Evil Gal Productions

Mere Smith
is a recovering Southerner,
longtime TV writer,
author and blogger.
July 11th, 2012 by Mere Smith

180 Days

Half a year.

Six months.

180 days.

4,320 hours.

259,200 minutes.

This is how long I have not smoked cigarettes.

A quarter of a million minutes.

And I want a goddamn prize, y’all.  A prize like a solid gold cigarette that won’t light up – because if I hold a cigarette in my fingers that does light up you can be damned sure I’m gonna Zippo that sucker – but a golden cigarette that I can have some jewelry-guy melt down and then give me the cash for because I’m pretty sure I could buy some ultracool shit with the exchange rate for gold nowadays.  Like maybe I could buy fifty DVDs, and the new Amanda Fucking Palmer CD when it comes out, and an iPad, and some throw pillows with obscene messages on them, and…

Okay, maybe not that much stuff, but stuff.  Stupid stuff.  Stupid stuff that means “Here, this is your reward since you’re going to live an extra ten years maybe, since you quit smoking before you turned 40.”  And also, “You’re going to live an extra twenty years maybe, since you quit smoking AND started exercising regularly again, even though you can’t eliminate those three mini-donuts you’re eating every day from The Coffee Bean but hey we’re not judging.”

And since you’re not judging:

Oh my god, I love smoking.

No, I fucking love smoking.

I love smoking so much I can’t even use the past-tense version of “love”.

I miss it.  I read less now.

I used to take a book out onto the back porch (no smoking in my own house – my parents smoked in their house and it soaked everything I owned in a grey stink that never came off and all the kids at my school could smell it and I could read the disgust on their faces and it was not my fault, goddammit) and then I would read and smoke once an hour or so while I was writing.  It was a break from my action-brain and I could use my receptive-brain.  I used to read so many books.  I read at least a half-dozen books a month, in five minute snatches – ten if the book was un-put-downable and I grabbed another cigarette.

Now the choice is between going out to the back porch to read with no cigarette or staying put on the couch and mindblasting myself with TV or the internet without tempting myself to go out and buy a pack of smokes so I can go out back to read with a cigarette.

Fuck, I miss smoking.

But here’s the thing: I don’t want to die.

I mean I know we all die; kind of inevitable, no one gets out alive, blah de blah blah.  Could be hit by a bus tomorrow, blah de blah blah.  Not everyone who smokes dies of lung cancer, blah de blah blah.

I’m fond of breathing, though.  Deep, without a hitch.

I like not waking up coughing in the middle of the night.  I like not having that itchy feeling of impending nicotine withdrawal every hour of the day.  I like being able to run on the treadmill without wanting to heave my lungs through my nose.  I like not having to change all my clothes before I go out so I don’t have to see my childhood friends’ disgust mirrored back to me on adults’ faces because the smell stays in your hair and on your skin unless you shower every time before you leave the house and even then your fingers are still telltale and yellow.

I realize I’ve done a good thing here.

But for the first few months, I couldn’t watch a Tarantino movie.

I couldn’t watch any movie with smoking in it, or any TV shows (though smoking on TV, unless you’re “Mad Men,” has been pretty much cleansed from the airwaves, which I think is misguided and stupid; I didn’t smoke because of TV; I smoked because my parents smoked, my grandparents smoked, my aunts and uncles smoked, my friends smoked; not because of the fucking TV).  Back then watching other people smoke made my fingers twitch and my body spikey and I beat back those banshees of “Smokesmokesmokesmokesmoke!” with the hardened stubbornness of a rock-bottomed 12-stepper.

I changed the channel.  I swore.  I ate Twizzlers.  I even pretended to smoke them, which was highly unsatisfactory, and so eventually I just chewed them and was an angry bitch instead.

The first week was unbearable.  Not totally “un-“, I suppose, since I obviously bore it, except I don’t remember anything but being furious and sad and “please just either make this easier or hit me with a goddamn monster truck I swear to fucking god.”

The first month was a tornado and I was the Wicked Witch riding my bike through the storm cackling as if my lungs were Dorothy and I would GET THEM, I would GET THEM just you WAIT it’ll only take time but I’ll GET THEM!

The second month I was full of myself and proud and “I rock, all you poor pathetic smokers!” but when I passed one outside I would suck in their second-hand smoke through my nose and smell it and taste it like rubbing cocaine particles into my gums.  And hate them and envy them and hate myself for not being them and if they could do it, why couldn’t I?  It wasn’t fair.

