Hot Fudge Wednesdays: Public Health Dazzler

The thing the tobacco industry doesn’t want you to know about quitting is how fun it is. Like, crazy insane bat-shit fun. Totally bananas out-of-control fun! Quitting smoking is, like, the most fun thing I’ve ever done!

You are probably thinking one of two reasonable thoughts. One: "Wow, that seems to fly in the face of all evidence I've ever heard including that which I have lived firsthand when my ex-boyfriend quit and drove his Camaro into a phone booth because he thought it was giving him the finger." Two: "Should I start smoking so that I can quit and experience such bliss as I've never gleaned from merely existing?" I will work backward in answering these rhetorical tricksterisms, and say that to some extent, my 20 years of smoking pale in comparison to the undiluted thrill of Quitting Cold Turkey All Of A Sudden A Few Weeks Ago.


Why did I decide that I wanted to pay the entrance fee for this excruciating joyride? Allow me to reach into my metaphor bag and pull out a rabbit shaped like the act of making art: I was inspired. The very first thought that occurred to me on the morning of March 2, 2015 was, "Huh. I guess I'll quit smoking today." The very second thought was, "Oh, shit."

This Sunday, March 29, 2015 AD, during Open Space's Sixth Annual Publications and Multiples Fair at the Baltimore Design School, I will be delivering a frantic presentation on the topic of Just Doing It! And I've decided to discuss the parallels between Keeping Motivated in Your Art Practice and Quitting Smoking (Really). At that time I will have 27 days smoke-free, qualifying me as a Future Expert.

Presently, however, I'd like to discuss some of the more enjoyable aspects of abdicating one's spot outside, under an insufficient awning, in the rain or snow or both, fingers freezing, for periods of 10 to 15 minutes. Are you ready to experience the gratification and fulfillment that comes with realizing you contain multitudes?

For the first one to two weeks, possibly longer, you will feel you are being birthed into the world again. Relish the agony of bright lights, erratic sleep, confusing bowel movements, the sensation of being covered head to toe with translucent slime. Crying jags alight, a cloud of mangy seagulls swirling and shrieking in the strip mall parking lot of your mind. This is the place where you used to be able to park your butts. Nowadays the seagulls run the show. Be the seagull. Stare blankly into the distance with your yellow eyes, flinch easily, and allow yourself to drift aimlessly on a diet of garbage and screaming.

You can eat whatever you want. “But I already do!” you whine. Wait until you quit smoking. The image of comic-strip lawyer Steve Dallas in his underwear, mouth full of hockey-puck-like Hostess Ding Dong won’t just be a ghostly mirage lurking in your subconscious, it will be you. Be the Bloom County character. Prior to a few days ago, the last time I read a book of Bloom County cartoons and ate Pop-Tarts was probably right before I embarked on my journey as a smoker nearly two decades ago. I barely know myself as an adult without cigarettes! The only thing I know about myself as a nonsmoker, thus far, is that I ate too much pizza for dinner. Later, I will steal more of my roommate’s Pop-Tarts and he will forgive me. He might even think I am doing him a favor, and in a way I am. I am the garbage can. I am the seagull, the garbage can, the fictional womanizer with aviator shades askew, face crammed with fictional dessert cakes. This is who I am without cigs: an infinite projection of whatever it takes to get me through the day.
It doesn’t stop there! Another delightful aspect of getting off nicotine is that people will share all manner of strange and unusual tricks with you. It’s like being inducted into a secret society. My sister mailed me a pound of licorice root. I break the sticks to cigarette length and gnash each segment until the end looks like a horsetail. One wizard gave me a plastic bag from Wawa filled with sugared gums, Peanut Chews candy (vegan, by the way), and plastic straws poached from the beverage station. I cut the straws to cigarette length and gnash each segment into a perfect rectangle. Another shaman told me that when she quit, she would pour lavender oil onto a handkerchief. When the cravings came (and they come) she put the fabric over her face and breathed as deeply as she could. I drizzled oil of Texas cedarwood, cypress, and wintergreen onto a bandanna, and while I do not huff it on the bus for fear of offending my fellow passengers, it is a helpful accessory for nights at the club where waving a perfumed pocket square in the same hand as an iPhone is on trend. Be the righteous techno-dandy you want to see in the world.
See how fun? You can build an arsenal of flotsam, furiously chomping and sniffing at everything in your reach. But the best part is when the craving knocks. “THIS IS GENERALLY WHERE WE REWARD OURSELVES WITH A CIGARETTE. HERE. SO, UH. NOW.” The craving is holding a shepherd’s crook or a sickle. The craving is an asshole catcalling you on the street, and here is the most fun thing: You can ignore it! So fun! Gripping and chewing and gnashing and screaming, you mount that stick horse and ride off into the sunset, refracting the light of yourself through a million prismatic facets and blinding the shit out of anything that gets in your way. How fucking fun is that?