Ex-Smoker Chronicles: One Night at a Bar

kind of looks like granola.

kind of looks like granola. but, it’s not.

“Wait for me by the bar? I’ll only be a minute.”

A minute, right, I think as she makes her away across the crowded dance floor. I’ve seen how long the line for the women’s restroom is. I’ll be lucky if she’s out in thirty. Well, there’s no use crying over soon-to-be-spilled milk, so I squeeze past the couples making babies to R. Kelly’s sultry voice and grab a whiskey-whatever from a frazzled bartender. Fifteen minutes later, and still no sign that she’s made it out alive. The DJ’s starting to find his groove, though, and I still have a few hours of booty-shaking left in me, but it’s starting to get real humid in here. Drink in hand, I make my way to the bar’s outdoor area for some much-needed fresh air and a recharge.

I couldn’t have made a bigger mistake. The minute my feet hit the concrete, my lungs are assaulted by a wall of cigarette smoke, sending my nicotine-starved brain into a tailspin.

I made the decision to quit smoking a month ago after seven years of being a slave to my habit. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Every day is an internal and physical struggle. While I’ve been able to stay on top of the cravings, this is the first time I’ve been confronted with a jones like this one. Every direction I look, all I see are beautiful people, enjoying life, smiling, laughing, glowing almost, puffing away on those gorgeous little sticks sent from the heavens above. At least, that’s the absurd picture my craving paints for my sucker-punched cerebrum. I should hightail it back into the bar, where it’s muggy and crowded and safe, but something (hello: my addiction) tells me that I’ll be able to handle staying out here for a few more minutes. I mean, there are smokers everywhere, I can’t stop living my life just because I quit smoking. Right?

So, I stand there, paralyzed against the brick wall, looking out of place with just a drink and no cigarette. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, is smoking. Those who don’t have one in their hands are taking occasional puffs from the people they’re standing by. I think about introducing myself to the group of people standing directly next to me, but ultimately decide to keep to myself. Before, I would have pulled a smoke out of my jacket, asked for a light, and struck up a conversation with someone nearby. Even if nothing important was said and no friendships were cemented, at least we belonged to the same club, and that brought us together for as long as our cigarettes were still burning. But now I realize I don’t belong out here, not anymore. I gave up my membership to this society voluntarily, and I don’t plan on renewing it any time soon. I drain my glass and start to head back inside.

Wait! screams my addiction in a last-ditch effort to get me to relapse, my fingers on the door handle. One drag, please just one drag. It won’t kill you, I promise. I think of whiter teeth, waking up in the mornings without coughing up a lung, fresher breath, nice-smelling clothes, a longer life, smoother, healthier skin, self-respect, pride, and I somehow find the inner strength to slam the door behind me with a resounding HELL NO, B***H. It feels good. Real good.

My friend, no longer at her bladder’s whim, catches me walking through the door and immediately gets an accusing gleam in her eyes. “Let me smell your fingers,” she demands. “Relax,” I say with a grin. “I’m clean. Let’s go dance.”

I don’t care if it’s wetter than a rainforest on the dance floor. The verdict is out on the war against my addiction to nicotine, but Lord knows I just won a major battle, and I think I deserve a victory shimmy or three.

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