Cigarettes: A Love Story



Breaking up with a bad habit and losing a part of myself.

If you've never had a cigarette, you won't understand. If you've had the occasional casual drag or two at a party, this isn't for you. If you've bought a pack, only to smoke one or two a day until you run out, then you have no idea. If you can go weeks at a time without thinking, feeling, or hungering for the sweet inhale of smoke into your lungs, then you don't get it. If you're any of the above, you're lucky. You're not an addict. 

For the first sixteen years of my life, I had this thing called willpower. Or maybe it was naivety. Either way, it protected me from what inevitably became a huge part of my life. But one night, as I drank with my group of friends at the home of someone who's parents were trusting enough to go out of town for the weekend, I got in a fight with my boyfriend of the time, Sam, who was not present. Not just a minor disagreement. A screaming match that my peers had the pleasure of overhearing. Afterwards, I stormed outside and found one of my closest friends at the time, a boy named Trey, puffing on a Marlboro Red. 

"So Sam's mad at you?" he asked, with a half-grin smirk. 

"Yes! It's so stupid. Just because he's out of town doesn't mean I have to stay at home by my fucking self!" I couldn't contain my anger. I wanted to piss Sam off. I wanted to do say "Fuck it" and just let go of all rationality. Luckily, I'd come to the right person.

"Want one?" Trey offered, holding out the pack. I took a cigarette out, still acting huffy but internally feeling uncertain. But the moment I inhaled, I knew it had just been a matter of time. Nothing had ever tasted so delicious and felt so natural. I spent the rest of the night sitting outside chain-smoking with Trey while the rest of our friends took shots of shitty vodka in the kitchen. I was drunk enough already. 

Four years and countless packs later, I made the decision to put the habit to rest. It had been a casual, minor part of my life for years, but it began to spike my sophomore year of college in the midst of a catastrophic long-term relationship and subsequently tumultuous breakup. I don't know exactly what pushed me to the breaking point. Maybe it was the fifth time my debit card got declined. Maybe it was the realization that I could barely run a mile anymore, something I used to excel at. Maybe it was having to pause for breath while walking up four flights of stairs. Maybe it was the being unable to eat most of the time, and then going on extreme binges every other day. I began to hate the way I looked. I was paler, thinner, and less toned. I constantly had dark circles under my eyes. I chewed my lips and cuticles nonstop during class, praying that the ninety minute lecture would go by faster. I started to wonder things about myself. Why was I constantly fatigued? Was I just sick all the time? Why couldn't I eat like a normal person? Was I developing an eating disorder? Was I really going to do this forever? 

Finally, about a month ago, I just decided once and for all to stop buying packs. I still smoke the occasional drunk cigarette at parties, but I miss the other ones: the post-sex, the morning smoke with coffee, the writing cig, the perfect accompaniment to a beautiful song while driving with the windows down, sitting on the patio with my friends and sharing cigarettes and stories, hiding in the garage with my mom and hoping my dad doesn't catch us. Those are the good ones. Those are the ones I really miss. 

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