Here's the big one. Not smoking doesn't make you a different person. You probably think of yourself as a Smoker. You picture yourself with a cigarette. More to the point, you can't imagine who you'd be if you didn't smoke. Am I close?

Maybe I'm a nutjob, but that was always my big problem. I couldn't picture a me who didn't smoke. I smoked for over a decade, became a smoker before I became an adult. Smoking was something that was with me through most of the important events in my life. And that's true of most smokers I know. Of course it sounds like cutting off a limb.

Not that me telling you will make you feel any different, but there it is. You can quit and wake up the same person.

Because you're always a smoker. Whether or not you have a cigarette. Don't let anyone tell you it gets better with time. It does. But it's never over. You don't just get to walk away.

I sit here in my little office and watch the buses roll up and down Capitol Way. Someone bought a bunch of public service billboards on them that say it takes eight tries to quit. I'd buy that for a dollar. Sanctimonious health nuts who've never smoked don't like hearing it, but anyone who's tried to quit a few times knows that there's a lot of sense in that old stereotype, "I'll quit when I'm ready." Although ready, for the record, is very seldom the same as wanting to.

Show me a smoker who's ever successfully quit because they should. That's not what drives you to the final success. There is a list of consequences that they like to give you, all the bad things that happen. There will be one that will become unbearable, depending on what means what to you. Greedy, parsimonious? Maybe you'll get tired of the ever-increasing cost of smoking. Social butterfly, introvert who can only hold a conversation behind a cigarette? More and more cities are forcing smokers outdoors. Hope your friends all smoke. Vain? Then I don't need to tell you.

Maybe you're just a stubborn little bitch and can't stand the idea that you have to do something that was supposed to be fun.

There's some choice you've been making since you started smoking. Something that's always pissed you off. But you've always chosen to sit there and take it, you've always chosen smoking. One day you will choose the other thing, and then you'll quit.

I used to try to quit every few months, for no particular reason. I didn't have any money and couldn't afford to waste things I needed, but I always decided to break all my cigarettes in half. You smoke a broken cigarette like so: roll a little bit of tobacco out from one side of the break. Tear the paper on that side just a little, just enough that you can fit the other side of the break into it. Lick the paper around the break just enough to stick it in place. Let it dry. When you smoke it, keep your fingers around the seam you've made until you reach it. Then, suck hard until you burn past the seam. That's how to not quit smoking.

If you really want to quit, save all your money and go on a trip for a week. Go to someplace completely uninteresting and stay in a fancy hotel (in a non-smoking room, if I needed to say it). Smoke your last cigarette before you drive to the airport. Spend your time in malls and movie theaters. Blow your money on Pay Per View and trashy fashion magazines and room service. Eat whatever you want. Be pissed off and sorry for yourself. When you come home, leave yourself a few days off before you go back to work or school or whatever you do with your days. Ease yourself slowly back into routine.

That's a couple birds with that stone. First, you completely avoid the rough spots in your day where you'd normally have a cigarette. Second, you get through the hardest days in an environment optimized for your success. Third, you get to mourn. Or call it something else. You get to feel sorry for yourself and think about how unjust it is that you can't smoke and do whatever else you want to do. You get to reach a point where you're tired of thinking about it.

You have to get the bitterness out of your system. Ex-smokers are the mean kids your mom warned you about; they act superior and give you shit about your smoking because they're jealous.

Join the gym before you quit. And actually go. It won't be such a shock, which is about the last thing you need on top of quitting. And you'd better join the gym, because no matter how many carrot sticks you eat, you're going to gain some weight. And your doctor will still claim it's because you're eating too much. Bullshit. It's a punishment from God. Join the gym and don't quit during swimsuit season.

They say your tastebuds come back, but mine didn't. Buy a lot of garlic and red pepper flakes.

Once you quit smoking, you have a lot of interesting insights about smokers that you should keep to yourself. It comes across like white liberal arts students getting all hot and bothered about rappers using racial slurs.

People like to quit smoking in groups, but it doesn't work very well. Someone will always get cold feet. When you're talking about something that most people have done all of their adult lives, what are the odds that they're going to be ready to all stop on the same day?

There are all kinds of things that you can do without smoking. You can drive a car, finish a meal, have sex. But there are other things that aren't as interesting. Sitting in a diner forever and ever drinking coffee doesn't feel the same if you're not chain smoking. Obviously, you don't take cigarette breaks as a non-smoker. Instead, I find myself going to the bathroom a lot and washing my hands in scalding hot water for a really long time.

You never stop regretting it. Not the smoking. The quitting. Once you're really quit, you've gone through enough shit that throwing it all away for another cigarette is idiotic. So you wish you'd never quit in the first place. You're not supposed to say it. But you think it all the time.

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