What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
One of my most remarkable traits is that I find it impossible to do things on schedule. I am habitually late for everything, for no other reason than I was on Twitter, or poking my zits, or eating a Twix. So when I set myself a goal of my 30th birthday to quit smoking, there was a little nagging voice at the back of my head saying “yeah, good luck with that.”
But here I am, a month short of my 26th birthday, and I’ve finally done something ahead of schedule. I’ve quit smoking and I’m kind of pissed off about it.
Since that first puke-tastic puff at 14, on a Marlboro Red nicked from my mum, I’ve been an on-and-off smoker, mostly on since university and the almost compulsory ‘fag in one hand, £1 vodbull in the other’ dancing at indie clubs. Incidentally, the smoking ban did mean I came home from clubbing without fag-breath hair, but I also realised I can’t dance for shit without that extra prop. I did consider buying lorgnettes to busy my smokin’ hand but it seemed rather extravagant.
Anyway, for over 10 years, I smoked and I loved it. Menthols would be angrily chain-smoked on the way home from my shitty job, shared in the rain outside the library during study sessions and consumed by the packet-load in beer gardens on long drunk summer Sundays.
Meeting a new person, and finding that they smoked, I would almost instantly like them more. Is that weird? I guess. But at the time, I was like “this is good; we share something” whenever we’d go outside for a fag at the pub. If a friend quit smoking, I’d be like “whaaaaat? Quitter! You suck!” I know - awful.
I set myself the 30th birthday goal because according to my doctor friends (all of whom smoke like chimneys) that whole ‘quit by 30 and don’t die’ thing isn’t an urban myth - it’s totally true 100% yep sure pass me that lighter. With drunken medical confirmation like that, I thought, I can smoke my twenties away with IMPUNITY!
The thing is, I just kind of stopped recently and I don’t know why. Just, one day, I lit up and I hated it. It made me feel sickly, headachey and stinky. But I didn’t want to be a quitter! So I tried again a week later, buying a whole new pack of menthols for a work evening out. But when my colleagues popped out for one, I didn’t. I never peeled the cellophane off that packet. Weird. Last week when I found a battered half-full packet in a handbag I’d not used for a while, I binned them without hesitation, whereas usually I’d at least have scrutinised them to see if they were still smokeable.
I am aware this could read like I’m showing off about my easy ride, when I know most people struggle like hell with quitting. If you’re one of those people, I’m sorry. And good luck with your quitting - I hear the NHS classes are really effective and you get certificates like when you learned to swim. My friend was on 30 a day and he’s been smoke-free for a year now, thanks to those classes, so give them a go.
I guess that, having given up illegal substances for owning cookbooks and paying my bills on time, smoking was the last thing I had to hold on to from a time when I didn’t have to get up every day to go to work, when a heavy week was about how many times I’d gone out, not how many deadlines I had. Setting myself that 30 goal was like I was saying “when I finally say goodbye to this vice, that’s when I’ll be a grown-up.”
So, am I now one step closer to ‘all grown up’?