Saturday, October 28, 2006


I did not start smoking because of peer pressure or to rebel against my parents. One day when I was twenty-one I just felt like it. Really it was that simple. Out of nowhere, never having tried more than a puff before, I craved a cigarette.

Then I started to crave cigarettes when I went to the bar. Next the half used pack from the night before would be in my car, and as I would invariably be drowsy I started to smoke while I drove as a wake me up. Within six months I was a full-fledged self-proclaimed smoker.

That is the key by the way, that you finally identify yourself as one, a smoker.

It is a very strong identity. Defiant in your unhealthy habit, you are aware of how horrible for you the practice is, after all people love to remind you. But where the nicotine addiction is one thing being part of the smokers club is entirely another. Guaranteed there is no faster way to make friends anywhere than to smoke. Because all smokers are friends, period. Being forced to step outside in a small designated area, braving the elements, people bond. The need to bum a light or even a smoke also breeds community.

Around the age of 27 I was dating a non-smoker so I decided to quit. I said it was for me but no way. I loved smoking. I loved how people were surprised that I was a smoker. I loved taking a break to breathe. I loved the rush of energy it gave me. I loved being in the smokers club.

Needless to say quitting didn't quite stick. Once a month or so I would end up buying a pack while at the bar with friends. Or I would sneak one here or there. Mostly I was smoke free, but I still defined myself as a smoker who had quit.

Then I moved to New York in 2000, then the smokingest city in the U. S. of A. And I got right back on that wagon, full time smoker once again, about a half pack a day - if I didn't go to the bar. If I went to the bar a pack to a pack and a half.

Of course in 2003 NYC adopted the smoking ban, which admittedly made it more challenging to smoke. As natural as it was to have a beer in one hand and a cigarette in another it was to be no more, smokers had to put their drink down and go outside. There was a lot of bitching and moaning, but knowing that the law was most likely not going to be reversed I just acquiesced and went with it.

In October of 2003 one of my friends who also was a smoker quit by reading a book. And she lent it to me to read. I figured what the heck? Couldn't hurt. I in no way believed it would work, how could a book make you quit smoking?

So I started to read, even though I still absolutely loved smoking and honestly didn't want to quit.

The weird thing is that as I started to read the book I was actually afraid. I could feel it in my bones, and I was genuinely surprised to be feeling fear of all things. But I read on.

Of course the craziest thing happened - it worked. Yes, I actually quit smoking by reading a book. Allen Carr's Easy Way to Stop Smoking. Maybe it had subliminal messaging or hypnosis, who knows. Interestingly it isn't available on the US Amazon, only the UK.

I had become a non-smoker. An identity from long before that had gotten lost was regained.

From that point every three months or so I would bum a smoke from someone while at the bar. But it wasn't like before, I didn't crave it the next day. In February of this year I had three one night and felt it the next day - in my early marathon training. That put the last nail in the coffin of cigarettes for me. I had worked too long and too hard to get my sorry ass to qualify for the marathon, no way was I going to let a stupid old habit give me any kind of handicap.

Haven't smoked since.

Amazing, isn't it? A ten-year habit cured by a book, self-identity, and a 26.2-mile race.

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