. Really, I have but one interest that doesn’t involve smoking. I suppose this will have to be my way back, out of this. Video games. Video games don’t match well with smoking. If I smoke while playing games, I end up either dying a lot, or wasting the cigarette. Video games are the only thing I can think of that I was into before smoking, and that I’m still into, at least amongst things that can’t be enhanced by smoking.

As writing is a chain-smoking activity for me, I’m not going to have any topical updates in this space for the next few weeks. Fortunately, I’ve planned for this scenario, and I have plenty of unpublished “evergreen” pieces in the hopper, so NES/NAS won’t miss a beat while I’m off fighting demons.

Barring extra time, the World Cup will end 45 minutes from now. While watching, I will smoke like a Spaniard. (If this country had more drugs, I’d smoke like a Dutchman too). When it’s over, I’ll go to sleep, and tomorrow will be upon me. Anybody know any good NES or SNES games for me to check out?


greene said...

good read. quit like jordan

good work spain

chrissteman said...

Great post and SO true. You can do it, Todd. It took me three times before I was able to say goodbye to the habit...and that was 27 years ago.

Joe Kickass said...

Well played. I was just making fun of Keith the other day for spending 9 bones on a pack. Do you know how many PBRs you could get for that?

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