If you’ve been following along, then you know that I recently quit smoking (Part I and Part II). About five days into my new nicotine free life, I sat down and wrote a lot of my thoughts, and described what life was like in my house in the early stages of withdrawal, and me being a total pain in the ass. I’ve been feeding you excerpts from that rant, a little bit at time, and we’re now up to Part III. It was a thirteen-page rambling tirade, but I’m trying to whittle it down to the highlights. It’s been kind of therapeutic for me, so I’ll now pick up where I left off from last week. I had just smoked my last cigarette, and had no conscious desire to quit…

I took out my wallet to see how much cash I had on me: eight dollars. This was literally my last eight dollars. I knew that this money and a handful of coins from the center console of my van would be sufficient to provide me with a fresh pack of smokes and buy me another 24 hours of not completely losing my grip. This seemingly miniscule event – as I stood in my kitchen – proved to be the moment during which I had an epiphany. I walked a few steps to the doorway from the kitchen to the living room. I looked in at my three lovely daughters playing together and watching a movie. That’s when it occurred to me that I wasn’t exactly sure yet what I’d be feeding them for dinner tonight. How dare I be so selfish! I’m not sure what we’re going to eat, but here I am about to spend my last eight bucks on a pack of smokes! Who does that? This was one of those rare times that I was thinking rationally, yet disregarding the complications the decision I was about to make would entail. I decided right there, at that moment to just quit smoking.

I don’t mean to sound like I’m over dramatizing our situation. It’s not like we’re all living in my van down by the river. We’re not to the point where we are foraging in dumpsters or anything like that. Nobody in my house is going to starve, or even skip a meal. It’s just that we’re tightening the belt. Forgive me if that last paragraph made it sound more desperate than it really is. I just needed a little dramatic effect to amplify the magnitude of the decision I was about to make. I hope I didn’t conjure images of my daughters looking like they should be characters in a Dickens novel rather than a Nichols article.

So now we’ve firmly established that my decision to quit, or at least attempt to, was not premeditated. It was not a new year’s resolution; I was not given an ultimatum by a doctor or any loved ones. I have no health issues to the best of my knowledge. I didn’t spend months telling everyone that on January 12, 2013 at 10:34 am, I’m going to have my last cigarette. I didn’t go out in advance and purchase any pills, or gum, or patches, or electronic atomizing artificial cigarettes. I didn’t do any research, pick up any pamphlets, or set up an appointment for hypnosis. I wasn’t given any prescriptions, and other than the cookies we discussed earlier in this piece, I did not substitute, or supplement anything for my cigarettes, I just stopped. It was an on the spot decision I made, that so far, I’ve stuck to. Don’t give me any credit I don’t deserve. I didn’t want to quit, I wish I hadn’t; and I’ve been pissed at myself and the rest of the world every minute since I did. But fortunately, I’m such a stubborn ass that my convictions work both for and against me. I’ll be successful despite myself, and probably never smoke again just to piss ME off. I now find myself as nothing more than the battlefield for the inner war I have going on pitting ME against ME. Let me see if I can elaborate and make sense of this for you.

There are two sides dueling it out in the epic internal conflict I’m having right now. In one corner, there’s ME, whose platform is this: I haven’t really quit. I don’t want to quit. I’m just taking a brief break from something I really enjoy to save some money. And in the other corner there’s ME, whose platform is this: Oh yeah! Well I’m just not gonna have another cigarette ever again just to spite you. I’ll show you who can be more stubborn! And this is literally what’s taking place in the arena of my mind at this very moment. I’m such a lunatic that I will more than likely be successful just to spite myself. I’m not sure which of the two sides is going to ultimately win, but my money is on ME.

One major disadvantage to trying to quit without premeditation was that I didn’t get the opportunity to celebrate what I hope will prove to be my final cigarette. Had I known in advance that it was going to be the last one I’d smoke, I would have been a little better prepared and perhaps made a ceremony out of it. Instead of just strolling out to my deck in a pair of old worn out flannel pajama bottoms, a ratty pair of slippers that smell like a room in which an autopsy had just been performed, and a long sleeve 1996 Relay For Life tee shirt, I may have dressed for the occasion. Instead of just grabbing my Disney Animal Kingdom coffee cup, tossing the cig in my mouth and lighting it with my Orioles lighter, and plopping down on the top step of my pier to sip and smoke as I played a quick game of Yahtzee on my phone, I may have made it a little more dramatic. The way I just described the scene is exactly how it actually happened down to every detail.

