I just felt like typing. I like the speed of my fingers when I do it. There’s a rhythm to it. When my fingers click on the keys it feels like thoughts galloping. You can’t make a mess like you can in a journal. I like to doodle skeletons that were left in the rain. Outlines or shapes and ideas that need more time around them, to find themselves. Maybe one day they’ll start a narrative.
should will give you an idea of some of the things whirling around in my head. I’ll talk about smoking. So here’s a timeline to get you familiar with where (and why) I am here now…
I got sober. I stopped smoking weed and gulping down alcohol because, at the time, my survival depended on it. My future did not. In the first three months my brain lit up. Every kind of repressed voice, emotion and colour shot to the surface. My brain was a living and chaotic kaleidoscope of feelings, anxiety, energy and something worse…unpredictability. Years of substance and alcohol abuse kept me unconscious and unmanaged. Both of these play out in early sobriety. I can’t stop something small from making me cry or panic in seconds. There’s something else too. I can’t bring this to a dead halt without having a drink. I can dig deeper now I have some distance from the experience. I realize part of the reason I drank in the first place was to sedate the cerebral squirrels in their cage.
Two things happen after three months. The first is the anxiety, mood swings, and feeling “driven” starts to dissipate. Thank fuck. The next thing is I begin to realize that addiction is here to stay. You can move houses to change the view, but there will always be a storm. I don’t know why. I get this feeling that I always will have this urge to “tap out”. I used to use the words “take the edge off”. (I never used this phrase when I was smoking. It felt like I was apologizing for something that wasn’t there.)
In the beginning the first few cigarettes gave me a head rush and a calming feeling. After a while that rush became harder to achieve. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? My body adapts to whatever I throw at it. I’ll confess something out the gate, numbnuts. Of course I was aware of the cancer thing! The most obvious thing to me is lung cancer. I thought I’d be more transparent and I just googled some of the shitty things that happen. Such as:
- smelly hair
- anxiety and irritability
- yucky teeth
- chimney coughs
- heart disease
- horrible vision
- lung cancer
- constricted blood vessels
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- loss of appetite
- increased risk of blood cancer, meh
- etc, etc, ad nauseam.
Confession no. 2 – I didn’t care about the data above. As long as I could tap out for a few seconds and get the squirrels to stop scratching…I was okay with that. Remind me to come back and talk about COPD. I have a chilling story about that. Anyway I got the flu and my body and old ideas had a standoff. I was standing outside in the morning with a chest full of phlegm. Yes, I was hauling on a cigarette. Smart, huh? Even though I was feeling like dog’s balls, a part of my brain played that same narrative. You need a little more and you’ll feel better.
It turns out I had to test that theory. Four cigarettes later I sounded like a bagpipe full of bees. This culminated in a sentence or two. What the fuck am I doing to my body? I’m just making it worse. Dunno about you but I have the habit of waking up when I’ve pushed things to the limit. As well as the flu the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging. The weekend is a mixture of me cursing myself and contemplating my own mortality.
This anger morphed into action and I went to the pharmacy to buy some nicotine gum. This post got me pretty charged so I threw a piece into my mouth hole while I wrote the previous paragraph. I know you’re gonna ask about the gum. Everyone does. It’s not the same as cigarettes. It gives me a bit of that hit until I get this weird metallic taste in my mouth. It feels like I’m chewing on electric tinsel. Maybe that’s the point? Maybe they want me to throw it away like a guilty sock I jerked off into. I don’t want anyone to know…I just want to be done with it.
The first few days I was consumed by invasive thoughts. I like to refer to it as unwanted advertising. I need a smoke, I need a smoke. Look how nice the weather is bud! Perfect breeze to light your cigarette in. I don’t care you threw them all away. Look for someone puffing and ask them for one. You can make a plan shitbird. Thankfully the flu clawed at my energy levels. I slowly began to recover and feel less rotten like the underside of a log.
Turns out I’m caffeinated enough to share one more story with you. The old man with COPD. Easiest way to describe it is “smoker’s bronchitis” or emphysema. Both of these phrases get caught in your throat before they roll off your tongue. I worked with him while doing a part time general labour job. A carpenter tore up old flooring and I was the lemming that carted away all the debris.
At first the child in me bristled when I had to do simple things while he sat in the car. For example, close the trailer door or put cones around the car. Only when we were on lunch did the mallet of recognition smack me. It didn’t feel good. Now before I tell you how this happened, I need to point out one more thing. This man is fat. I can see you flinch when I spew the f-bomb. No I’m not talking about chunky, either. I’m talking about “when you get in a car and your stomach touches the steering wheel” fat.
During our lunch he picks up his wife and drops her off at home. I watch him waddle into his house. It’s dark inside. The couches are adorned with dog blankets and a glowing fish tank gives the living room a pulse. Apart from the trickle of fish and his dog that bounces around like a fresh tennis ball…everything else feels heavy. I come out of the toilet and I find, this man I’ll call Mike, folded on the edge of the couch.
Oxygen tubes curl into his face. He says something to me like “I just need a few minutes.” I watch his eyes get lost in the blue hue of the fish tank. I figure this must be a form of meditation for him. I ask him about the other tank in the room. I try make my question sound cursory and wondering. He shrugs it off like small talk he’s intercepted many times. I still remember one of his lines. “If you want to keep smoking, this is what you’ve got to look forward to.” At the time this didn’t cause a reaction. Later on it throbbed inside my head.
It’s time to leave. I walk out of the house and get into the car. I watch him take careful steps. The car door clicks. He climbs in and starts huffing and puffing. It reminds me of when I was a kid in the swimming pool. We’d play a game to see who could hold their breath the longest. I’d give up after my lungs were burning and I gasped to get my breath back…you know the rest.
Shock ignites my eyebrows. “Are you okay, Mike?” He gives me a proverbial shrug telling me it was just part of his routine. It wasn’t a game for him anymore. It was ingrained into his life. I thought about this for days afterwards. The logic played out into chilling patterns. I chose to ignore it. I’ve come to realize significant change comes when I’m at the edge of my own precipice. This doesn’t apply to all change otherwise I’d be a walking dumpster fire. And I should elaborate on the whole edge-of-the-cliff thing…
That precipice is where my urges and logic intersect. You can be fancy and call it consciousness. I like to think of it as intuition or knowing. It’s kinda like poker. You play for a while and the betting goes up. Three people fold. A small thought gnaws at you. It’s time to put down the cards and walk away asshole. There are other games to play.
Or maybe I’ll just step outside the house to feel the wind touch my face again? A few houses down I hear a kid yell and another laugh. I’m exactly where I need to be.