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Episode #30: Damn, Sometimes I Miss Smoking Cigarettes

I know, I know. Smoking cigarettes is very bad for you. When tobacco smoke is inhaled, the TAR can form a sticky layer on the inside of the lungs. This, OF COURSE, damages the lungs and may lead to lung cancer, emphysema, OR OTHER lung problems. Yes, I KNOW. You could DIE from smoking cigarettes. Which OF COURSE is why I don’t smoke cigarettes any more. It’s why I haven’t smoked cigarettes in over 20 years. And over 20 years ago, when I was going through my divorce – in my early thirties – I gave myself permission to smoke again for a while. For a long time – in my late teens and early twenties – I had smoked cigarettes FULL-TIME – you know, from morning until night. Maybe a pack of cigarettes a day. It was the 80’s and 90’s and even though we as a general public knew better – even though I – KNEW better, I STILL SMOKED. Many of us did. I guess when you’re in your teens and twenties you think you’re INVINCIBLE. That you’ve got decades and decades ahead of you before your health will be impacted by smoking cigarettes. I want to say that I stopped smoking cigarettes FULL-TIME – all day long – in my mid-twenties when Icould no longer smoke IN MY OFFICE. I had changed jobs and many companies in the early 90’s had begun to BAN smoking indoors and created smoking sections outside for their employees. I couldn’t be BOTHERED with going outside to smoke in the middle of the workday, so I just stopped smoking during the day, during most days actually. And the time when I WANTED a cigarette was when I was drinking alcohol. So, in my mid-twenties, I became a WEEKEND smoker. And that was when my ex-husband and I were hosting or going to a lot of dinner parties, mostly with other cigarette smokers. I can remember LINGERING over dinners, with lots of wine flowing and cigarettes IN BETWEEN COURSES. Like, here’s the FIRST course of dinner, now let’s clear these plates AND our palates with a CIGARETTE. I know that might sound gross – even INCORRECT – , that a CIGARETTE could CLEAR your palate. It probably did the OPPOSITE and RATHER than allowing you – ME to taste the NEXT course better, I probably could taste the next course LESS because of the tobacco. I don’t know. I just know that somehow the dining experience was ENHANCED when smoking IN BETWEEN dinner courses. Which, I think, is something I first experienced with many of my cousins in Spain. Lots of different WINES and lots of TAPAS. And cigarettes in between. I don’t think about smoking cigarettes these days when I’m eating or even usually when I’m drinking alcohol. By the way, it was when I was drinking alcohol after the split from my husband in my early thirties when I allowed myself to smoke cigarettes again for a while. I remember one of my uncles – an Eastern medicine doctor – advised me during that time, a time when I was SITUATIONALLY depressed because of my ex-husband’s SUDDEN-TO-ME – decision to split up – my uncle had advised me to take care of my PHYSICAL HEALTH, to support healing my MENTAL health. He had suggested I exercise – and spin classes were new and all the rage in NYC at that time in the late 1990’s – AND he suggested I take a bunch of supplements. AND, he suggested I cut out drinking caffeine and alcohol and smoking cigarettes. I remember saying something like, “Look. I’ll take spin classes and I’ll take supplements. I’ll even cut out caffeine. But I’m NOT cutting out drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes. Not NOW. NOT RIGHT NOW.” Like I said, listeners, I gave myself permission – during a VERY difficult time in my life – a very difficult EMOTIONAL time in my life – to smoke cigarettes as a STRESS RELIEVER. I know, I know, cigarettes – or NICOTINE – doesn’t actually CALM YOU, it’s actually a STIMULANT, I think. I don’t know. What I DO know for me is that cigarettes were a COMPANION to me, during a very DARK and SAD time. And it was still very EASY to smoke cigarettes in NYC in the late 1990’s. You could still smoke in restaurants and bars and I could smoke at home in my apartment. I remember making a very weird rule for myself that I wouldn’t BUY cigarettes in my workout clothes on the way to or from my spin classes. It’s like I KNEW that it didn’t make sense to be taking GOOD care of my body by SPINNING and to be taking POOR care of my body by smoking cigarettes. So, I would wait until I was in my WORK clothes to buy my next pack of cigarettes, before my next happy hour with a colleague. Because post-split from my ex-husband – for the next several months – I leaned on many of my colleagues over many many happy hours. Thank goodness I had NO shortage of colleagues also in their 30’s and living in Manhattan and NO shortage of happy hour locations. And while MOST of my colleagues did NOT smoke cigarettes at the time, MOST of them DID like to drink booze. I even had one colleague who did NOT smoke or drink alcohol because she was pregnant at the time – she STILL came over or went to happy hour with me while I drank and smoked cigarettes. Wow. What a damn trouper she was! TAlk about LEANING on a colleague, a FRIEND. So, why am I talking about missing smoking cigarettes NOW? In 2021, at 55 years old. More than 20 years AFTER I stopped smoking, if only at happy hours after the split from my ex? I don’t know. I think it was in about 2007 or 2008 when I was living on Wall Street and had been out drinking at a favorite local bar and I smelled fresh tobacco outside of a bar on my way home after drinking a few beers. I remember thinking how GOOD it smelled and on my way home I bought a pack of cigarettes. Marlboro Lights. I remember the familiar OPENING of the new pack of cigarettes – peeling