Nobody Likes a Quitter
Giving up cigarettes – an odyssey of shame, debasement and despair.
ed. note: Mr. McDonald managed to miss his deadline, yet again, for this month’s PopShots column – claiming to be on some sort of private research sabbatical. Rather than print a door-sized fold-out poster of the Clash’s London Calling LP cover in lieu of his column, as per his request, we’ve raided his private, password-protected daily blog and printed verbatim his entries for the past few days. [real ed. note: just kidding]
Monday, 9:12 am: Well, today’s the big day! I’m finally going to kick cigarettes. I’ve been trying to drop this deadly habit for years. You know, they say quitting smoking is harder than kicking heroin. I wouldn’t know about that, of course, as I’ve never actually tried to quit heroin. I’ve got plenty of uncollapsed veins left, and see no reason to hurry in that department. Just kidding, Mom!
Monday, 11:23 am: So far, so good. I feel strong and full of resolve. I may be getting a bit irritable, though. This morning, that cute Goth girl at the juice shop said good morning. I went to return the greeting but, in a telling slip, said “Screw you and everything you stand for!”
Monday, 1:00 pm: I might be rationalizing, but it occurs to me: Why should I bother quitting, really? I mean, science is bound to catch up with my problems, right? Wouldn’t I feel dumb if, having successfully quit for 15 years, researchers finally discover the cure for cancer? You bet I’d feel dumb. The smoking years, those are the precious times. You don’t get those back!
Monday, 1:51 pm: Here’s another reason I should keep smoking. Gestural punctuation. I’ve spent years perfecting the craft of using a burning cigarette to more clearly make my point when speaking. I learned most of this from old Robert DeNiro films. I particularly enjoy a long, thoughtful drag – squinting for effect – when assessing a salient conversational point. Many friends have commented on how cool I look when doing this. Well, maybe not “many”. Some. Well, maybe not “some”. Anyway, I also enjoy the dramatic effect of issuing a wordless rebuttal by extinguishing my cigarette on somebody’s neck. Hmm. Maybe this is just the irritability talking…
Monday, 2:34 pm: I think I’m developing an oral fixation. Since this morning, I’ve chewed through three bags of hard candy, half a box of toothpicks, several dozen pencils, and a Duralog.
Monday, 3:30 pm: I didn’t want to resort to this, but it must be done. I just bought a box of nicotine gum, priced to move at $79.99. Once again I marvel at the shamelessness of the pharmaceutical industry. The instructions say to chew one piece every couple of hours, but clearly they are not familiar with my habits. I tear through a dozen in under five minutes.
Monday, 3:37 pm: I’m sweating profusely and my skin has turned a kind of pastel blue. Also, I can’t blink.
Tuesday, 10:03 am: Well, that didn’t work. Back to the cold-turkey approach. Actually, I could go for some cold turkey. Maybe some potatoes, too. And a few steaks. They say quitting can really make you gain weight. And a Rueben sandwich. And some pie.
Tuesday, 12:35 pm: Slight moment of weakness just now. I took a walk around the neighborhood to clear my head, and I saw some junior high kids smoking behind the gas station. I thought to myself – I could easily go over there and bum one. No one would even know! But I restrained myself. I mean, that would be doubly depressing, asking teenagers for a cigarette. So instead I beat them up and stole their whole pack. Tough luck, though. Menthol! I’m crazy, but I’m not that crazy.
Tuesday, 2:33 pm: I feel terrible. I’d read somewhere that the first few days of withdrawal can leave you feeling a little muddy-headed. I’m finding it very hard to concentrate, and my attention span is seriously dwindling. You know who’s a fox? That girl from Lost. Prague is a nice city. What’s up with bottled water? Nostradamus was a total fake. Go Tar Heels!
Wednesday, 6:12 pm: This withdrawal is serious business! I’m totally losing track of time – I can barely remember the last 24 hours. But I haven’t had a cigarette, so that’s good! Also, I’m in Prague for some reason.
Thursday, 8:29 am: Well, that’s three full days now – I think I’m past the hardest part. The muddy-headedness is going away. Although I just bought the entire Spandeau Ballet back catalog on vinyl, so maybe not.
Friday, 4:15 pm: Ah, to hell with it. R.J. Reynolds has my number, and we both know it. As I type this on my Blackberry, I'm enjoying my sixth cigarette in the last 15 minutes. It's awesome. Unfortunately, I'm on my flight back from Prague, and the air marshal just informed me that I'm to be promptly arrested upon arrival at JFK. Looks like I'm going to miss some deadlines. . .
Image from ColonCancer.About.com