Trick or Treat

     I sit here, staring at the empty space where my ashtray once sat, housing grey shards of cancer causing chemicals wrapped in a paper and cotton tube, and curse. Curse the day I started smoking, and, even more the day I decided to quit. It was Halloween, a friday night, late and I was trying to sleep but couldn't and felt my breath wheezing in and out of my lungs, like wind in a canyon. I wanted a cigarette. Really bad. Some will know what it is to want that rush of nicotine and smoke and some will wonder, but suffice to say I wanted it so badly I would have taken candy from a baby to get it.

     Fortunately for the kids smuggling their ghost and goblin gotten goodies to bed, I was too tired to get up. So I laid there, staring at the ceiling, hunting for spooks in the shadows and seeking sleep and craving. I felt ridiculous for wanting something so much that I was considering BAD things to get it. So finally, I got up and bumped and banged my insomniac way to the living room and found my pack. Opening up the silver, gold and white hard pack of filtered death was a ritual. I could smell the stale tobacco lining the foil interior. I was in heaven. This is what I wanted. This is what I craved. I looked down to pull out my stick of deathly heaven, and cursed. I was out of cigarettes.

     Not happy news. It was 4 A-fuckin'-M in the morning and I was out of smokes. My heart began to throb, my lungs heaved, and my head joined in the bodily orchestra with a dull thud. Now, you might say "Go buy a new pack" but it's not that easy. Not when you're broke. So now, I was really ready to do ANYthing to get that rushing release, when, all of a sudden, I had an epiphany. Just a silvery redblue flash of thought, "What if you quit? Just, right now, quit?" And it sounded like such a good idea.

     Good ideas come to me at the silliest of times. Here I was, standing in my living room, dressed in an oversized mumu, holding an empty pack of Camel Filter Special Light 100's, craving a smoke, and seriously considering quitting, and it was Halloween. Trick or Treat, Shay?

     The idea, my brain seduced my body, is simple. Quit and you'll have more money. Quit, and you won't suffer from bronchitis every January. Quit, and you won't end up gasping away for breath on the end of an oxygen tube when your forty five. These were all really good arguments. I turned to Craving, which had taken on life. Craving said to me, smoke, and you'll be able to sleep. Smoke and you won't be so fidgety. Smoke, and you'll be cool. Great. So my internal debate comes down to ugly death versus calm cool and collected. I thought and thought about it.

     Stared hard at that seductively simple design on the empty pack, played with my lighter, watched the flame curl up around the empty air, tasted the sweet sensation of that first drag of a cigarette, and decided. I would choose to live. I crushed the pack in my hands and threw it away. I started to dump every ashtray, every scrap of cigarette smoking paraphanalia that I owned into either a bag or the trash.

     My mom woke up to the sound of me piling ashtrays in a paper sack and singing along with the radio. She was pretty surprised at my decision, as well as pleased, and agreed to go along with my choice. Since she didn't smoke, it was an easy decision for her to make. She helped me first clean the house up of all the butts and ashes and match sticks and dead lighters and ashtrays, then she bought me a couple of packs of gum and some mints to help me take my mind off of the cigarettes.

     For the first few hours, it was easy. Then, of course, I got sleepy again, and in sleep, forgot about cigarettes all together. Waking up was hard. The hardest thing I think I ever had to do to myself was to tear my eyes away from the spot where the ashtray used to rest beside my computer. My morning routine now was a mourning ritual as I sipped my pepsi and re-iterated my internal desires to quit.

     All day and all night, I fought the internal battle of the quitter. Sucking on mints, chewing gum, drinking lots of water, running to the restroom, watching TV...anything I could think of to keep my mind off of my enemy--cigarettes. Then a friend came over and I received my first injury. She lit up, and I couldn't stop myself. I knew I was in for it when I reached over and snagged her smoke and took a drag. Didn't inhale, just let myself enjoy the uniquely addictive pleasure of holding a lit cigarette and putting the filter to my lips. My friend, who knew of my decision to quit, frowned at me, but I could see her eyes flashing with glee. I was still a smoker. I was still part of the "group", I was not one of "them." "Them" being non-smokers.

     Even though I had fallen, taken some shrapnel in my self-war, I got back up and continued to fight. Thrusting her cigarette back at her, I managed to avoid looking at IT while she smoked. Should have just asked her to smoke outside. She lit up again, and I took another drag, this time a Real Drag. Inhaled all the way down, choking kinda headrushy eyes watering boy that hurts but it feels so good kinda drag. I hated it. Yuck. Smelled bad, tasted worse and made my body ache. Trick or Treat, Shay? Geeze. How had I fooled myself for so long?

     So it's Monday. Two days have gone by now and I still miss smoking. But I can feel the nicotine need draining away. I'm fidgety, irritable and grumpy as hell, but I know that somewhere at the end of all this craziness, is a smoke free lifestyle. So why do I feel so cruddy?

     I still want a smoke. I want it so bad, I had a dream about finding a cigarette and smoking it. Gods, that felt so good. I'm tricking myself into believing that I don't really want a cigarette, but I know I do. I miss smoking. I miss the calm, almost narcotic haze that followed a good smoke. I miss typing a story out with a burning cigarette resting between my forefinger and middle finger, ashes painting the back of my hand with grey and black freckles. I trick myself into not missing that by sucking on mints, chewing gum, whatever. I do this, not because of the challenge, but because I want the treat of life. But still I curse. I suppose I will curse until I can't remember why I'm cursing, but that's not such a bad thing. At least I will win the war. Right? Trick or Treat, Shay.



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