It's all about the puff. That routine. The celebration.
At any given moment of the day I may feel the need, the desire to walk downstairs and sit down, relax. It's almost procedural.
I grab a chair and sit down, cross my legs or pull my legs up, and get one out of the pack. Sometimes I just take two with me when going downstairs and leave the pack upstairs.
Three times, three times do I tap it on my lighter before I light it up.
That first puff.
Next when it hits the throat.
I relax, I enjoy. Which in itself is contradictory, because nicotine is a stimulant.
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Let's get it out of the way. I'm a smoker.
I love smoking.
It's an integral and much beloved part of my days, of my life even. I love the kick it gives. I love the relaxation it offers. I love the routine, I love the ritual.
Inhaling, opening my mouth slightly more to inhale deeper, let the tobacco smoke circulate in my mouth and coat my gums before, once again, I inhale and let it kick me at the back of the throat.
Of course, having started at a rather young age, over the more than 2.5 decades I have smoked, I have wanted to stop. I've stopped several times. But in vain each time.
Smoking breaks range from anywhere from some days to several months. All have one central theme, all inevitably end with taxing cigarettes from others, until eventually the humility required to do so, or embarrassment when refused, gets to me and I buy a new pack.
Lucky Strike. They’re my drug. They’re toasted. Lucky Strike Red.
Camel Blue on occasion. Regular camels back then. Lucky Strike Silver sometimes.
I used to be a much heavier smoker.
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Gauloises. Not the tailor made filter cigarettes. The blue filterless ones. Close to two packs a day. I was travelling France, mostly hitchhiking my way through the country. I was only 19 and smoked one of the strongest available cigarettes in the country. Filterless cigarettes. Gauloises sans filtre.
I love hand-rolled cigarette. The ritual is even more enjoyable and longer too obviously. I roll them rather thinly. Thus I inhale even harder. It relaxes more, I think.
Drum, Ajja17 Red, Golden Virginia.
I love their taste. The flavor is different. Not merely stronger, different. Fuller.
The taste. It's not really what I like about cigarettes, I probably can't think about one specific dominating flavor about their taste I truly enjoy. Thinking hard about it, no, it isn't the taste I love.
It's the ritual. The kick. The stimulation.
Some day I will stop again. But not yet. Not right now.
Smoking helps me through the day, smoking helps me through life right now. I barely drink anymore. I have absolutely no problem saying no to the frequent drinking sessions in the compound. More often than not when shouted at "Let's drink" I answer that I still have to work.
People here have learned. The usual "Let's drink" invite has now become Hey, want a drink?, a more subtle invite I sometimes accept with "Sure, a quick one".
I love a good drink. I like a nice beer, even a simple lager. I'm Belgian after all.
I look forward to some day soon make a lovely, dry to extra dry Martini with Tanqueray again. I miss the availablity of Cadenhead's whiskys.
I love enjoying life. I love kicking back and relaxing. I'm easygoing and laidback when given the opportunity.
I don't like to drink for the sake of drinking. I don't like bingeing.
I love to smoke.
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There's something different about smoking during those moments, during those drinking sessions. The ritual is lost. Smoking becomes a habitual thing to do, also driven by the flavor of the booze. And, of course, by peers. All it does is make me smoke more.
I don't enjoy the smoking in those moments. It kills the ritual. There's no ritual involved whatsoever. No relaxation. No joy.
I love smoking. Smoking supersedes over quitting.
I know I will quit again. And again and again and again. Like anybody else, I loathe those health warnings on packs. Yes, they do work. Not immediately and they are easily replaced with a cigarette box holder. Creating additional ritual even.
But they do work. Enough to make me quit? Probably not. As one of many elements? Undoubtedly.
I've tried it all.
Cold Turkey. Gradually downscaling. Limiting available cash. Nicotine patches.
Cold Turkey with the last one of the day being the last one. Or just saving one, the first one of the day and then none anymore, cold turkey.
"Mate, got a smoke?"
"Hey, mate! Mind if I tax you a fag? I'm trying to quit and restricting availability."
"Can I have a smoke again, mate? I will soon get you a pack for all those I taxed."
There's no variant of asking somebody for a smoke I haven't tried over the years. I've wnted to quit, I've tried to quit tens of times. Inevitably, any of those is the outcome of all.
One cigarette to rule them all.
The nicotine patches worked best. I quit for, I think, a good eight months. A night out, clubbing, killed it all. Pack in the pocket, I returned home. Enough cigarettes on me to start the morning and survive until I had time to go buy another pack.
"Sorry man, my last one."
The show of the open box with only two or three cigarettes in anymore. Both often accompanied by a patronizing look, and at times even condescending an air.
The right motivation to hit the news agent, or locally the sari-sari store, and get a new pack.
I want to quit. I mean it when I say that. But not yet. And not right now.
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I love smoking. It's relaxing. The ritual is almost as enjoyable as that first puff of a spliff back when I still enjoyed those. It helps me get through the day, through life even.
Some day I will quit and I won't end up smoking whatever the strangers I just asked a cigarette smoke. I won't end up getting myself another pack.
But not yet.
Right now, right now my life needs the ritual.