On October 17, 2014, I stopped smoking, ending my personal 20 year old losing streak.
Without taking this too seriously, I reflect on the proud and difficult moments that came with quitting smoking.
There's not enough time. I don't have enough money. I wish I was in better shape. Three common phrases shared by smokers and non-smokers alike. Only, smokers have no right to complain.
Kicking the habit has helped me win back all three to which I've put to good use.
What used to only be quiet thoughts and go-nowhere ideas over a cigarette have materialized from my idle hands. Such as this blog, a rekindled focus on DJing, and building up my social profile. I also get to snuggle with my kids free of looming odors or pollutants (or guilt).
I never quite realized how smoking affected my time with people until I stole my time back. The company Christmas party was my first outting and as a non-smoker. I was amazed to find that the party carried on quite fine without the need to bundle up and follow my crew to hover under the heated lamps. There was plenty more friends and good times to be had indoors.
As for the wallet, I saved roughly $1750 on cigarettes in the past 12 months. This doesn’t factor in the cost of lost lighters, ABM fees, breath mints, and other impulse purchases. I've also invested in saved money to purchase DJ equipment , which is a much more lucrative habit.
My health - specifically the severe chest pains that kept me from swallowing food for three days last fall - has improved dramatically. I challenge myself at the gym and now look forward to cardio. Despite my should-be-retired-from-basketball body, I’m no longer at a disadvantage on the court (playing against competition my age that is)
Breaking the +20-year-old habit produced a few humbling surprises. At work, I used smoking as an incentive to bring things to a definitive stop in my daily tasks. Finishing a pile of working or clearing my emails for example. After quitting, you would think working through these breaks would make for a more productive day , but it proved not to be the case. In fact, 365 days later I’m still struggling with timing and efficiency. Working until I decide I need a break is just not the same as pushing myself towards a target. Regardless of that target being as negative as lighting up.
Any way you slice it, smokers are a curious breed. A clever bunch that will do just about anything to hide their habit from their employer, significant other, or just about anyone. If you’ve ever had to come home to a partner that is expecting you to smell like the better version of yourself, you have likely moved heaven and earth to make sure this expectation is met.
This means, you have stopped at a store or gas station only to buy gum, or you have saved your last piece for a moment in time on your commute home corresponding to your insane calculation of optimized freshness over distance and time.
Or maybe you home and run straight to the bathroom. Perhaps you use the spray-delay-walkaway technique with your cologne or perfume while you prey it smell strong enough to mask the smoke but subtle enough not to arouse suspicion. Ah, no, I got it. You’ve picked up food on your way home and snuck a few bites, or you’ve peeled an orange, hell maybe you're like my friend who used to buy a black coffee for his ride home, not to drink, but to soak his damn fingers.
In 20 years I’ve heard it all and I've done it all.
As I think back on all my years as a smoker, I wish to celebrate one lost relic; the car lighter. Smokers know it’s more than just another way to light up, there's an art to the timing and handling of the device. If more than one person in the car needed it, then lighting a cigarette became an epic race against the clock. A MacGruber-like countdown to which team work is of the utmost importance. This scenario played out in nearly all of my road trips with me and my homies. Four smokers. One car lighter. T-15 seconds. Start the clock.
First was always the driver. Swift and determined to get back to driving. One puff. Success. First window down, hands it off, eyes are now back on the road. (12 seconds MacGruber!) Second dude, shotgun. Always rushes through the process, his commitment is never questioned. He knows two more are waiting. (9 seconds MacGruber!) Third guys was always the guy that took too long and always asked too many questions. “Does it still work? Is it lit? There’s too much of your guys tobacco left on the burner.” He knocks it off clean into the pop out ashtray and uses it. Fourth guy anxiously awaits. (2 seconds MacGruber!) “here, it’s still good” says number three. (ZERO SECONDS MacGruber!)
Fail....Who has a lighter?
Many people have told me I am full of great stories. Well, maybe not great stories, and by "many people", I really only mean my mom. Still, she tells me im full of it all the time.