Four Years

Today marks four years since I stopped smoking!

It was without a doubt one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, but so worth it. At this point, enough time has passed that I don’t miss cigarettes anymore, not even when I see my few remaining smoking friends light up. That used to be a trigger for cravings, but over time it got less and less. Now I’m a totally insufferable ex-smoker. When I see people smoking, I shake my head and wonder how that ever could have been me. I see smokers toss their butts like litter on the street and I sneer, but then I remember I used to do the exact same thing. I ponder why smokers would do this to themselves, since the awful health repercussions are known to everyone now, but then I remember that it’s a drug addiction. Nicotine is a drug that hooks you instantly, and it makes you crazy if you don’t keep putting it into your system after that. I should know. I was addicted for twenty years. Frankly, I’m lucky it didn’t kill me the way it killed my father, grandmother, and at least one of my grandfathers.

Anyway, if you’re looking for the secret to stopping smoking and staying stopped, it is simply this: You cannot have another cigarette again. Not ever. Not even a puff. Because once you do, the nicotine has got you and the addiction starts all over again. That’s why they say there’s no such thing as “just one.” That’s also why I refuse to even smoke the occasional cigar. I know if I ever have nicotine again, all my hard work will be for nothing. And I don’t want to go back to being beholden to a drug habit. It shapes your day and routines and thought patterns in ridiculous ways you don’t even realize until you stop.

So that’s it. The big secret. Once you stop smoking, you have to actually stop smoking. No bumming smokes. No puffs off other people’s cigarettes. No “I only smoke when I’m out with friends.” Nothing. No more. Only then can you break the addiction for good.

In other news, today is also the 11th anniversary of the biggest blackout in North American history. It struck the entire eastern seaboard, including New York City. I still remember having to walk all the way downtown from the New York Public Library on 42nd Street to the Brooklyn Bridge, then over the bridge and to my apartment through pitch-black Brooklyn streets. Our borough president, Marty Markowitz, was waiting on the other side of the bridge with a megaphone, welcoming us back home. Marcy and G Italiano were visiting from Canada at the time, and we used the little flashlight on Marcy’s keychain to make our way through the darkness. When we got back to my place, we lit candles and drank cocktails. It’s funny how time works. No way does feel like eleven years have passed, and yet so much has happened since then.

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