It's not that my life isn't great.
It is great! Great life that I have!
I mean just look at my dog.
See, that's a great life.
But I work a lot. Just come over to my place, and you will see the unkempt state of affairs and get a sense for the horror that is my personal life organizing system. Right now it consists of:
-- undone taxes (I filed for an extension; chill)
-- mounds and mounds of dirty clothes
-- papers filed in with baseball caps, hair dryers, pens that don't work and DVD samplers sent to me by various production companies
-- lots of dog shit (and by shit I mean toys, food, outfits, Wee-Wee Pads, but yes, there is occasionally the old turd I discover)
-- uh, miscellaneous?
I really a trying to optimize my time. I got a landline so that I spend less time on my cell phone and don't feel the need to check everytime someone likes a tweet or shares a status (thanks for doing that by the way!), but the pace of information is, quite simply, overwhelming. It feels all-consuming. Email upon email upon text upon Facebook message upon direct message upon comments upon voicemails upon Facebook comments upon Twitter-@'s.
I need an assistant. But I can't afford one, so right now my assistant is nicotine.
I say, "Hey nicotine, you are going to calm me and assure me while I take a break from the info-glut tidal wave. This is part of your job as my personal secretary to soothe me when I need a break by taking the edge off a little bit again and again, making me feel calm."
Nicotine always delivers.
I've never been a regular smoker. I even quit two years one time because a doctor told me it was the worst thing I could do for my circulation. When I saw him smoking a few years after I went cold turkey because of the scare that provided, I thought: "Oh. Well, fuck it then."
Life's too short!
I always think of these things like a gamble. Like if I get killed tomorrow, you know, I enjoy smoking (electronic cigarettes mostly likely) so it'd be a bummer to have quit today, right? Except I plan to live a long time. So I need to remember that.
Yesterday in a fit of stress, I walked my dog and the entire time my mind alternated between ideas like "Oh, I can assign this story with that angle," "I can follow up on this project," "That would be a great opportunity to do video," but honestly, the one thing that kept gently tugging at the back of my brain was this.
It would be so easy to bum a cigarette right now. You've had a really stressful couple of days and weeks and it would relax you so much. You can do whatever you want, you know. Maybe you need this right now just to get through the day. Do what you need to do to get through the day.
Like, I couldn't get this voice out of my head.
It's so weird. I never feel this about alcohol. That desire has been lifted, seemingly permanently, and while it would be nice to escape into a buzzy bliss, and every once in a while I think that, this is so firmly inscribed as a "no" in my brain that it's almost like "I don't jump off tall buildings" and I also don't drink.
Why the fuck can't I make this association with goddamned nicotine?
I had quit successfully until New Year's Eve. Then, for the hell of it, on a whim, because I wasn't drinking, I thought I would treat myself by trying one of those electronic cigarettes.
And holy shit.
I felt buzzed through and through. I just kept sucking on the thing like a damned crack pipe (I recommend Logic and NJoy by the way, the Blu brand gives me a headache and almost zero buzz). And thus started my path down the road to complete addiction to electronic cigarettes. Whenever I was stressed, I "deserved it." I needed it. It didn't have all that bad stuff that real cigarettes had!
And then, perhaps -- and wow, I'm literally realizing this as I'm writing it -- because I knew I was going down the e-cigarette rabbit hole of addiction, I stepped it up a notch and bought a pack of Marlboro Reds and started chain smoking them. My dog's eyes looked up at my sadly yesterday as I did this. He doesn't like smoke! Smoke sucks. Ugh. Okay, I don't like that part of nicotine.
So the realization I was mentioning above is that right before I quit drinking, I stepped it up a notch and tried cocaine. And boy did I like cocaine. And the insanity that led to (staying up until 11 a.m. doing coke with an investment banker I met off of Craigslist Casual Encounters who was reluctant to give me more because "he didn't want a New York Post reporter to die on him") finally led me to get my life in order.
I bet there could be some of that same zero-sum let's-do-this-fucking-thing-before-we-REALLY-quit-this-time messed-up psychology at work here, too. Like, chain smoke those fucking Marlboro Reds, Mandy, yeah how do you like THEM LUNGS, HUH? Feels pretty ripe, doesn't it?
So I hope that's where I am right now. Today, with Lesley in the office, I asked her if she had ever smoked, and she said that yes, she had, two packs a day even, and then a terrible bout of asthma led her to barely being able to breathe and she quit it entirely, because, well, she had to. But as I talked about cigarettes, and as she confessed to every once in a while smoking one on a special occasion, I asked her if she wanted to go outside with me.
"Why, to smoke?" she asked with the excitement that I recognized coming from someone who FUCKING LOVES TO SMOKE.
"No," I said. "I'm going to buy some Nicorette."
"Oh," she said, disappointed. "Damn you, Mandy, you made me want to smoke! You're evil."
I am not evil. But I think I do sometimes embody that state of wanting and desire and seeking of pleasure in my being. I don't know what it is, but there's something in my personality that communicates: want adrenaline fix, want, want, want, want, want more.
We walked to CVS, and when I proudly bought the Nicorette -- because, really there were a lot of opportunities to bum cigarettes on the way, and boy, yeah, a LOT of opportunities, there and there and THERE -- we decided to celebrate by forcing a stranger to take our picture.
"We're just really happy about this Nicorette!" I said to the confused, embarrassed man who indulged us.
By the way, did you know Nicorette cost $80?
What the fucking fuck?
My plan now: Ween off the Nicorette like I did last time. And then be done with it. Breathe deep. Let that be my "high." Remind myself of my dog. Get a real personal assistant (even if it's an intern!). And repeat.
Find Mandy long-form at http://tinyurl.com/stadtmiller.