The third month I despised every non-smoker on earth because they made it look so easy and FUCK IT WAS NOT EASY and I still wanted cigarettes and shouldn’t this part be over by now? and the only thing that kept me going was The Calendar.  Every morning I worked out in the gym and when I got home I’d write in the square of the day before: “DAY 72” or “DAY 89” in giant letters – I had to wait ‘til I’d made it past midnight, I could take nothing for granted – and I thought to myself how soulsucking it would be to have to write “DAY 1” again.

Fuck that.

Fuck you and your unrelenting record, Calendar!  I will not give up!

Six months in, I can watch smoking on movies and TV, though not without a vestigial wince, a dryness to the mouth, a clench of the fingers.  Sometimes I gorge on second-hand smoke.  Sometimes I hold my breath so I won’t like it.  I can’t even smell Twizzlers anymore without becoming enraged.

This entire entry has been hell, remembering and re-feeling and clenching my right fist where the cigarettes used to nuzzle.  I miss inhaling and breathing out a cloud of my existence, shortened perhaps but proven, right there, hanging in its own foggy miasma.

I miss books.  But I will find them again.

Because I will not give up.

I will not give up.

After six months – six MONTHS! – I will not give up.

Today is DAY 181.

But I won’t write it on The Calendar ‘til tomorrow.



19 Responses to “180 Days”
  1. Crazy. Awesome. Post. GOOD FOR YOU, though you don’t need me to validate what you’re doing. My dad smoked for 50 years and died of lung cancer. He smoked to his dying day. My mom quit smoking the day he died, but not before smoking her way through her pregnancy with me and every day thereafter. You RAWK.

    • I’m really sorry about your dad, M. The sibs and I have tried and tried to get my mom to stop, but it’s somewhat infuriating, since the whole time I’m like, “Quit smoking!” (Pause) “Um… can I have one of those?”

  2. The strength it took to quit smoking after so long is fucking impressive. Writing about it when it sucked so much to remember it is fucking impressive. Helping out people going through what you did? Also fucking impressive. You’re fucking impressive.

    Yes, I’m sober, shut up.

  3. I ate recently at a fancy restaurant where the waiter leans down and murmurs menu items suggestively in your ear. Except that he was a smoker and his breath and clothes and yes hair, stank. Good on you for not being that person.
    I smoked. I quit early and it was easy. Then I had my heart broken and I started again. And the second time was much much harder. But it does get easier. And making new habits – new ways & places to read for instance, will help.

    • I did the exact same thing — I had quit smoking for two years, but then got my heart broken and started right back up again. I’m hoping my lungs get credit for those two years, though. Who keeps track of that? Is there a number I can call?

  4. Smoking is awesome. What sucks is the smell. And the hack. And the cancer. And having to wash the walls because they’re five shades darker and the rinse water turns that disgusting tobacco brown. And not going to a certain restaurant bcuz they don’t allow smoking (passé now bcuz of course you can’t smoke ANYWHERE). And the dehydration migraines bcuz you’re smoking a cigarette instead of getting up to get water. And not having enuf money to buy a book because a carton costs more than a hardcover book. I quit after 23 years and would smoke again in a heartbeat if it weren’t for all these sucky things. (40 must be That Age bcuz I quit a month after I turned 40. 😉

    • ::laugh:: You sound just like The Finance. He’s always said that: “Smoking is awesome! It’s a great drug!” It’s just too bad most people find it gross and you’ll probably die from it. But other than that… After having quit for so long, god forbid they find a “healthy” cigarette. I’d be first in line, no matter how gross other people thought it was. As it is, I’m just holding on to the not-dying thing as my primary motivation.

  5. Hi Mere, I just hopped on over from Melisa’s blog since your comment was so funny and you are hilarious! Sorry you miss smoking but good for you for quitting. I never smoked so I’m one of the jerks making it look easy but I am a cancer survivor so I don’t want anyone else to go through that! Your humor will get you through!

    • As I’m sure you know, Stacie, “cancer survivor” beats “whiny ex-smoker” every time. Cancer is such an asshole. Congratulations on beating it down!

  6. Man, sitting across from me smoking for HOURS must have been just so trying. You must have a Will of Iron, Mere.

    Yeah, smoking is awesome and awful. This is so fraught for me I almost couldn’t read it, but then I thought wotthefuck, she could write it having quit, so I could read it having not.

