getting buff

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The demon weed

The urge to rebel came late with me. At heart, I really don't have the need to do the "bad girl" thing. I never really drank alcohol while underage and my flirtations with drugs were so laughable as to be rather naff.

So I was never tempted to join my friends in year seven and eight who snuck cigarettes while sitting on the middle of the oval (hiding in plain sight, I guess). I didn't like the smell and couldn't see the attraction. Plus I had the sort of moralistic attitude to self-abuse that only the young and naive can have. I had grown up in the era of the squeezed out lung and the worst of the anti-smoking advertisements. In primary school I had so many "healthy body" classes warning against smoking that I could recite them by rote. I was a swimmer at that stage and prided easy breathing above all else. I couldn't see the attraction of making yourself unhealthy.

A few short years later the attraction became clear to me. Smoking was (and is) cool. After finishing year 12 and going overseas, I began dutifully ticking off the list when I accomplished things I shouldn't be doing. Drinking till I puked. Check. Dabbling with pot. Check. Petty theft of souvenir glasses from famous bars and breweries. Check. Crude photos taken with naked statues that could not be shown to mum and dad. Check.

In Europe, everyone smokes (or at least they did when I was there). Cigarettes are cheap and the culture of smoking is embraced. It's not like in Melbourne where the pathetic masses are forced to huddle in the cold on street corners while pig-sucking the last few puffs from their winnie blues. It is all cafes and dim lighting so that the smoke can lazily spiral into the air. It is strong coffee and unnamed shots of pungent liquor served with a cigarette on the side of the plate. It is classy cigarettes of all shapes, sizes and smells, none of which is ever purchased in cartons. It is a smoke handrolled impossibly thin so that the ash barely glows when taking a drag. It is exotic cigarettes with exotic smells flagged only by a single gold band.

Or, in the crowd that I was more likely to run with, it is crumpled softpacks of crumpled cheap cigarettes lit with one hand while with the other hand drinking amazingly flavoured vodka from the jam jars that your fellow young thugs had snuck out of their parent's basements while sitting around a roaring campfire in the woods somewhere. Or a leisurely smoke while wandering through the snow covered city streets at 2am in the morning just back from seeing some incomprehensible polish jazz band while flirting with a sweet pommy boy impressed with how well you can speak the local language.

In short, I started smoking.

There were moments when smoking was as cool as it was then. Inevitably, on another trip to Europe standing on the balcony of my student room. The room was the size of a shoe box, but the balcony had a fabulous view across one of the greatest cities in Europe. Every night I would practise my newfound skill of rolling my own and stand on the balcony in the cold and look out across one of the cities that never sleep. And there were other times as well. But smokings potential for coolness in Australia had already passed, and smoking is something that you have to be ashamed of for 90% of your life, except when going out for a big night when all your non-smoker friends start scabbing smokes off you.

And, to be fair, I had always hated that I was being incredibly unhealthy. I always had in the back of my mind that it was going to be doubly hard to get fit and start running together when I was destroying my lung capacity at a rate of knots. I had attempted to quit a bunch of times. But it just didn't work out. It was the subject of a heap of silent and spoken New Years' Resolutions. Then one day, Hub said something about it and all of a sudden, I wanted to make sure that I could do it. Damn it, I was thirty years old and had been smoking for over a third of my life. And so I quit.

I had one bad moment a week after quitting when I fished the smokes out of the bin and had one more. But apart from that, it was surprisingly easy. With the help of some quitting lozenges and a bit of willpower, I managed it.

And when I passed the point that the books said I no longer had any traces of physical addiction, I began to believe that I had managed (or could manage) to quit. Within a month or two, I had joined the gym. If I could manage to do that after all these years, then I can sure as hell manage to get myself fit again.


If it helps you to stay quit, it is no longer cool to smoke in Europe and people that now have to smoke on the street outside of office buildings on their break are considered lepors.
I quit in 1989. I still sometimes like the smell of tobacco, but I hate the hacking cough. One outweighs the other.
That is kind of depressing actually. But I bet the anti-smoking thing is slower to come to Eastern Europe which is where I hung out most.

Nonetheless, I actually don't feel any attraction for it anymore. Occasionally if I am bored and with people who are smoking I will get a twinge, but the smell, look etc doesn't really attract me anymore (more luck to me).
I quit the smokes about 3 months ago but without patches or gums, just cold turkey. Makes me wonder why I find it so dang hard to control my eating when I can quit smokes after almost 17 years???
I love this post. You write so well.

I gave up 16 years ago due to a very heavy intake of both alcohol and cigarettes which left me feeling so crap the next day that I couldn't face the thought of lighting up at all!! Went cold turkey!!

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