Notes from Nicotine Hell

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Image by Flickr user: Marius Mellebye / Creative Commons

Day 1
Wake up and put on nicotine patch to once and for all quit pack-a-day habit. Write a list of reasons: live 15 years longer, have healthy children, be socially acceptable. Tear up list and make a better one: look younger, have fewer wrinkles, get more dates, spite enemies. Decide to go out and buy carrots, celery, gum, orange juice, fruit, sugar-free lollipops, and rice cakes. Eat them all by 11 a.m. Try to work. Instead take all-day nap. Have a drink later with old boyfriend Peter, who says, “Kissing a smoker is like licking a dirty ashtray,” then drinks seven beers and a cognac and comes on to me. Actually consider it, but can’t face sex without a cigarette later. At 2 a.m. go out and purchase three packages of fat-free Entenmann’s brownies.

Day 2
Wake up sick from brownies and cold caught walking 14 blocks to get them. Put on patch. Buy Sudafed. Take two. Feel better. Feel delirious. Take a nap. Try to work but can’t concentrate on anything but wanting to smoke. One hour on exercise bike: Oprah’s “Mothers Who Want Their Kids Taken Away” puts problem into perspective. Read that schizophrenics and manic-depressives in mental hospitals commit suicide when their cigarettes are taken away. Ask brother, the doctor, for 65 more patches. Take another Sudafed. Is there a Sudafed group in the city?

Day 3
Put on patch. Have breakfast with friend Vern, who says that after he quit smoking, his concentration didn’t come back for two years. Take 100 deep breaths. Breathing is overrated. Take a walk and count how many stores on the block sell cigarettes. Get more patches in mail from brother, along with pictures of cancerous tumors. Try to work. See a movie with Peter in which all actors smoke. Eat two buckets of popcorn. Peter suggests that I try Nicorettes because his cousin Janet quit in three days on them. I remind him that I tried Nicorettes once and threw up, then smoked two packs to get the taste out of my mouth. Don’t invite him in. Read that nicotine’s harder to quit than heroin. Take another Sudafed.

Day 4
Put on patch. Think of smoking. Brother calls to say don’t even think of smoking with patch on, someone’s fingers fell off. Lunch with Andrea, who coughed every time I took out a cigarette for 15 years but now says, “I can’t hang out with you when you’re like this, you’re too intense.” Bump into old colleague Dave, who quit smoking and gained 29 pounds in four months but thinks it was the smart choice. Consider heroin. Try to work but realize it’s impossible to be a freelance writer, a nonsmoker, and thin in the same year. Sudafed losing its bite, check into Comtrex. Negotiate self-destructive behaviors: decide that taking sleeping pill, smoking a joint, getting drunk, or having sex with Peter one more time is better than a Marlboro or Oreos, though not all on the same night.

Day 5
Put on patch. Feel depressed and edgy, sweating. Hands shaking while I read the paper, where tobacco company executives say nicotine isn’t addictive. Buy a pacifier, pretending it’s a cool rap toy, wondering why anyone expects morality from the people who plaster penis-faced camels all over the country. Think of ten 70-year-old smokers still alive. Dinner with novelist friend Kathy, who chain-smokes in my face while saying she thinks it’s great that I’m quitting. On the way home, try to buy a 25-cent loosie–loose cigarette–at local bodega but guy thinks I’m cigarette police. Take it as an omen. Try to think of one famous writer who doesn’t drink or smoke.

Day 6
Put on patch. Do high-impact aerobics for three hours. Walk out of health club wanting cigarette. Stare at people smoking and wonder why they look so beautiful and happy. Think of money I’m saving from not smoking. Spend $46 on seven boxes of fat-free cookies, 27 cinnamon sticks, and three Lean Cuisines.

Snap rubber band around wrist 100 times. On stationary bike, watch Saturday Night Live, which quotes tobacco company execs saying that the victims of the 400,000 annual smoking-related deaths aren’t really dead. Neighbor complains bike makes too much noise. Do serenity exercises. Picture sitting on a tropical beach, where I’m happily smoking.

Day 7
Put on patch. Have brunch with Peter, who says, while drinking six margaritas, that I’ve gained weight and need to learn more self-control. Make note to quit Peter. Read article about Bosnia and the only thing I notice is that soldier in picture is smoking. Eat more celery, fruit, salad. Polish off Oreos. Feel sick and bloated, dying for cigarette. Take off patch. Run outside. Bum cigarette from homeless person. Puff slowly. Feel happy for the first time in six days. Stop coughing, calm down. Finish two articles. Go back outside, offer same guy two bucks for two more cigarettes. Smoke them quickly. Feel nauseated, dizzy. Bump into Vern and Andrea, who say, “We were just coming by to say how proud we are that you haven’t smoked in a week! Congratulations!” Feel guilty, defeated. Drink bottle of wine by myself. Fall asleep on couch with clothes on.

Day 1
Wake up and put on nicotine patch to quit once and for all . . .

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