Smoking began pretty casually for me. Earliest memories I have of doing it involve bumming the odd one off older family members or mates’ older family members. This was when I was roughly 18 or 19 years old. From there it became something I’d not necessarily always do while on nights out. I remember very early on in the addiction, back in the wild old days when you could still smoke in licensed premises – at least in Queensland. I was at Jupiters Casino Gold Coast, with a mate, in the Prince Albert Bar. I lit up a Winfield Blue, took a deep drag and – possibly also because I’d had more than just a couple of pints – everything went dark. When I came to I was on the floor, blood cascading out of my nose. I lost consciousness again; this time mainly because I’d smashed my nose on the arm of my chair, then when I regained it again security took me to first aid and did their best to patch me up. In hindsight they were ripe for a right royal suing, but it was my own stupid fault – with a bit of bad luck and youthful inexperience thrown in for good measure.
The random habit of lighting up during nights out on the town continued irregularly until I moved out of home at about 23, and started smoking daily. At first and for a while it was just two or three a day. A close mate I had back then would ask me: “Why start smoking now?” and other criticisms. But he was never too much of a nuisance about it. What he was alluding to was the fact that most smokers start at school, when it’s seen as cool or rebellious or both. It’s probably less glamorous now, with the relentless and justifiable assault on smoking – especially in regard to its marketing toward adolescents – that has grown in momentum since the total Australian ban on cigarette company advertising during the ‘90s. Of course, not only can you now not smoke in licensed Queensland premises, you can only do so only in designated outdoor areas where food and sometimes even drinks are not allowed. Man, there’s nothing like a cigarette with a beer or Scotch and coke. But not even most smokers are terribly worried about these changes. We’re not (generally) fools.
Like with a drink, or after a meal, or first thing in the morning, or last thing at night: smoking is a habit that, for me, is generally tied to other regular things I do throughout the days and weeks. This year has been the only exception, at 28 years. Which means I’ve been a regular smoker for about five years. With a conservative estimate of one pack of cigarettes per week for five years, I’ve spent about $4000 on the nasty little things. That doesn’t really worry me, as in many other ways I’m a pretty low maintenance dude, financially. Jesus, the fact that people will spend ridiculous amounts of money on things like gym memberships and weekly clothes binges and the consumerism-gone-mad-like will always astound me much more than anyone’s expenditure on tobacco. But like I said: this year has been different. With the help of financial limitations imposed by unemployment and a massive draining of my savings through travel, I stopped smoking sometime during March this year. I didn’t slowly cut down then stop. I didn’t suddenly stop then take up wearing patches or chewing nicotine gum. It was simple and abrupt: I just decided not to buy another packet. This came about because, despite the fact that I’m aware and not dismissive of the consequences to my health of smoking, the effort to quit really has been financially motivated.
I managed to go smoke free for more than two months. Only once during this time did I break from this strict regimen, on Anzac Day, and left the not yet empty pack I’d bought with a still habitual smoker mate at the conclusion of the merriment. Then, at no particularly significant or symbolic time or for any real reason, I bought another pack. And it has become somewhat of an irregular but generally daily habit again. By no means am I smoking as much as before, especially the more than 10 and sometimes pack a day I was smoking while travelling the US and UK for almost three months. Smokes are very cheap in those two places, but still considered expensive by locals and frowned upon in many places. Without a doubt the addiction’s got its claws in me again. I’m not particularly happy about it, but I do if I’m being honest enjoy smoking. It’s relaxing, even though I know that’s the nicotine at work and that in actual fact each cigarette is in at least a small way clogging my arteries and raising my blood pressure. Which of course is not a relaxing health condition. Plus, while I respect gentle criticism about my smoking from my family and people I don’t consider morons; it gives me a strange satisfaction to be a smoker in the face of people who are all like: “Ew, I can’t believe you smoke. You know most people hate it these days. It’s not cool anymore”. People like that can bite me. The only real other reason besides financial that I have for continually trying to quit, is the reasonable assertion that many women don’t like it. But of course just as many chicks as dudes probably smoke. And, I like to think, if a girl really knew and/or liked me she likely wouldn’t really be too fazed by the habit. We’re none of us perfect, after all. And, to be honest, a lot of people I’ve met who don’t appear to have vices like tobacco, alcohol or religion are often sociopathic. As in their one vice is messing with peoples’ heads, relationships and lives. But really some of these people are just lame. One of the best quotes I’ve ever read but can’t remember properly is from a book named Youth in Revolt, and goes something like: “People who are able to resist their impulses invariably lead stunted lives.” I couldn’t agree more. I guess the key is to find healthy impulses.
So I am without a doubt going through what I like to term a smoking relapse at the moment. But it’s ok. I’ve proven to myself that I can stop, even if not for the best reasons. So, when I feel like it – and I think even in today’s often unimaginative and homogenous world it’s important to live at least part of your life by your feelings or instincts – I will stop again. And then maybe start up again. Then stop. Start. Stop. And hopefully sometime around 30 years of age I will kick the fags altogether. Anyone who’s followed my blog closely will be aware that I’m quite strong-willed when I want to be. Which I don’t always want to be. Because as mentioned above I have no interest in living a stunted life. I will do (almost) anything once. And I’ll do things I enjoy and don’t consider to be terribly harmful to myself or others as often as I want or can. If Adam and Eve hadn’t eaten the forbidden fucking fruit in the first place, the human race would still only consist of a couple of naked spoiled-by-God brats in some fanciful garden somewhere. Yes of course I don’t actually believe that myth, but I hope you still get my point. If not for the passions, convictions and sometimes addictions that drive people the human race probably wouldn’t have half the wondrous achievements it can call its own. In how many photos did Winston Churchill not have a cigar in his mouth?
I guess my focus, for life in general and for controlling my vices particularly, going forward, is to become directly addicted to those things that make humans the greatest race in our own known existence: learning, building, enjoying and loving. After all, when it comes to loving, particularly, we’re all of us social creatures. We do things that we should fit in, that we should find our affections reciprocated and, where necessary, we also do things that we should rebel from unreasonably restrictive social norms. In a capitalist society particularly, it’s personally dangerous to take convention too seriously. Especially when it’s dictated by unimaginative people sitting in ivory towers who will always live a stunted life, always be unaware they’re living a stunted life, and always consider others to be living a stunted life. You should always scrutinise people and groups’, if not clearly caring, perhaps selfish or even abusive motivations for trying to control you. And I’m pretty sure the self-diagnosis rate for sociopathy stands at not far above nil. They should make lameness a mental illness, too. Then someone might come up with some medication or other treatments for that debilitating disease.