December 28th (Part I)

It has been a year, today, since my last cigarette, and I’m pausing to mark the occasion.

Stopping smoking was one of the hardest things that I have everdone.

Losing a nicotine addiction is far more difficult than picking one up, which happened quite easily with a few sneaky drags behind the bus shelter rapidly escalating into a twenty a day crutch.

And so, from an unremarkable date in about 1996, to December 28th 2008, my day opened – and then closed – with a deep draw on a cigarette; and, without really noticing what I was doing, I structured my life around a packet of Superking Royals.

Addicted? No, I just enjoyed the taste. Unhealthy? Possibly, but given that I was self-destructing on a monumental scale for most of this period, a few cigarettes were hardly likely to tip the balance. Expensive? Outrageously, but a few pennies from here and a little tightening of the belt over there soon bridged the gap.

Because I wasn’t really trying to give up, there wasn’t really any problem.

Because I was choosing to smoke and enjoying the experience; well, why stop?

When your teeth start wobbling and your gums disappear, the aftertaste is a little less pleasant and the notion of choice, a touch more complicated.

Addicted? Totally, and giving up is inconceivable. Unhealthy? Evidently, but the fear just makes the next one more urgent. Expensive? The personal price soars far above the ever rising recommended retail one.

My choice? Maybe once.

When you actually ask whether you can give up – or not – than the illusion that you’re in control is abruptly shattered –

At first, this made the whole situation even harder to bear. Getting up without the promise of that first fix – impossible. A working day without the relief of a few neatly spaced fag breaks – unimaginable. Goodbye to cigarette fuelled stress relief and inspiration; hello to a life of perpetual longing where the continuous craving can never be fixed –

But, in the end, it provided the turning point.

I do not like feeling controlled.

And I really do not like handing my power over to a small tube of tobacco filled paper -

And so, in the realisation that I was captive, and in the subsequent choice between remaining imprisoned – or going for liberation – I found the spark that made me go through with it…

A year on, I can confirm that life without nicotine is not as bad as it will have you believe -

Even if getting to that point’s hard work.

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