Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Getting Ready To Say Goodbye To My Very Best Friend: Nicotine.



I am caught in one of those insomniac nights where I did everything right to sleep, but my Brain won't stop worrying about everything from Trump's Tax Reform to my arthritic knee, so, I give up. I will do what I know best and write to You.

The topic today is very near and dear to my heart (literally). The topic is Smoking.

So, let's begin.

I am a Divergent person in several ways. Examples: 

  • I am a People Person // I am an Isolated Introvert (I mostly prefer to be alone).
  • I am a Former Makeup Artist // I Don't Like Wearing Makeup. 
  • I am a Future Ironman // And I am a Current Smoker.

What?

Yes, friends, I still smoke. But, the days are counting down until my BFF, Nicotine, is going to get kicked out of my life, for good. I love smoking, but I can no longer afford to smoke. It is too expensive for my pocket book and my lungs. The more I workout, the more asinine I feel when I light up. Here is the even weirder thing. My almost healed respiratory infection has made it impossible for me to "vape" (not sure why, but I have never liked that nouveau verb, and so I put it in quotes there), because, these days, my beautiful, rainbow vaporizer makes me cough. So for the past several months, I've been smoking American Spirit Blacks (my fave).

I know that most of you don't smoke. I also know that, even if you did once smoke, you've perhaps forgotten the emotional bond that occurs between a Smoker, a Smoker's paraphernalia (lighters, ashtrays, cool smoking buddies), and a Smoker's cigarettes. So I want to explain one Smoker's journey (mine) in hopes that you might either 1.) Remember and perhaps reminisce with me and/or 2.) Empathize and try to understand my personal relationship with Nicotine.

Nicotine is a savvy drug. It is one of the hardest to quit. So hard, my friends, that I am already feeling pangs of remorse over my ironclad decision to break up with it. I have been working with QuitPlan since November to start the process, and on January 1st, 2018, I get to start wearing the nice free Nicotine patches and gum they've sent me, paid for by the great State of Minnesota and, (I think) Phillip Morris tobacco lawsuit. Thank you, whistle blowers. I salute you.

So, yeah. Here I am, feeling sad and sorry for myself over my own decision to say goodbye to my very best friend. I have always been able to count on Him. (Or Her? I guess I am not sure of my best friend's gender.)

Unlike any of my friends or family, Nicotine has always, always been there for me. Nicotine has never failed to "help" me through anything, Good / Bad / or Indifferent in my life. 

During the Summer of 2004, I met Nicotine as a 23-year-old when a fellow inpatient in the psych ward told me to try it as a way to calm my mind. Sure enough, after really inhaling a Camel light during a scheduled visit outside the building (I had earned privileges to briefly go outside with the Purple and Green groups to see the Sun), I was able to successfully sit down, speak with a psychiatrist, and resist the temptation to impulsively draw fifteen Keith Haring dancing bodies on the therapy room whiteboard.

Once I was released from the hospital, I was caught in a many months-long haze of leveling out and whittling down my list of multiple anti-psychotic medications. I would sleep until 3PM, then wake up and sit outside with my good buddy, Nicotine. At the time, we were just getting to know each other. I was't really talking to humans much. My mind was still locked in a mostly-numbed out haze. The drugs I needed to take to quell my spectacularly severe psychotic break after college were taking a long time to let me wake. It was no problem, though, because I had my friends, My cigarettes.

Later on, I would find myself in a big world travel job as a Qualitative Researcher, and Smoking was my ticket to friendship with real human beings. When I worked in Russia, or China, or New York, or even Memphis, my buddy Nicotine helped introduce me to politicians, artists, finance moguls, musicians, and people who felt like "friends" because we were all united in our friend-of-a-friend situation with Nicotine.

See, Nicotine is a nasty-good Networker. Many times, I swore to myself not to quit smoking, because it was only when I went outside (or sat inside eating salad while in Moscow) when the perfect Interview, or most private conversation, or new romantic opportunity would pop up. I remember thinking many times how I would never have had those interesting opportunities had it not been for Nicotine.

When I was a little girl, I would spend time watching my Grandfather smoke. He smoked Dorals and he always had a fresh pack in his shirt pocket. He told me, on many occasions, that smoking kept him alive and balanced. He lived to be an old man, and he never did quit the sticks. He was also a brilliant composer / director / musician, and there are times when I've said to myself, in my mind, "Well, if it worked for Grandpa, it probably will continue to work for me!"

Fast forward to the most recent present, during my time as a cosmetics counter manager in a large retail chain, I found that it was not until one year in, after I chose to start smoking again, that I made some actual real human friends at my store. Again, Nicotine came through for me at a time when I was lonely and in desperate need of some real people who could understand me under all that makeup and expensive skincare. 

I find myself to this day, able to instantly trust those who smoke. It is such a personal, looked-down-upon habit (at least in The United States), that there is an automatic sympathetic bond between current smokers. I struggle with trusting other Human Beings, but somehow, if they smoke, I trust them more.

The problem is this. Those fellow smokers are not around when I make a mad dash to hide evidence of smoking from my little nephews and niece. And Nicotine turns into an ugly friend the second I ask it to quit smelling like shit. I go through great lengths not to let my nice SUV smell like smoke, but, who am I kidding, even with a touch of car air freshener and crystal cold Minnesota-Winter air (I roll all the windows down and open my sun roof), smoking will always smell like shitty-ass stale cigarettes. 

Most importantly, even if my BFF Nicotine IS the best networker / confidant in the world, where would She/He be if I found myself curled up in a hospital bed, wincing in pain from the loss of a cancerous lung? Where would my friend Nicotine be then? 


Would Nicotine pay for my cancer medical bills? Would Nicotine write a loving eulogy at my funeral? No.
Nicotine would be out there making a new BFF to replace me. And Nicotine would not even feel bad about leaving me to die.

And so. The days are ticking down. I am reading a QuitPlan workbook, answering private questions, and publicly writing about my intimate process of letting go of cigarettes one last time. It is surprisingly nostalgic and lonely to learn to say good bye to my buddy; my most reliable "best friend," Nicotine.

But Nicotine, here's the deal-yo. I do not want to be friends with you anymore. Sorry Not Sorry.

Good Morning and Good Night,
Susan M. Andersen
aka Susan B. Agony
December 19th, 2017


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