I’ve tried to quit smoking about six hundred times and I fail. I fail to actually stop. At precisely the same time I’m saying I don’t want to do this anymore I am sucking on a cancer stick and loving it. My endless preparations for me being a non-smoker always produce the kind of anxiety that needs a cigarette. It’s not that I don’t want the healthful liberty of being a non-smoker, I do, really I do, but I just want to be a non-smoker who smokes.
I know the terrible life outcomes of smokers; I’ve seen enough of that to feel the tightening of my calves in preparation for the jump away from respiratory horror, toward athleticism and radiant wellbeing. It’s not possible to avoid the terror and self loathing that comes when the anti-smoking ads appear on the box or on billboards beside the road. The shrivelling sense of failure, and failures yet to come, crawls over the body like a tide of wet, stinky mud enveloping me. There’s no getting around that feeling. It’s just, and it’s present.
That feeling and the weight of it doesn’t actually produce the stunning turn around in behaviour that you’d think it would. I am completely unsuccessful at translating resolve and determination into effective action. I’ve managed, once, to go two months without smoking. I’ve managed for a while to be an after-dark smoker. I’ve attempted about sixteen hundred discipline variations to control, mitigate and ameliorate smoking, to prepare for the day without cigarettes. But they never work; I never manage to make them work, I always make them fail.
It’s hard to say how conscious this is, or isn’t. I love smoking, and love is a kind of congruency it can be difficult to step away from. It fits, I fit it, we go together. And all love hurts, sometimes. There are moments I recognise as self sabotage in quitting smoking, and there are moments when I sense the vulnerability I will reveal by quitting smoking and how much I don’t want that revelation to be made. Sometimes I forget that I want not to smoke. Sometimes I remember how much I love it.
I rattle on at the gym: running, stepping, circuiting. I’m as healthy as I’ve ever been. I eat more vegetables than I ever considered proper, eat birdseed bread, I drink water and I take my vitamin supplements. My weight is good, and my strength to weight ever improving (eight pull ups!). But, on the q-t, this is all cover for being a smoker. It has been a successful cover too, keeping the harm of the cigs under wraps and keeping my doomed future well away from view.
But for me and Dr Sternlove there’s no cover that really works: she knows, I know. I can rationalise my smoking and it’s covering to myself but I’m far too in love with Dr S to deploy these for her benefit. The little Rustichello’s see those same ads as I do and watch me skip outside of an evening, the cover won’t do for them either. So, the contradictions mount up, accumulating into a vast blancmange of wanting and not wanting both things. Redefining failure into success and success as failure. This is an aporia in the Derridean sense, the conditions of making the thing possible also make it impossible, it is a pathless way.
And here I am, on the path to non-smokerdom, never getting very far and making myself turn back when I might. Really I have no idea how to come to a point where I could say I am choosing one or the other, I have positioned myself out of agency. I try to remind myself that for almost all of every day I do not have a cigarette in my fingers and that at these moments I am a non-smoker and that with just a half dozen more three minute intervals like this each day I would be a complete non-smoker. But when I think that I really want a cigarette.