I always used to look down on non-smokers. In fact, the whole concept of ‘not smoking’ was something I never had much of a taste for. I’m glad to say that I wasn’t one of those pathetic addicts who continued their vice either as a subconscious instinct, giving little thought to the chemical and psychological actions that compelled their urges, or as a guilty pleasure. I embraced the nicotine lifestyle with the same passion a Sith Lord might embrace the dark side of the force. I loved smoking. It was ace.
Since picking up the habit at the age of sixteen, there was only one time I really felt compelled to quit. And that was when I was sixteen. For nine years I was not just a smoker, but a fanatical devotee to my own private cult of smoking. I looked down on the ‘clean lungs’ with as much contempt as a religious man might bear for an atheist. Non-smokers were all ignorant fools, blinded by their own sense of superiority and righteous judgmentalism. In their own arrogance they couldn’t see how they were the weak ones, they were the ones deserving of scorn and ostracisation.
Smokers alone (at least self-aware, proud smokers) have the courage of character to revel in their own fallibility and mock the futility of existence! Despite the holier-than-thou preaching of the non-smoking majority, who would ever claim they were entirely perfect? Not many people would. But how many would hold their bad habits, their vices, their weakness in between two discoloured fingers and to flaunt in public like a symbol of their humanity?
Smokers, that’s who.
Smokers accept the weakness of mind and body present in all of mankind – pure smokers rejoice in it. There’s nobody on this earth who isn’t a slave to the biological and mental processes going on within themselves and I believe that there is a good argument to suggest that anyone who succesfully supresses their internal desires to give in to ‘sin’ is missing out on a key part of what makes us human. Lacking the strength of will to resist the temptation to smoke is surely better than losing control of the ability to stop yourself smashing someone’s head in with a rock, isn’t it? Pure smokers appreciate this and carry their cigarettes as a reminder that to give in to the small, pleasurable ‘sins’ is to recognise the ever-present threat of the desire to give in to the bigger ones…
As already established, a human is simply an animal largely controlled by instincts and urges we can codify, label, and claim to understand. Many people persist in believing in some sort of ‘soul’ which governs our actions. Some intangible, undetectable internal force separating us from the beasts and which operates under the guidance of an immutable, timeless assemblance of morals – things we know to be right and wrong. Of course, all morals are external, no more an ingrained part of being human than knowing that Sainbury’s shuts early on Sundays. The struggle between our internal base instincts and external codes of society is something that most people wouldn’t even care to be aware of. The most advanced human however, would be one that not only understands this hidden balance of power, but also attains mastery over both sides. The modern smoker is a social pariah and operates outside the boundaries of decent society, thus overcoming the external pressure mentioned above. A smoker also defeats their own instincts (to an extent) as their addiction is irrefutably linked with their own demise. It is the nature of every living being to fight for their own survival, both as an individual and as a species. Smoking is contrary to both of these; damaging personal health, encouraging an early death, and proving dehabilitating to procreation both in the male and female. It’s important to point out that I’m not saying pure smokers have complete mastery over both the internal and external motivations behind their actions, only that they understand better than most what controls them and can make symbolic gestures which prove their greater personal dominance. For the record, most smokers are not fully aware of this and so are little better than non-smokers; pure smokers, on the other hand, understand all of this.
One final, quick point as to why smokers such as I once was are superior to others yet again proves their appreciation and dominance over the ‘rules that govern man’. One of these ‘rules’, as I described above, is human nature and the impact of instinct and society that makes us do what we do in a psychological, emotional sense. Another rule is the economy, the backbone of our civilization and the process that makes (virtually) everything in the world tick. Smoking’s presence in the economy is a never-ending cycle of waste and expense. You pay for a packet of cigarettes and within a day you’ve got nothing to show for it – you’ve literally burnt your money away. It’s the kind of process the founders of English Socialism in Orwell’s 1984 would have been proud of. Instead of perpetual war and deprivation that is the foundation of Big Brother’s totalitarian regime, smokers fuel an industry that propagates the exchange of wealth in a way that is beyond the basic needs of mankind and which is instantly wasteful. It’s like a decadent, capitalist paradise. Or something.
As you can see, non-smokers suck and I’m not happy to find myself in their position – although I’ll always consider myself a smoker at heart. I knew I’d never choose to quit smoking; I enjoyed it too much. I always kind of suspected, or maybe accepted, that one day I would stop. Part of me expected it to be when I had a child; the desire to avoid looking like a chav parent (the hideous image of, as Alanis Morissette might say, one hand on the pushchair, the other one flicking a cigarette) would overcome all else. Still, I knew it wouldn’t be pretty.
