not an uncommon story

I have something to confess: I poison myself on the regular, and most people are really cool with it.

Isn’t that strange?

Lemme explain. I picked up a cigarette at the tender age of fifteen, and just about never looked back. I’d been severely depressed for four years by then, and that may have had an effect on my sense of self-preservation—but I was also growing deeply disillusioned by things people I was close to said and did. It was a very frustrating point in my life, and I thought that my family and friends were being awfully phony.

(OK, Holden.)

The kicker was when someone close to me, a staunch anti-cigarette presence in my life since I can remember, the kind of person that railed against all second-hand smoke all the time, gave me a hug and I smelled…

…oh, I smelled my mother on her.

Yep. She smelled like stale tobacco and it hit my olfactory sense, a total shock to my physical and emotional systems. Well, I’d seen movies before. I knew how glamorous a habit it was to pick up. I figured that if this person had somehow become a smoker, there was no reason I shouldn’t be. Did I need another reason to pick up a coffin nail and pop it into my mouth?


It was a couple weeks before I picked up my first cigarette, but I eventually became frustrated enough to abandon advice I’d followed faithfully up to that moment, and stole a cigarette out of my mom’s purse during another visit. I waited till that night to smoke it, and it made my stomach sick.

When I spent more time with my mom, I had access to cigarettes. I smoked one a day for about a year. Eventually the hours-long nausea bout that inevitably followed a cigarette faded, and I began to smoke more than the requisite cigarette a day.

Long story short, I’ve been smoking half a pack to a pack everyday since. I remember thinking that if I was addicted to something physical, it would give me something more real to focus on than my depression. Little did I realize then how physical depression is, and it wouldn’t be for another four or five years that I would be diagnosed with a mood disorder.

The moral of the story? I’m not sure, to be totally honest. I never really thought, in all of those breathless years, of quitting in more than a cursory way. I tried a couple of times, always cold turkey—I found that when I slowed down one day, it made me double up the next—and it just didn’t work. I would try to go a day without smoking and there would always come a moment when I stepped out onto the street, only to look over and see someone pressing a filter to their lips. It never mattered how broke I was, or how badly the nicotine exasperated my anxiety. Cigarettes came before rent and sanity.

good thing they’re not a priority anymore.

Then I met my fiancé.

He changed that for me. All of a sudden, I wanted to spend the rest of my life with someone. I wasn’t relying on Kurt Vonnegut quotes for guidance—I no longer wanted to commit suicide through smoking. So began, and so continues, a very long journey to quit smoking cigarettes. It’s been two years that I’ve had the kind of support that allows me to hold onto hope and keep trying. Some weeks are better than others. Some months are better than others. But at the end of the day, every day, I’m determined to try to do right by my body and the people I love. Sometimes you just don’t have the option of giving up on yourself.

Published by Damaged Chemistry

The writer of this blog lives in Seattle with her fiancé and small dog, where she enjoys swearing, quitting smoking, and pretending to be altogether rather more tough than I would say she is.

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