From Sunday to Sunday, I only go through one pack of cigarettes. Considering there are only 20 sticks in a pack, I figure I’ve actually averaged fewer than three a day. And I’m feeling good. Well, as good as someone who’s weaning themselves off an addictive drug can feel.
I stop bringing in my smokes to work, and bring my dog instead (both can relieve stress, and my puppy is infinitely cuter than a pack of Parliments). I’ve been semi-broke, so I haven’t gone out for drinks as much, cutting back on my other main trigger. Yup, by the time I head out to the Hamptons on Thursday for my first (mini) vacation in God-knows-how-long, I’m feeling downright cocky. And that, of course, is when the shit hits the fan.
Because my last – and probably most ingrained – need to smoke comes not from the pressures of the modern world, but from their lack: I smoke when I run out of other things to do. So I smoke on the beach. I smoke after dinner at the nice house where I’m staying, because everyone else has fallen asleep, and I’m also on a strict “no Internet” rule. And sometime on Saturday afternoon, I run out of cigarettes.
At first it’s no big deal. I don’t notice until it’s dusk, and the closest gas station is a mile away. I’ll buy a pack in the morning, I say to myself. But later that night I start to notice that I’m snapping at my boyfriend, and moodily glare in silence when he asks what’s wrong. Because, weirdly enough, I don’t know. I haven’t put two-and-two together yet – though I’ve drastically cut down how much I’ve been smoking lately, I haven’t gone without one for more than 12 hours.
I pace and chew my fingernails half the night, sleep fitfully, and in the morning RISE AND SHINE!! Time to go to the beach (near the gas station!!!) Except that this gas station doesn’t sell cigarettes (I hate you, Hamptons), and the closest place where they might sell them is another three miles away. Oh, and we’re on bicycles.
So I brush it off, determined to have a good time at the beach. Except that I start interrupting other people’s stories with “BORING!!!” and eventually stalk off to give myself a Time-Out. After all, at this point it’s Sunday, and I’ll be back in New York City that night to buy my overpriced tickets to lung cancer.
But then there’s the fundraiser. In my state of nicotine withdrawal, I’d forgotten that I was going to a big, fancy event to raise money for a magazine before taking the train home. And it. is. unbearable. I do realize how selfish I’m being, because this party is a big deal to my BF, but the next old lady who asks about my tattoos just might get her head ripped off. It’s only when I find myself standing next to The View‘s Joy Behar – who’s awesome and funny, and is talking about her recent interview with President Obama, so I know I should be listening – do the tears start to well up. That’s right: I’m *crying* because I want a cigarette so badly.
I spend the train ride home alternating between blind rage (STUPID EFFING HAMPTONS!!!), self-loathing (Oh my God, how did I become so pathetic…I ruined everything!), and just plain self-pity. (Boo-hoo!! Another two hours without my fix!!)
They say the hardest part of quitting smoking is the first 24 hours. By the time we’ve reached Penn Station and I’ve stopped sniveling, I haven’t lit up in about 34. I wish I could say I bucked it up and decided to stop – now that I’d inadvertently gone through the worst of it. But that’s not what happened. Instead, I went to the nearest super-duper-pricey newspaper stand and bought a pack of smokes for $15. And then let all my nasty feelings toward the world evaporate in one really long drag. And another. And another. Dammit.
I really want to quit, and I feel like I’m so close. But, as I learned this weekend, you can’t have that decision made for you. When the time comes, I’ll apparently need a padded cell and five days of intense writing to keep myself occupied.