The reason I’ve had to quit before I even had the opportunity to impregnate someone is because I’ve recently been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and, as well as a painfully, constricted ileum, the doctor’s also noticed a shit-load of fistulas (one of which had burrowed into my bladder – not nice). Two weeks and five days ago I went in to hospital to have that part of my intestine removed. While surgery and medication can help alleviate the symptoms of Crohn’s, you can never fully get rid of the disease – you can only hope to keep it under control. Two of the triggers for a Crohn’s attack are an over-active immune system and, rather annoyingly, smoking (which is, apparently, the cause of all those fistulas).
On a side note, I thought it was pretty cool when the doctor told me that my illness was due to an over-zealous immune system, reacting so strongly to infection that it damaged my innards. One way of interpreting this is that I have Wolverine-esque, super-human healing powers, so powerful that my own body couldn’t handle them. A slightly less cool way of seeing it is by comparing my immune system to the US army, the infection to ‘insurgents’ and my intestine to Iraq… Except my immune system destroyed the surrounding areas AND got the job done. You heard it here first: the US army is inferior to my fucked up immune system.
Anyway, I knew the last cigarette (I break out into a cold sweat even thinking that) I would smoke would be the morning of this operation. Actually, I initially said it would be a week before the operation, but that didn’t really work out and, with hindsight, I wish now that I’d spent that last bloody week perpetually surrounded by a thick, toxic cloud of smoke. I’ll add that that to my great list of wasted moments (mental note: write a list of wasted moments). I figured that going cold turkey would be that much easier if I spent the first few days largely unconscious and hooked up to morphine. Ahh, those were the days.
Unfortunately, I’ve since been disconnected from the morphine and set free into the cigarette-laden world outside the hospital bed. I’ve also run out of the Tramadol Hydrochloride painkillers that were at least keeping me partially subdued and I’ve left wallowing in front of daytime TV on the sofa with a strange appetite for satsumas to keep me going. It’s shit. Trisha this morning featured a girl accusing her friend of stealing twenty quid from her and then spending it on a four-way homosexual orgy at the local sauna. What kind of world do we live in? I have no problem with people nicking money and engaging in gay orgies, but I seriously question a society which encourage people to go on Trisha and do a lie detector about it. What is the fucking point.
I really want to have a cigarette. I’ve been encouraged to go for short walks every day to keep myself exercised and hopefully improve my recovery. This basically means I walk to Boots every day to buy more painkillers to overcome the pain of walking to Boots every fucking day. However, it’s during these moments of freedom when I really have the opportunity to nip into the newsagent’s and pick up a packet of Marlboro. Mmmm…. Thus far, I’ve been able to fight the urge. To be honest, the feeling does pretty much pass after a few minutes (although not when you’ve spent the best part of the morning writing about it in a 1500-plus word blog post), although I have had to confuse myself with logic to stop the ‘just one’ thoughts that constantly haunt me.
I know I’m sort of required to quit forever now, but the question is will I have ‘just one, every now and again’. It probably wouldn’t have a significant impact on my health and surely now I’ve seen that I can get through the day smoking nothing, it wouldn’t be dangerous to have a sly puff on occasion…would it? Of course not, despite the medical warnings I’m sure that most things in life that can be enjoyed if used sensibly – life’s for living after all. As I always say: In moderation, you can’t have too much of a good thing.
On the other hand, (and this is the argument I am forced to use on myself as I hover indecisively outside the newsagent’s) the number of cigarettes I smoke can only increase from this day on. If I do give in to my temptation and pick up a pack of ten (soon to be taken off of sale apparently – which means that anyone in a situation like mine would be, ironically, forced to spend more and smoke more) with the intention of smoking just one, from that point on I can only ever smoke more than that with the inevitable result that I will eventually be back to a point where I will have to quit smoking again – I know for a fact that I MUST quit – causing the cycle to restart. So, at the moment I’m on zero cigarettes a month (technically). Even if I go to one Richmond menthol every five years, my choices following the decision to have that cigarette are either I can start smoking more or I HAVE to quit again. As I hate the idea of quitting and there is no way that I can start smoking regularly again (unless I want to repeat the pain of the past nine months) I can’t smoke even one cigarette without having to follow the inevitable steps that lead to one of those two consequences – neither of which are desirable. Sigh. Life sucks.
What’s even worse is that I think I’m getting old. When I was walking into town today, a taxi stopped on the road down a backstreet blocking the exact point where the path I was on leads onto the road. I couldn’t see any reason why the driver stopped at this point which was the only metre, out of the entire thirty or so metres down the whole road, which would prove particularly inconvenient to anyone around. It was like he had to make a special effort to inconvenience as many people as possible. The point is that, as I was forced to make a few extra steps around the taxi, I almost said something about the driver’s choice of parking place. Fortunately, I was able to remind myself that nobody gives a shit and I really should have been thinking of something far more interesting than the parking habits of a fucking taxi driver. As such this situation wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been, but it might represent the beginning of the end. In a few years time, keep an eye out for that guy standing by the side of the road trying to catch the attention of passers-by to point out some insignificant event with all the righteous idignation middle England can muster – that could be me.
A cigarette would solve everything.