    I go for hours without having one, and then I may have one or a bunch, and then hours more without – unlike my previous smoking pattern, which was just one regularly at least every hour, plus extras as needed. I’ve done what I thought I could never do: fly to Europe without having any, or worked for hours without going out to have one – but what I haven’t done is: quit. For good. ‘Cause: chicken to let go.

    Jeezum Crow. I have to go now. This is making me so jumpy – and books-and-smokes are all tied together up for me, too. But good on ya, Gal, so very good on ya.

    We still have a padded smoking room in the Asylum, though, don’t we?

    • Believe it or not, QG, for some reason your smoking didn’t affect me at all; it must have been one of my good days. (Naturally, I most want to smoke when I’m having a bad day. Or week. Or minute.) And I was more of the smoke-every-hour-on-the-hour types, too. I had to break all my smoking “habits” — i.e., reading on the back porch, a smoke after breakfast, one after dinner — before I could quit the smoking itself. Once I’d stopped the physical habit of going outside at certain times, or when I felt a certain way, or holding a pen like a cigarette, it was much easier to stop with the actual butts.

      And OF COURSE we have a smoking wing in the Asylum. We’re a tolerant, libertarian mental institution, after all.

  7. Good for you, Mere. Six months can seem like an eternity when you’re fighting something like this. I was lucky that I didn’t get addicted when I smoked – it was a social thing. I could go for weeks without a puff but if I went out I could smoke a pack in a night!

    But cab is right – and so are you – about all the nasty side effects of that smell in your hair and clothes, not being able to breathe deeply, yellow or brown stains on your fingers and teeth, etc.

    In the days when smoking was allowed in buildings, one of our managers was a chain smoker. I always hated having to go in and touch his keyboard and even a single people of paper from his office would make my desk smell. When he retired, they had to scrub everything, paint the walls and get new drapes!

    I applaud anyone who even tries to quit and even more so for those who succeed.

    • Even when I was a regular smoker, I could never smoke a pack in a night, Sams! I would’ve puked my intestines out! You must have one of those strong Canadian constitutions — y’know, where you can run 12 miles through the snow, wrestle a bear, then dress and eat an entire elk. And speaking of Ye Olde Times, I still remember when there were ashtrays in the armrests of planes and movie theaters. It still cracks me up to see old movies where the doctor is smoking as he talks to a sick patient. I picture our society 50 years from now watching early 21st century movies and going, “Oh my GOD! He’s holding that cellphone right up to his HEAD! How could they not know about the BRAIN CANCER?”

  8. Somewhat stoopid over here; what pushed me into quitting was the thought that I was so controlled by an evil industry. The year before I quit, I flew to New Zealand, you know… the 159 hour flight, with only nicorette. I was nearly homicidal by the time Auckland finally got under the plane. That was telling. It has been 14 years now and whatever got me to quit is really okay but I wish it could have been the need to take better care of myself or learning from people in my family who died because of smoking. I like the freedom of not having to smoke and not having to plan everything around smoking and not being that aunt who still smokes. Nicotine felt great, it is true, and I still miss it sometimes but I hope I never go there again. I used to dream I had been smoking and wake up all pissed off at myself for starting again, except it was only a dream-HAH! Take that evil corps…hmmmn… Anyway Mere, h’ray for you, you did good. It does get easier and all that blah di blah; it is kind of like that bad break up, the one you thought you would never get past. But you do. And you smell better. And all that.

    • FOURTEEN YEARS? Oh Christ Jesus how I wish I was you, Carole. And I’ve had those dreams, too — where I’m having a cigarette, the whole time beating myself up (in my head, obviously) for being such a weak backslider. Though truthfully, waking up to find that I haven’t had a smoke kinda makes up for it. Thanks for saying I smell better, too. I was a little worried there. :)

  9. Never a smoker, but I’ve had my share of habits that I’ve broken and my share of habits that need breaking. So, (here come the cliches) Keep on keepin’ on, and if you fall off the wagon, get up and get back on.

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Blake! And cliches are only cliches ’cause they’re true. (Also, sorry it took me so long to respond to your comment. Stomach flu = THE WORST.)

  10. peridot2 says

    Congratulations on your 6 month anniversary. Keep on keeping on, it all happens one day at a time. Remember that it takes an average of 6 attempts to succeed at quitting smoking. Sounds like you may have succeeded on your 2nd try. Evil Gal rocks!

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