I woke up in a cold sweat. There was a strange gloom in the room, coming from the reddish street lamp that lay just outside of my window. I looked to my bed-side table and stared at the bright red digits on my alarm clock. It was three fifteen in the morning, and I thought to myself, “not bad at all, I managed to stay asleep for over thirty minutes this time”. I felt shaky, thirsty, and hungry. My body was desperately begging for something, but my mind spread this desperation all over it, and applied it to almost every sense. Even though my body was confused about what it needed, I wasn’t. I knew what was wrong with me. I was addicted to nicotine, and one of the many smokers trying to quit.
Throughout the latter part of my life, I have always been known as a heavy smoker. I was the first one in my group of friends to start smoking. This was at the age of thirteen. I loved everything about it. It was a pleasure to light a cigarette after lunch, and amazingly enough, sometimes I would enjoy the after-lunch cigarette more than the actual meal. I remember in those cold days back in Madrid, when I used to have to walk home from the bus stop and my hands would get so cold I couldn’t feel them. The pleasure of lighting a cigarette, and having the stream of warm blue smoke enter my lungs was so good it almost took the cold away. If I had a pack of cigarettes, something to eat, and a good book, I could sit in one room for hours and not want to leave it. It was relaxing, it was pleasurable, and it was an addiction that I loved.
So now you must be wondering how the hell someone like me suddenly decides to stop smoking. I didn’t have anything dramatic happen to me. I wasn’t visited by my guardian angel and told to quit. I wasn’t enlightened by some strange commercial that had people jumping around and singing like fools trying to get smokers to quit. No. My reason was much simpler; I got drunk. Picture this: Saturday night at Pegs Pocket, a popular pool hall close to my house, and I am surrounded by all of my friends. I have had a little too much to drink, and have lost a lot of the judgment that I am usually lacking anyways. The room is glowing with a greenish atmosphere created by the smoke in the air and the green felt lining the pool tables. The place is almost empty for it is close to three in the morning, and my friends and I are just playing the last few games of the night. I reach into my pocket, pull out my Marlboro pack, and in horror, realize that there is only one cigarette left. That was my second pack since I had left my house. So I light up, and start asking my friends for money to buy another pack. This makes a big impact on all of the non-smokers who start telling me to “chill” and that that was enough smoking for one night. Now, if I had been sober, I would have probably stopped the conversation right there, and kept on playing, but that was not the case. I started arguing with them and eventually one of them put me on the spotlight. He called me out, stating that I was too much of a “pussy” to quit, and that he would bet any amount of money that I didn’t have what it took to do it. So as to not seem like a “pussy” in front of all the rest of my friends, I got on his face and said, “Ok, ill take you up on it!”
The next day I woke up with a hangover. I heard snoring coming from the bottom of my bunk bed. I jumped down, and looked at the time, almost three thirty in the afternoon. To my surprise, one of my friends was sleeping soundly at the bottom of my bunk bed. I kicked him a couple of times so as to give him a pleasant awakening, and he blabbered a few curses at me. After a few minutes of torturing him, he got up, picked up his jeans from the floor, and took out a pack of cigarettes from his pocket. He then offered me one, and said, “Enjoy it for it is one of your last ones” and then he laughed out loud. Then it hit me. It was like when a cloud suddenly makes a sunny day all glum. I realized what I had done the night before. I sat down on the bed, and asked my friend “How much money did I bet?” To this, he replied ”Well, you bet 20 dollars with Luis, another twenty with Andres, and I think Sydnee made a bet with you as well”. All of a sudden I got a picture of my middle school PE teacher’s round and sweaty face telling us that when one drinks, he looses his judgment and makes decisions that he wouldn’t make when sober. It was then that I realized just how right the bastard had been. Instantly my mind started thinking of ways to come up with the money. Until my friend asked me “So you are actually going to go through with this huh? I mean, you seemed really confident yesterday!” Suddenly the feeling of pride that I had felt the night before came rushing back into me. I thought about it. If I really tried, would I be able to quit? Yes! So I took a long drag from my cigarette, stared at it, and said “Yep, after new years, I will be a non-smoker.” I obviously had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Two weeks went by and I was more determined than ever. My friends always brought it up and laughed saying that I would never be able to quit, and I just stared and said “We will see”. These two weeks eventually built up my pride even more and I was really determined to stop smoking. I really wasn’t doing it for any health reason, or because it was expensive, or because I disliked it. I wasn’t even doing it for my friends. It had become something that I needed to do for myself. I had to prove to my self that I could actually kick the habit if I really wanted to. Every smoker lives with the conviction that if they really put their mind to it, they would be able to stop. I was no different, and I had lived all those years just saying to myself “I can quit, I just don’t want to do it”. So now I wanted to do it, and after a huge New Years party, and three packs of cigarettes in one night, I stopped smoking.
Quitting smoking is not as easy as people think. It isn’t just the fact that you get cravings, shake, can’t sleep, and have the temper of a teenage girl with PMS that makes it hard. Quitting smoking is actually a very psychologically charged process. After the first day of not smoking, my mind started playing tricks on me. I began to find hundreds of reasons why smoking was actually good. I convinced my self that quitting wasn’t worth it. I felt out of place in many situations and whenever I had to do something that I disliked, I would just do it carelessly and blame it on the fact that I was quitting. My mind just suddenly made me think that quitting was the stupidest thing I had ever done. I would tell my friends all of the ideas that would pass through my head and these were so good, and so convincing, that even they told me to just go back. But there was something that still didn’t let me light that cigarette up. I think it was the thought of throwing all the hard work away. I figured that if I lit a cigarette up, it would make feel even worse because I would have failed.
So the days went by, and I still hung in there. I managed to survive the first two weeks without a single cigarette, but then the hardest stage came along. I thought I had finally won, and that I was able to control it. But now I wanted to go back to my old days, and feel as good as I did when I smoked. It wasn’t a physical addiction any more. I wanted to be able to sit back and enjoy a cigarette. I had quit, I had proven that I could do it, and now, I had lost all interest in remaining smoke free. That was my explanation to smoking those first few cigarettes.
So here I am now, a month later. I smoke much less, and I actually still think that I succeeded in quitting. I crave cigarettes all day, but only smoke about half a pack a week. I was able to go through the whole quitting process, but I was just not ready to give up on something that I love so much. Something has changed though. Something that I believe has made me enjoy smoking much more. Now I can say that I don’t quit because I don’t want to, and really mean it.