If I had known in advance that it would be my final smoke (fingers crossed), it may have been a little more like what is to follow. (Or at least, this is how I’m visualizing it in my mind.) Instead of the previously mentioned attire, I may have been dressed from head to toe in an all white linen suit like the fictitious newly-wed guy frolicking about in slow motion in one of those Caribbean destination tourism commercials. As I open the sliding door from my dining room to the deck, Barry White music would instantly be cued up immediately muffling any and all other sounds. I would be walking in slow motion with the giant fan effect blowing back the lapels of my white jacket, and the short mane of salt and pepper hair on my head. As the sliding door magically slides closes on its own behind me, a flock of white doves would be released at my feet, flying just above me from all directions and rising until they disappeared into the sky. As I traverse my deck to my smoking destination, it is no longer a quagmire of splintered wood and rusty protruding nails in dire need of a pressure washing and repair. Instead it is a path of freshly laid rose pedals tossed at my feet by a duo of winged, hovering ferries, one with the head of an Oriole, and the other with the head of a Raven.

Back off! It’s my fantasy, and there’s nothing sexual about it! Can’t I just incorporate my favorite sports teams into it? I digress. The rose path would lead me past the spot where I would normally sit to smoke and onto my gazebo. Only now, all of the screens in the gazebo would be repaired, and the old, badly stained deck furniture would have been replaced by a giant hammock that I would climb into immediately. Standing behind the hammock is the giant Maryland Terrapin mascot fanning me with a palm leaf. Once I was comfortable and completely relaxed in the hammock, Rafiki, the baboon from The Lion King would come towards me on a unicycle. He would be carrying a large scarlet colored, crushed velvet pillow with golden tassels hanging from each corner. He would present it to me, and in the center of the pillow would lay my final cigarette. A giant, beautiful macaw would then swoop down, removing the smoke from the pillow with its talons, and gently place it between my lips. I would then lie there in my hammock for the next several minutes enjoying the final smoke of my life and mentally reviewing each and every happy time I’d ever had. When the cigarette would finally burn down to the filter, instead of me having to butt it, it would just magically disappear in a cloud of eco-friendly golden pixie dust. Then I would make my way back inside, change two crap-filled diapers and watch an Elmo DVD for the 500th freaking time. That’s pretty much exactly how it would have happened had I known in advance that I was going to quit smoking.

The truth is, once I had decided to try to quit, I didn’t want to draw any attention to it. I was going to try to just fly under the radar and see how long it took my friends and loved ones to notice that they hadn’t seen me smoke in quite awhile. I didn’t want any praise, or support, or any attention at all drawn to it; and that was how I had intended to keep it. Then, as I paced my house, I realized that my own ludicrous inner monologue and my completely psychotic private thoughts as I lumbered through the ‘withdraw’ period were far too entertaining not to share. So you are now the recipients of these internal mental rants of mine as the column essentially wrote itself.

One thing that I’ve thus far failed to mention is that it started raining shortly after I doused that last cigarette. It was six days later, and it still has not stopped raining. Anyone who’s fed up with this crappy weather we’ve had, feel free to blame me. If I had known, I just would have kept on smoking and started rounding up two of each animal. I guess, since I had to go outside to smoke anyway, this is some external force’s way of helping me along. It’s easier to not want to smoke if I have no desire to walk outside.

Now for my follow up, closing paragraph. Thank you all for being good sports so far and traveling with me through the early days of my transition. I promise I won’t be one of those preachy, annoying new non-smokers. I just wanted to share my warped thoughts with you as I now try to lengthen my life and keep my promise to each of my daughters that I will dance with them on their wedding days. Thanks for playing along.

Until next week,

Syd Nichols

PS: I just finished watching the Super bowl, and congratulations, and thank you to my beloved Ravens.

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