But I did it anyways and don’t regret it. Although I had been feeling pretty ambivalent about my plan to let myself smoke at the conference I go to and had actually been leaning towards not, my co-worker who had quit back in December decided she was going to smoke for the conference, then quit again. She did not pressure me, but part of me wanted to so I did. She admitted she got cigarettes that she finds unsatisfying so she wouldn’t feel tempted to buy more and continue when she was out. They were B&H superslilms -the green ones that look like the old menthol packs but that only gets your hopes up to be disappointed. They were indeed ‘less satisfying’ especially in terms of smoke body, volume and flavour. I smoked one, almost to the end no problem but felt like a whole cigarette was a waste on me because I didn’t finish it. 

Later that night, my other co-worker wanted to bum a smoke off of her, but she had left the cigarettes back in our hotel room. I kind of wanted to smoke with her so we found another co-worker who smokes and he gave us each one cigarette. He smokes Export ‘A’ greens and considering how little I’ve smoked recently they were way too strong for me. About 4 drags in, I was done. But I kept smoking. Mistake. About 30 minutes later, I tossed my cookies, felt better and didn’t smoke for the rest of the evening. I also managed to drink somewhat moderately and was not hung over the next day. Success! That was the plan and I stuck to it.

The next day, my roommate smoked after breakfast, but I wasn’t feeling it so I just kept her company. She smoked again after lunch and by then I figured I just wanted a few drags and asked her if she was open to sharing. She was cool with that, so every time she smoked, I would have 4 to 5 drags off her cigarette. I shared three cigarettes with her over the course of the day. We ended the second night of the conference with a couple of night caps and the guys we had them with were smokers. So we ended up joining them for a smoke. They gave us each a cigarette. Again, these were too strong for me, but this time I threw it out half smoked. We went to bed shortly after this. I had the best sleep. 

I haven’t smoked at all since then and although I had a few urges, like right after eating, I don’t feel depressed or super anxious like I did last time. I was enjoying smoking again by the end of the second day, but I’m going to focus on all the negatives because honestly there are more negatives than positives. 

Here they are:

1) Cigarettes taste gross. They also seem to reduce the deliciousness of food. 

2) I hate smelling like smoke. 

3) I hate being addicted. I don’t think my two days were enough to rehook me, but I enjoyed my time this year at the conference much more because the only thing distracting me from the speakers this year was my urge to pee.

4) Loss of sense of smell and slight persistent congestion.

That is all I can think of right now. My roommate felt a little bad for smoking this conference as her current boyfriend doesn’t know she has smoked because she quit as soon as she started dating him. I told her if she doesn’t want to smoke next year, we can not smoke together. Too early to tell what will happen next year. I’d be OK with being a once a year conference smoker or not. The draw isn’t as powerful as it used to be. Maybe one day there will be no draw.

I also noticed I don’t get sexually aroused anymore when I smoke. Smoking just isn’t as appealing in real life. 

I think my mindset needs to continue to be I can smoke if I want to but I choose not to because I prefer not smoking most of the time. As soon as I tell myself I can’t smoke, I want to more than before. Then it becomes an obsession followed by a compulsion to act on the obsession.

This conference was a successful exercise in moderation. Perhaps not with smoking, especially not on the first day, but definitely with drinking. I’m discovering the joys of not going overboard on alcohol. It is possible to drink moderately and still have a great time. It is the first year of the four years I’ve attended the conference that I haven’t been hungover for the duration of the conference. My next goal, zero hangover year? I think it is possible as I have not been hungover to date this year, not even after New Year’s Eve. 

As for smoking, as it becomes something I enjoy less and less, my motto will be I can smoke but I choose not to. Most of the time, I’m pretty sure I’m going to choose not to. I don’t have that many  opportunities and I’m definitely not going to be buying my own.

One interesting thing, I have zero anxiety smoking in front of people anymore. Everyone at work knows this is something I do on occasion so there was no fear of being seen by some one. If anything, part of me liked being seen, however briefly, as a smoker. Interesting, because when I started this blog I would give anything to not be seen when I smoked. While many smokers tie part of their identity to smoking, I don’t think that is what it is for me. For me, being able to be seen smoking is being able to be vulnerable in front of others, showing the world I’m not perfect. I think the other need it fulfills is connection. Not to the drug in the way Johan Hari posits that people become addicted to drugs but in the context of the smoking I did it fueled connection with the people that I smoked with. Can I fulfill these needs in other ways? Yes and that is what I plan to do moving forward. That said, I don’t see an issue with letting go once a year. If I want to.

Moderation with drinking will continue to be my goal as it is so much better that way. Healthier both for my body and mind. 

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