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Bad Habits

He Tries to Kick Cigarettes and Not Kick Advice-Givers

August 24, 2002

Habits can be murder to quit. Here, two Angelenos talk about coming to terms with their personal compulsions.

James Loughrie,

22, political aide

*

I can't remember the day I began smoking, but I remember why. It was during final exams of my junior year in college. Big stress. I had smoked a few times, but always mooching from friends.

Soon I found myself buying cigarettes, and now it is all a blur.

I give myself regular lectures about quitting, but here's what happened when I last tried:

I smoked my last cigarette at 6 a.m. Monday. Not until noon did I want a cigarette more than anything in the world.

Giving up is easily the most difficult thing I have ever attempted. People could at least refrain from being stupid.

Every moron has his or her own unique way of outshining the moron before them. Like a friend who in a happy-go-lucky voice said, "Don't smoke."

Oh thank you, because I didn't know that all I had to do was listen to you and any desire for a cigarette would be gone.

Or the priceless idiot, another friend, who said, two days after I quit, "You need to quit this."

These were two people who, in two days with two stupid comments, made me desperately want a cigarette.

The third day, I was lamenting to a friend how badly I wanted a cigarette, and he said, "All it takes is some self-control."

Wow, is that all? Why is such brilliance wasted with my smoking instead of solving problems in the Middle East?

It's a battle that nonsmokers do not understand. Their idiocy makes smoking look intellectual.

Of course, it isn't just a human problem. For example, I have been chewing nicotine gum to help me quit. It is not actually gum, and it comes with a 15-page instruction book. On top of the annoying instructions like "bite down on the piece of gum about 15 times then park it between your cheek and gum," the package for each piece is the hardest thing in the world to open.

Imagine a desperate addict fighting with a small piece of foil and tightly glued plastic, desperate for a moment of relief. Opening a piece makes me want a cigarette more.

The quitting process makes me want a cigarette not simply because I miss the smoking, but because life is so frustrating without one. So then I go through moments of justifying smoking. I tell myself, "I'm only hurting myself," which is true because California has laws that prohibit smoking indoors.

Besides that, with all the evils going on in the world, from priestly scandals to the next round of terrorism, a cigarette is a small thing to fuss over. And it's not as though my cigarette funds the terrorist operations, as heroin does.

In fact, I am supporting the economy by smoking, and in more ways than the $4.50 a pack I pay for cigarettes. Think what tobacco company lawsuit settlements do for cities and counties. It makes me feel guilty about wanting to quit because if I did I would be depriving a child of badly needed resources.

And now here I am, fighting with a piece of non-gum that is still called gum, angry and bitter at all of my friends.

My absurdity is leaking through, and it is time for a cigarette--I mean nicotine gum.

How much longer will it be before I am rid of the metabolic need for nicotine? How much longer until the cheery young fellow comes back and evicts the cranky miser I currently am?

*

Postscript: After two weeks of fighting myself and living in a nightmare, I broke. I was back outside taking smoke breaks. But I am attempting to quit again.

If you see me, be silent and walk away.

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