In my dream I was sitting in class listening as the professor droned on and on about this or that. Then they came in and told me I had to report to the student union to sign some waiver. Apparently word had gotten out that I had quit smoking cold turkey and needed to sign a statement absolving the university of any responsibility should I suddenly go berserk and . . . well . . . do what insane people do on college campuses these days. This form was quite thorough. I had to agree that they were warning me that quitting smoking cold turkey was dangerous and irresponsible – quitting should be only done under the direct supervision of a medical professional – and that should I begin exhibiting behaviors ranging from mild (falling asleep in class or receiving lower grades) to extreme (watch the news and fill in the blank here), then the university, its professors, my fellow students, or anyone else associated with my educational career could in no way be held liable, in either the legal courts or the court of public opinion. In this day, when fingers (and guns) are being pointed with intent to harm, I wasn’t shocked it had come to this. I signed the form, handed it back in to the distracted and overworked secretary, and was escorted back to class.
Then I woke up. This morning . . . in my bed next to my wife . . . having gone more than two days without a cigarette.
I laughed at the stupidity of it all.
The amazing thing about this whole experience is that no one in my family even noticed I wasn’t smoking. I drove in to town with my wife the morning after I quit and didn’t smoke in the van, something that drives her crazy. I didn’t stop to buy any cigarettes, and I didn’t smoke any while waiting for her to come and pick me up after class. I didn’t smoke once when my oldest daughter and I drove into town on Saturday morning to pick up a book at Barnes & Noble, some groceries from Wal-Mart, and breakfast at IHOP. She didn’t even notice that, for the first time in years, I drove with the window up and she didn’t have to ask me to close it because the wind was bugging her. To drive anywhere without smoking is damn near impossible. I can mark the miles and the ETAs by how many Camels I’ve smoked or even how much Camel I have left before I must fling the butt out the window. Driving=Smoking.
And yet this cancer, this pesky, persistent weedy habit that has eaten away at my family – they didn’t even notice that it had been eradicated. But maybe that’s the way it goes. They’ve become so used to me killing myself one puff at a time that they didn’t even notice or care anymore. And it’s not like this is the first time I’ve ever tried to quit. I’ve made those sweeping, all-or-nothing promises addictive people like me are prone to make and then gone back to the trough when the going got a bit rocky. So there’s pain there for them and I’m a fool to expect them to speak up and congratulate me for my stellar efforts when they probably realize they will be short lived – just more of dad’s bullshit. Still, while they were all good at pointing out my habit when it bothered them, they didn’t notice the clean air when it subtly blew into our home. I probably sound bitter, so hold on while I slap myself and get over it . . .
That’s better. Sorry for that little pity party. I’m such an idiot.
But I’m damn good at Guitar Hero. “You Rock!” the game reminds me at the end of every number. So, since I need to feel like I rock on occasion, I’ve played GH a lot this weekend. Between that and all the movies I’ve watched (some twice), the diversions have been myriad and miraculous. I’ve attempted to reconnect to my family even as I’ve fed my inclinations to pull away, to pull inside, and fight the battle alone. I’m like William Hurt’s character in the movie The Doctor – I’ve kept my arms up for so long pushing people away that I have no idea how, or effort left, to put them down.
So what’s left of me? I’m broken and weak right now, but I’m doing it.
Tomorrow begins the true tests. I jump back into the routines of school and work – two arenas thick and cloudy with smoking triggers and an enabling cast of characters also unaware of my decision to quit. Despite all prose to the contrary, I’m feeling good about quitting and plan on doing it for however long it takes.
Thank you all for your comments and encouraging words. They are appreciated more than you know.