Ok, first off it hasn't been my *whole* life, guys. I didn't start smoking when I was 7 or anything. I actually started relatively late. It wasn't something I was pushed into, because I didn't really have any peers to pressure me. I remember being 19, back when the dinosaurs roamed the land and walking into store and seeing the cigarettes. "I could buy those," I thought. So I did. Out of curiosity mostly, and the delicious feeling of doing something forbidden. Then I smoked one.
It was the absolute worst thing ever in the history of awful things. I coughed and choked and wondered why the balls anyone would do this to themselves. And I hid them in my sock drawer instead of throwing them away for some reason.
Cut to several weeks later, my mom and I had a falling out again. It was something that happened very frequently in those days. I don't remember what it was about, but I remember it being particularly bad. I felt like I had to do something destructive, something bad, something hurtful. And of course, given my temperament it had to be something hurtful towards myself. I suppose I could have turned to worse things, but I grabbed that half-stale pack of Camels out of my sock drawer and stomped outside.
The second cigarette I ever smoked was a complete turnaround from the first. The burning, instead of being horrible, was something I felt like I'd earned. And the high... there's nothing quite like a nicotine high. If feels like floating over a sky made out of electricity, and its so short-lived its almost precious.
But I wasn't even addicted then. I would have one every couple days, when I was feeling self-destructive. It took me a long time to get through that first pack. Then I went back to college. There's a line from Brideshead Revisited that has stuck with me for years because it was basically my life. "You spend the rest of your college career trying to get rid of the friends you made freshman year." It wasn't that I didn't like the people I hung out with freshman year, but I was trying to make a break from my stuffy, hyper-Catholic background and they were kind of part of it. Sorry, guys, if you ever read this. There was a "Smoker's Patio" at my school, where all the hip kids would hang out. I was terrified of it, and for weeks would only smoke on my dorm patio. Until one day someone invited me outside onto the Patio for a cigarette after class, and all of a sudden I had a new friend. I will say one thing for the habit, it tends to bring people together. And as someone who was completely at sea and fairly isolated in my sophomore year, it was something I needed.
The social aspect of smoking has really stayed with me. The summer I was living in a hotel because I was kicked out of home my friends and I spent the entire three months hanging out either at the coffee shop or the pub across the alley depending on the time of day, always outside and always smoking. Because at that point I had started having friends in my hometown, something born of a coffee shop job which is pretty social.
The trend continued when I moved to Seattle and started working in bars up there. Everyone in the food service industry smokes, has smoked, or occasionally smokes. I'm not even joking. It was just something you did to get a break most of the time. And that's what it had started to become, it wasn't a social thing anymore, but something I did because I had to. I even quit while I was up in Seattle, for about a year and a half, because it just wasn't something I enjoyed anymore.
I didn't start back up again because I enjoyed it either. I was in a job I hated, a city I didn't want to be in. And I fell back into the habit. And it continued when I moved back to California. But the other day I realized something, that it was pretty much just a crutch leftover from my old unhappy life. I wasn't a fun social thing anymore, but a nasty habit that I was clinging to for flimsy reasons. And I decided to see how long I could go without it. Maybe that will turn out to be forever. I hope so.