I am an addict. I am, in fact, the worst kind of addict, in terms of how attached I am to my drug–at this writing, I haven’t directly harmed anyone else because of my addiction, but if they ban smoking in cars, I’ll be fixin’ to harm every fucking person I see, I can tell you that much. I almost made a friend and myself late for the wedding last weekend because I realized shortly before our cab was to arrive that I only had half a pack of cigarettes–enough to get me through the night, but not me and the inevitable wedding-bar-born drunken bums. Thus I raced us around the darkest ‘Shwa in the fifteen minutes pre-cab arrival, frantically looking for a convenience store or gas station, because it was far more important to me to ensure that I didn’t end up drunk at 2 a.m. with no smokes than that I did end up in my seat before the bridal procession. (As it turned out, we made it there on time, and I did indeed run out of that first pack right around 2, so ha!) My smoking is not just a nasty habit, or a “guilty pleasure”–it is a powerful addiction. Which is to say, as far as my brain is concerned, a powerful need.
And the older I get, the more that, among other things, sets me apart from my friends. A lot of them used to smoke, but almost none of them like I do. They could quit when they got bronchitis, or went to their parents’ houses for a weekend, or became disgusted with themselves. I can have a consumptive-sounding, 30-second coughing fit in the middle of smoking a cigarette, and all I’m thinking about is getting through it so I can take the next drag. Putting it out wouldn’t occur to me, unless there was blood–maybe then. I smoked all but one of my mom’s last pack of smokes after she went into the hospital, and I put the last one in the casket with her, which almost caused my brother to punch my lights out in front of all our friends and family. My dad, an ex-smoker, intervened, and told my brother the cigarette was staying. He got it: a cigarette was the only thing she wanted in her last days that we couldn’t give her. Most people don’t get it. Most people can’t, I guess.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve said, “I’m an asshole,” or “This is so gross,” or “God, I have to quit.” But I don’t mean it. What I mean is, “I would like to appear normal.” What I feel is, I love to smoke. Do I want to die young, endure increasing ostracization, alienate people I love, smell like crap, get antsy every time I have to be in a non-smoking area for more than an hour, throw away about 8 bucks a day and counting, or be a slave to a big corporation? Nope. Is that going to stop me? I honestly don’t know. I know it’s not going to stop me any time soon.
Most people don’t get that, either.