What is addiction? It’s an entire man trying to crawl out of another man’s lungs. (The only problem is the metaphorical man is much larger than the real one and therefore much harder to get out). It’s sleepless days on end staring into a mirror and managing to notice the one microscopic shard that possesses slightly less luster than the rest. The shard that feels like it’s being dragged all around my insides, stirring up a blood-and-guts stew within my torso. Looking into the mirror makes me want to grab the moron on the other side and shake him viciously for conceiving the terribly wonderful idea of quitting smoking. If I found out there was a cure for death, my first instinct would certainly be to smoke a celebratory carton of cigarettes in a single puff. (Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration; it would probably take at least two puffs). I want to go to the bank right now and ask one of the tellers what to do about MY withdrawals, just to throw a nic fit at the irony of the situation.
I’ve realized quitting cigarettes is just like breaking up with a girl, a girl that makes me feel SO good but is hurting me in the long run. It takes about half the duration of the “relationship” to fully move on is what they say in both cases, but in my couple days of suffering such heartbroken misery I already feel inclined to call up an old pack cigarettes on the phone just to gloat over old memories in hopes of a pity smoke. All I do nowadays is curl up in the fetal position in my bed, sick to my stomach, thinking about her butts. I smell her empty cartons left carelessly around my bedroom remembering the slender ivory figures they once encased. I feel there’s no filter big enough to prevent my true emotions from pouring out full force.
To rid myself of this craving is not unlike Peter Parker trying to rid himself of the symbiote suit; the addiction takes on a mind, complete with desires, of its own. I am enslaved to this all-powerful entity which can have me to my feeble knees by the mere waving of its/my wrist. The addiction rivals my own conscience: it rationalizes that death is trivial in the face of just one more cigarette (despite the irony). The living addiction believes in simplicity: complex matters are irrelevant, so long as I feel good. What matter is human interaction when nicotine provides enough satisfaction? Who needs to talk when my inner conscious is loud enough (my internal voices can talk, or rather think, amongst themselves and abolish all feelings of loneliness). Perhaps it’s just an indication of multiple personality disorder when inner monologue becomes inner dialogue.
With the third day of abstinence, the day that marks the alleged end to the most severe withdrawal pains, also comes a Jesus-esque “resurrection” of desire. Waves off longing come with a strength that could push a boulder aside. The final pleas of inner addiction cry out for “just one.” It sounds so simple, like a bite from a delicious red apple; how did Peter Parker opt out of limitless joyrides complete with exclusively good feelings, including mentally-conceived invulnerability, so easily? He found a distraction: sound.
Music focuses your mind on tonally-influenced good feeling and allows for a more naturally focused sense of self-control (that is to say, proverbially speaking, that listening to Queen’s A Day at the Races could lead to the Kingpin’s unsuspected clobbering amidst a night at the opera.
It’s hard to quit cigarettes when your lighter looks so cool. That’s not to say “coolness” and popular imagery are the only reasons to start smoking; however, they provide powerful incentive to continue. All my favorite rock idols seem to subliminally and nonchalantly seem so harmless in the rock world (well at least next to the omnipresent availability of cocaine access). Julian Casablancas of the Strokes performs live with a lit cigarette which undoubtedly provides the rasp in his emotionally climactic vocals for a band of hipsters who refuse to pose in music magazines without their symbolic props of thematic coolness. Jack White is essentially the poster child of a generation that revels in the significance of spending hours in a diner (outside MA or any major city) with nothing but a pack of smokes, lukewarm diner coffee, and manically sped up conversation tempos (he and his ambiguous ex-wife were in Jim Jarmusch’s aptly named and nominally themed Coffee and Cigarettes…enough said). Now I’ve loved the White Stripes long before I started smoking and correlation certainly doesn’t equal causality in this cause. I represent few individuals (keyword: individuals) in this generation of young conformists that started accidently as a means of coping with a life-shaking circumstance, that circumstance being a girl who was feet from suffering the fate of my first car (lifeless). It was totaled on the behalf of a semi truck’s rear that consciously decided to get into my car through the passenger windshield, decelerating from a velocity of about 90 mph despite a red light. Despite my ability to blamelessly paint a completely unilateral depiction, it was completely my fault and I now know it will be my unyielding (literally) affection of distraction that will be the end of me. But morbidity aside and a year later of mutual recovery (physically for her and psychologically for me), some menial scars still exist (for both of us sadly), and I still smoke but now almost exclusively for the euphoric feeling of the drug, with or without life’s/society’s confrontations I face on a near daily basis.
