Monday, 23 July 2012

Handing in my Passport to Marlboro Country

In the post-election come-down a crashing normality began to resume in my everyday life. Without endless stress, unworkable hours and the constant need to do something the days began to seem emptier, the weeks longer. I’ve not even been back a month yet it already feels like years. As is the form with such moments, I began to look over past work. I quickly realised there were very visible patterns emerging. An inability to sit still, an obsession for work and so, so many references to smoking.

It became obvious I had been choreographing much of my life around my addictions.

Nicotine is such a curious choice in the world meat market of amphetamines, barbiturates and opiates. Given our culture has never been more anaesthetized on the currency of factory grade dopamine and serotonin, it would seem to most people an unadventurous choice. Seem by some as poor return on investment or by the more cynical as just a habit of the undeserving poor. 

On all of these accusations I would take issue. As a long term user I would contend Nicotine is an extremely clever drug. It calms the nerves when you are under stress, wakes you up when you are tired, and helps you relax when you’re tightly wound up. It’s great with food, drink and alcohol and all other forms of biological satiation. Marlboro country is the perfect vacation whatever the weather.

I’ve never understood why I started smoking. Maybe it’s a desire not to be like my teetotal father whose life, as you expect of a farm-boy of Irish catholic descent, is hardly one of spirited intellectualism. Maybe it’s a need to be more like my mother who by my age was married, divorced and flirting with a London metropolitan Buddhism. She was quickly co-opted into a meditate-there, smoke-this, get-the-Ashram lifestyle. She, of course, promptly found herself living in a temple in India. In case you were wondering - the marriage didn’t work out.

Whilst making a mental list of what, who and when to assign blame I had a more troubling thought. If these biological drivers which seem to encompass many of my compulsive needs and behaviors were melted away would there be much of me left? Isn’t that exactly what a hopeless addict would say? Of one thing I am sure – addiction will cut my life short. I am at peace with that.

Three Weeks have passed since I had written the previous two statements. No. I am not at peace with that at all. As I now write  this I am six days over my smoking addiction. Besides the aforementioned troubling me for sometime after I saw it written front of me, I woke up in my London Townhouse after a late night conversations over Johnny Walker and feeling shit. But not the kind of hangover shit I am far too accustomed. It was the kind of toxicity that makes it hard to get out of bed and face the world. Its when you begin realise your health is not an infinite resource. It was the kind of morning where you realise you may not be dying but you are definitely killing yourself. 

There’s a lot they don’t tell you about giving up smoking. I decided to read up on the road ahead. These sources concentrate on the good and great of ‘kicking the habit’. I can see the therapeutic websites have s poor understanding of their  target audience. I didn’t want the positive pep-talk - I wanted to know what Lovecraftian horrors lay beyond. As soon as I read ‘the worst of it will be over in two days’ I knew it was time to put on a crash helmet and pack my anti-depressants. So began the 48 hour jog across no mans land.

Among the side affects they don’t tell you about are – your veins will start hurting (this is apparently normal, as your blood pressure lowers suddenly) that your piss will smell like an ashtray, you will have night sweats and the accompanying night terrors (something to do with nicotine receptors dying in the brain) and before the increase of appetite you will feel so sick you won’t eat for 24 hours. This of course is on top of the ‘normal’ anger/depression emotions, the inability to concentrate and the tragically trudging country miles in order to find a shop that doesn’t have cigarettes behind the counter.

So addiction or at least the person willing to die to satisfy an addiction has been purged from my soul for now. The dance with addiction is anything but over – I sit here drinking some of the finest coffee money can buy, fresh from another evening chat with Johnny. But I do feel a little cleaner, a little happier and little bit more in charge of my own destiny. 

Addictions can still be good friends. They convinced me they are worth dying for. As with anything that good you’d be mad not try it. Make sure you give up some along the way. Because saying fuck you to Marlboro Country feels pretty good too.

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