Iron & Wine and nicotine gum

I just had this moment where, wanting a cigarette badly but having nicotine gum in my bag, I reached for the nicotine gum. And a voice inside my head said “what, are you trying to quit smoking or something?”

Yesterday I could feel my heart working harder to keep my arm elevated for more than a few seconds.

“Yes I am trying to quit smoking.”

This is staunching the bleeding from the harm I’ve been inflicting on myself. This is choosing life. It is choosing not to do violence to myself so that I might instead do violence in my work.

I don’t know whether this will work. Yesterday I moved out of my house and didn’t finish until 4:30 am. As my exit, I smoked a cigarette on the balcony off of my bedroom, a place that became symbolic of my most recent battle with depression where I spent days on end in my room doing nothing but getting high and drunk and watching television.

When I wasn’t asleep or lying around catatonic I was smoking cigarette after spliff after spliff after ass-end of cigarette I used to roll the spliff. I started using a 22-oz bottle of beer as an ashtray, and as I watched it fill up I realized it was symbolic of the damage I was doing to myself, that as that bottle filled up my lung capacity, ability to taste, physical stamina and blood circulation decreased.

I had a thought that it was like a progress bar. That if it filled up that would indicate “done” and it would be time to put a stop to the foolishness and self-harm.

The depression finally let up last Friday. I did not quit smoking but the stupidity of it now rang in my ears. I no longer had extreme waves of self-loathing and hate and panic as triggers, just the remaining scar of nicotine addiction and the atavistic nihilism of my 18-year-old self still hanging around throwing passive-aggressive temper tantrums for attention.

Last night I stuffed that last cigarette butt into the very top of the neck of the bottle. I pushed it down with my index finger and then smelled it. It was rancid. But probably nothing compared to the reek of the inside of my lungs.

I left my cigarettes on the table. I was triggered into smoking once this morning over a heated argument over dull underslept nerves and lingering anxiety about patriarchy (really). I hated it but felt grateful for the nicotine.

I don’t know that I have smoked my last cigarette. I know I’m back in the fight for my life now.


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