Of course I can’t stop smoking now; I still have fuel in my lighter. (I realize that’s like saying “I can’t stop buying boxes of Eggo waffles because there’s still syrup in the fridge). It’s a black Zippo with a flaming graphic of Mick Jagger’s iconic tongue upon which practically seduces me into pursuing my addiction (maybe Mick couldn’t “get no satisfaction [sic],” but I know I’m one paper rod away from pleasurable apathy). Why didn’t I buy the lighter with the red skull on it to remind me of my impending death (not that I don’t remind myself on an hourly basis) or at least what I’ll look like in twenty years if I continue with the aforementioned bad habit? I keep oxymoronically telling myself it’s a temporary addiction: I’ll quit after this pack. It’s funny how one pack leads to another. Unlike the biased propaganda for another healthier drug, relatively speaking, cigarettes are just the gateway drug to more cigarettes… and perhaps some coffee (not to mention emotional irrelevance).
It’s amazing how stubborn smokers are. I’ve heard stories in town (which is surely applicable world-wide) of smoky old folks who count their vaporized time increments in terms of centennial fractions. This of course is the point in their lives where they come to accept cigarettes as part of their lives as much as eating, breathing, and sleeping are (though cigarettes have a tendency to hinder and supersede all three life functions; nicotine kind of likes to be the center of attention). Now these wrinkle-laced citizens, one of which who works at the local CVS(which is both tragically convenient for a smoker and is an inescapable catch-22 for a smoker wanting to quit for the sake of expense; at said multifaceted drug store, quitting aids and cigarettes coexist on the same shelf with the former taking a bigger toll on the wallet than the latter). This toxic avenger has quit for months at a time, then made the ever-so-common decision to smoke just one cigarette (which in my mind is the greatest story ever told by every smoker that has existed since the dawn of time; this one cigarette is just a re-admittance into the cycle of nicotine, the “smoke ring” if you will). Years later she finds herself working alongside the smoker’s greatest enemy/best friend after a rough day at work (or in my case after a rough day in the life of an impulsive lover).
Of all the drugs I’ve been scared away from thoughtfully considering thanks to a sheltered childhood full of biased health classes and forced biblical ingestion, I was never once warned about how addicting sex can be and how easily sex can be confused with love. The two appear synonymous to the mathematical mind. It’s a simple matter of algebraic substitution involving the variable c for chocolate: if you consider the fact that eating chocolate mimics the euphoria of being in love, and the fact that elder ladies suffering from menopause use chocolate as a substitution for sex (as depicted in the iconic mid-life comic strip “Cathy”), sex is proven to be equal to love logically by combining the two equalities c=love and c=sex (making love=c=sex) and simplifying the singular equality by ignoring the redundant variable c. Math and drugs aside (paradoxically), sex only provides a short-lived state of happiness which is absolutely irrelevant to the personalities of the two engaging participant; however (at least in my case), such shallow emotions can never fully satiate a gluttonous, or emotionally- deprived depending on how you look at it, heart. The temporary feelings are too good to stay in the bedroom. I tend to crave such feelings constantly after enough regular exposure. And once the addiction has taken hold (it usually takes under a month for me), it’s only to be expected that relative withdrawal symptoms would occur given the deprivation of the aforementioned stimulus by means of heartbreak. It doesn’t matter what the drug is, withdrawals hurt.
In the wake of my most recent stint with the most potent of all abstract drugs, cigarettes walked back into my life like a rebounding ex-girlfriend. It was just what I needed: artificially-inseminated good feelings to replace the previously-received organic good feelings. Essentially, cigarettes served as a topical band-aid (or a nicotine patch if you will) for the wound left behind from a painful vacancy of pleasure. Daoism teaches us that the anticipated lack of one profound quality (pleasure) only brings about its antithesis, and I sought to come to terms with this natural order by way of unnatural substance usage ( it was the easiest means for me to achieve a personal sense of way-making).