What I’ve Lost – 1 of 3

Writing 101 – Today’s Prompt: Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.

Today’s twist: Make today’s post the first in a three-post series.

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Loss is not necessarily a bad thing. Often it is not until after you have lost something that you realize how that thing really impacted your life. Even if the loss was beneficial, that does not mean it was pain free and doesn’t hurt from time to time. This post’s loss started as a fling and ended up being an 18 year relationship with many ups and downs. This relationship cost me dearly and felt abusive at times.

As the picture suggests, my relationship was with cigarettes. As of tomorrow the 10th, I will be nicotine free for 4 months. Do I still miss it? Sadly yes. Was it hard to quit? F-ing yes it was. Did I think I would actually be able to quit? Day to day, no, but as time passed, yes.

Anyone who has never dealt with an addiction may not completely understand the difficulty in quitting. Therefore I’m try to explain the relationship I had with smoking and its place in my life for so long. Before I start, a word of warning for anyone out there reading this: Never Start Smoking! Trust me it is not worth it.

In the Beginning There was a Woman and a Car Accident

Back in the innocent days of the late 1990s I found myself in an unexpected relationship with a woman way out of my league. It is the summer of 1996, in the final months before my senior year.  After a junior year party and the junior prom I started dating hanging out with a senior, we’ll call her K.

I thought she was one of the coolest women I’d ever met and the fact that she was interested in me made her all that much cooler. So that summer when we started dating I fell pretty hard. She was getting ready for college and enjoying her last summer of freedom. Not wanting to appear un-cool and unworthy of her time I made the idiotic decision to try smoking. If she did it and appeared to enjoy it, I wanted to do it to. Even if I had spent years telling myself I wouldn’t smoke like my parents did.

Come August, she ends up giving me mono and strep throat at the same time she breaks up with me. I end up laid out for weeks and stop smoking. I’m smart enough not to pick it back up even though all my friends smoked. I even manage to find myself a new girlfriend.

Things were looking up. Then an elderly gentlemen runs a red light one cool October evening.

I was driving my girlfriend to a min-golf course to meet up with friends. Going through a lighted intersection my car is struck on the driver’s side door. Luckily we are not struck by any other vehicles and I’m able to pull over to the side of the road.

My heart was thumping in my chest and anger simmered just below the surface as I listened to a cop try to tell me it was my fault.  After the whole ordeal I needed to relax and ended up buying cigarettes. And from that day on, I didn’t go more than 5 days without smoking for 18 long years.

What I Got From Smoking

From that night so many years ago until last December, smoking became my go to for dealing with stress and moments I didn’t want to be around. The nicotine did its number on my system, and I won’t lie and say I didn’t enjoy that part of it. Truthfully though it was the action that held the most power over me.

I would use smoking as an excuse to go outside away from everyone. I’d light that cigarette and stand there breathing deep the smoke. That deep breathing and exhaling could have been done without the cigs, but I didn’t know that at the time.

Through a tumultuous 15 year relationship, the birth of two children, a divorce, a suicide in the family, death, job loss, going back to school in my late 20’s, and many other ups and downs, there was one constant. I could always count on cigarettes to be there for me without judging me.

Besides getting dressed and going to the bathroom, the first thing I did every morning was smoke a cigarette. After every meal, I’d smoke. After a show or movie was over, I’d have a cigarette. I couldn’t go to sleep without having one last cigarette just before I went to bed. On average I’d smoke between 1 and 2 packs a day. While I didn’t like paying for them I handed over thousands of dollars at the register and got to know the local gas station clerks pretty well.

All in all, part of me knew I had to end my relationship with cigarettes, but I loved them too much to be serious about it. I still loved them even as I decided that I needed to get my health under control or I’d miss seeing my kids get married and have kids of their own.

I know its not over and I’ll be tempted for years to come, but as the days come and go and I’m still not smoking I feel confident I’ll make it.