Nothing to say about writing in this post, I’m afraid. I promise I’ll get back to it shortly.
As of February it will have been 12 years since I quit smoking. Sadly, that means I’m still a little bit out from when the number of years since I’ve quit overtake the years that I smoked.
If you had asked me when I was 25, when I quit, how long I’d been smoking I’d have said more than 15 years, with some twisted sense of pride. The truth is probably somewhere close to a little under 13 years, I say now with a twisted sense of shame.
I tried smoking when I was eight. A couple times here and there. From ten until twelve it was on and off, more mimicking the action of smoking than actually smoking. There was occasion during this time where I’d have my own pack of cigarettes. Come twelve years old and smoking became a full time habit. At my peak consumption, when working at a computer or performing (in a former life as a nightclub DJ) or alcohol in hand, I could easily go through a pack of cigarettes in five hours. Yes, that’s a cigarette every 12 minutes.
When I had quit I realized that I didn’t really recognize life without smoking. My friends, family, and co-workers all smoked. My environment was saturated it in. So too was my history. I couldn’t remember my life as a non-smoker. I had to make up something new.
The physical addiction was fairly easy. Tapering off with nicotine patches over time kept that pretty well in line. Still, smoking was pretty heavily ingrained into my life and the physical actions were less easy to tame. Even two years later I’d be walking somewhere and find I’d been searching my pockets subconsciously for my cigarettes and lighter. That habituation of physical actions took a long time to weed its way out. As I’m starting, finally, to work on my weight issues I’m realizing another remnant left over.
It goes back to my ability to blaze through a pack of cigarettes in five hours. It wasn’t so much that I was craving a cigarette and would therefore have one. It was that I couldn’t taste it in my mouth anymore. I became a creature of needing to have some flavour in my mouth or I would seek one out. Smoking filled in that space.
When I quit smoking other things in my life came in to fill that void. Unsurprisingly, some of the cheapest, most plentiful, and worst things I could reach out for: pop, chips, and chocolate bars. Now that I’ve significantly cut those things back from my diet I can see that need and how it has negatively impacted my weight.
For over a decade I’ve put at least 2L of pop into my body daily. If you put four chocolate bars in front of me I will eat all four within an hour. Not because I want them. Not because I’m hungry. Because within ten minutes of eating the first I’ll want to punch up that flavour again. Chips? Well that just continuous flavour delivery in convenient family/party size portions. I know I will feel sick when I’m done doing these things, but I do them anyway.
Over the last three months I’ve steadily cut those things out of my diet. It’s made the triggers easier to recognize. I’m much better (now that I’m not continually strung out on sugar, salt, and caffeine) at recognizing when I’m actually hungry. It’s easier to tell when I’m craving something because I simply want to taste it. There’s still a lot of work to control those impulses, but at least I can recognize them as separate from actual hunger now.
It’s difficult now to think that I’ve sacrificed one bad habit for another. A different problem that I’m now going to have to fight uphill against and do my best not to put something else terrible in its place.
All of it spawning from a stupid eight year old kid and how cool his nine and a half year old friend seemed at the time.