off the plastic around the pack, opening up the box like a present, pulling out the foil and carefully pulling out the first cigarette of the pack. Pulling out that first cigarette or two from the pack was always a bit tricky because they are, well, PACKED so closely together. I remember putting the cigarette between my index and middle fingers of my right hand, putting the cigarette between my lips and lighting it with the matches that came with the pack I’d just bought at my local bodega. I had always loved lighting my cigarettes with matches – the spark of the flame and the smell of the sulfur – loved it. Then I took a couple of drags off of the cigarette and I was SO disappointed that it didn’t TASTE ANYWHERE NEAR as good as the fresh tobacco from the other patrons at my local bar had SMELLED. So I crushed out the cigarette and threw the pack of cigarettes away. I remember thinking what a WASTE of something like 7 dollars, I think. ANYWAY, that was 13 or 14 years ago – the LAST time I was tempted by cigarettes and it had been about 10 years since I had regularly smoked cigarettes during all those happy hours when I was *recovering* from my abrupt split from my ex-husband. So, NOW. NOW why am I thinking, DAMN, I sometimes miss smoking cigarettes?? FIRST, let me say I know more than EVER, I know how bad cigarettes are for my health. AND SECOND, while fresh cigarettes can still smell GOOD to me, STALE cigarette smoke – on your FINGERS, in your HAIR and on your CLOTHES smell AWFUL. DISGUSTING. Every once in a while, I cross paths with a smoker – someone who has evidently just smoked a cigarette and has come back inside and you can SMELL the stale smoke on them. It’s gross and I wouldn’t want to smell like that. And THIRD, of course, I’m also a mom and I wouldn’t want to MODEL an unhealthy habit like that for my daughter AND I want to take good care of my health for many years to come. So, FINALLY, for some reason these days, as we’re settling into our new home and as I’m PUTTERING around the house just before bedtime, making sure all the outside lights are ON and the right INDOOR lights are ON and the right indoor lights are OFF, I sometimes get little FLICKERS of MEMORIES of smoking the LAST cigarette of the night, of pulling the cigarette out of the pack, of putting it between my fingers, of lighting it with a match, smelling the sulfur, of taking drags off of the cigarette, of ASHING in the ASHTRAY, of putting the cigarette OUT in the ashtray – the WHOLE ritual of smoking cigarettes. I can remember the WHOLE RITUAL of smoking cigarettes DECADES ago and, what can I say? I fucking miss it sometimes. And maybe if there could be some kind of NEW cigarette one day that’s not BAD for your health and that doesn’t SMELL bad on you, who knows? Maybe I would smoke again, if only one cigarette at the end of the day. I think I recently read that Gwyneth Paltrow allows herself like one cigarette a WEEK. I don’t know how anyone could smoke just one a week. I know when I smoked cigarettes during all those dinner parties in my early twenties and all those happy hours in my early thirties, I would smoke AT LEAST 10 cigarettes in a whole evening. Maybe even a whole PACK. Anyway, good for you, Gwyneth. Okay, so I just looked that up – “Gwyneth Paltrow one cigarette a week” and that article was from 2013, EIGHT years ago. So, maybe she’s NOT still doing that. Who knows. And this just goes to show you how time passess by so fast for me. That something I read EIGHT years ago FEELS like it was just the OTHER DAY. Just like smoking cigarettes REGULARLY over 20 years ago at happy hours is a memory I can easily recall and MISS sometimes. But I definitely don’t miss the feeling the next morning in my MOUTH – where it would feel as though someone had laid a goddamned CARPET on my TONGUE overnight. Yes, a goddamned carpet. I”d be so THIRSTY and my motu would feel FUZZY and my fingers and my hair and my clothes would smell AWFUL. And the stale cigarette smell in my apartment was so gross and all the cigarette butts in the garbage can smelled TERRIBLE. So YEAH. I can remember what I LOVED about smoking cigarettes all those years ago AND what I DIDN’T love about them the next morning. And NO, I’m not AT ALL tempted by e-cigarettes: #1, it’s no THE SAME as smoking regular cigarettes. Where’s the RITUAL of opening a NEW PACK of cigarettes? Where’s the ritual of PULLING OUT a cigarette and putting it to your LIPS? Where’s the ritual of lighting it with a match and smelling the sulfur and smelling the fresh tobacco? Where’s the FUCKING FUN ritual of ASHING your cigarette into and ASHTRAY? And #2, I don’t think e-cigarettes are SAFE or any less UNHEALTHY than regular cigarettes. It’s like goddamned DIET drinks or sodas. I don’t get it. IF I’m going to have a sweet drink, a SODA, say a COKE, I’m going to have a regular coke. A regular coke with fucking sugar. Not a FAKE coke, a DIET coke with FAKE sugar. REAL sugar TASTES good and fake sugar TASTES fake to me and I don’t like it. And so if I’m NOT drinking WINE or BUBBLY or a BEER or a COCKTAIL, I’m gonna just drink WATER if I don’t want to drink any calories. And I’m not going to smoke anything at all – no tobacco cigarettes or e-cigarettes. So, listeners, THAT IS ALL for this episode and I’m thinking for Season 2 this is a good place to stop, at another 15 episodes of Audacious Freedom, the podcast. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, for listening and for being on this journey with me. Whether you know me in real life – for a long time or for a very short time, thank you for listening. And if you DON’T know me in real life, thank you for listening, too. I feel you all out there.

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