“If I quit now, I will soon be back to where I started. And when I started I was desperately wishing to be where I am now.” Unknown
Part of a scene last night at Westside Improv included two men smoking outside. Toking his invisible cigarette, and exhaling into the pretend outside environment, one man said to the next, “It feels so good to get some fresh air.”
His heavy sigh and forlorn smile were accompanied by the audience erupting into laughter. How we do love the irony of making a bad thing appear good.
I was talking about smoking the other night. The same way I think that a martini is the sexiest drink alive is the way I think about smoking. I don’t think about its stink, its cost, its addictive and escapist qualities. I think about the sexiness of a cigarette perfectly cushioned between my index and middle finger. I wax nostalgic about lighting an American Spirit, because I didn’t smoke cheap cigarettes with fillers, no, no it was only the healthiest cigarette for me. The scene last night took me back to my days at La Petite Academy on South Jefferson downtown, where I used to find a buddy to head outside in the dead of winter to smoke and shiver inside the shelter of an old loading dock.
I told a friend recently that I quit because I was spending too much time in the garage, which was part true. My cold turkey anniversary is approaching. I remember it like it was yesterday. I had met a reporter at Honey in Glen Ellyn for lunch. We still lived in Oak Lawn at the time. I was driving home on 2-94 and I knew at that moment I was smoking my last cigarette. It was Super Tuesday, February 5, 2008. My mom was watching Bridget. I walked into the house and asked her if I didn’t vote in the primary could I vote in the general. She responded of course I could. I failed to mention I never missed voting in a primary election. She told me I didn’t look well and asked what was wrong. I told her I didn’t feel well and went to bed. A week long fever started and spiked to 104. A series of visits to two hospitals and one urgent care facility were little help. By Friday I felt so bad that I was ready to throw in the towel, the towel called life, when the phone rang. A radiologist was on the line and demanded that I come back to the hospital and be admitted for treatment before I died of sepsis. I spent three days in Little Company of Mary Hospital, being pumped with drugs that killed the infection and caused insomnia and more drugs that helped me sleep.
In my sickness, delirium and hospitalization, I quit smoking, cold turkey. And yes, I had circumstances that helped. No doubt that quitting smoking is easier when you feel like shit. Nevertheless, it was a great decision to quit a bad habit. Smoking was my crutch. It was my best friend. I loved it. Smoking never failed me. It was there in my darkest hours and my lightest ones. But I needed to break it off. There are so many parallels to my relationship with smoking to other areas of and relationships in my life.
Which brings me to the reason why cold turkey is on my mind this morning. What happens when we have to quit things that are actually good for us? What happens when cold turkey appears at the moment we least expect. What happens when the things in life we most enjoy, the things that keep us sane, are removed? Well, for me, batshit crazy ensues.
The craziness and absence of lucidity of those three days in the hospital in 2008 have been present these last six weeks in my life without yoga, regular walks with the dogs, and healthy doses of Vitamin D. I spoke with my sister the other day, and she agreed, I had every reason to be going batshit crazy. When I wrote early last week that I was so bitchy I that can’t stand myself, I meant it. I feel as if a storm is brewing inside of me, the Weather Channel’s meteorologists are all over it, unsure what to make of it, will it develop into a hurricane and hit land and become into a nor’easter, is it strong enough to set off a tsunami? Only my surgeon knows.
Tomorrow, I have my a follow-up appointment with my surgeon. My hernia popped out December 12, which resulted in surgery and triggered this cold turkey recess from everything that kept me sane. All of this is ironic, right? To start, who triggers a hernia while practicing yoga? Me! People think yoga is a gentle practice, and yes there are days when it is, but more than half of my practice includes twists, stretches, and poses that contort my body to its peak. My body was unhappy with the peak and said enough Karen.
The timing of this recess was admittedly poor. This recess was coupled with the holidays, including my first Christmas since the divorce last February, a cold spell with a boatload of grey days, and the arrival of a new year that officially signaled a new career direction. Why sweat the small stuff, right? Shit, I would sweat anything if I had some small stuff!
Thank God I have found the silver lining. I’m grateful for the decision I made in early December to write every day for 90 days; my making good on this commitment is rewarding. The mental respite I find here has been a tremendous source of sanity during this recess.
So, on this Sunday, the last Sunday of this first month of this new year, I am looking forward to Monday. Tomorrow, I will return to the surgeon, tell him how good I have been about not doing all the regular things that make me feel good. In the meantime, I think I’ll get some fresh air today, less the cigarette, of course.