If you’ve been patient enough to follow along through the first three parts (Part I, Part II, Part III) of this piece, thank you. And thanks for checking back in for Part IV; I hope you’ve found it more entertaining than annoying thus far. If you’re just now joining us, then let me bring you up to speed. I recently decided, without premeditation, provocation, or motivation to quit smoking cigarettes after nearly three decades as Nicotine-huffer. In fact, the day this article posts for the first time, it will have been exactly one month. Somewhere around day five of my not smoking, I sat down and started writing down my thoughts as they pertained to the formative days of my being a non-smoker. I actually had no intention whatsoever of turning this event into a column, but these thoughts, and my lunatic behavior proved to be far too entertaining not to share. I’ve been systematically feeding you bits and pieces of that rant over the past month. I wouldn’t be evil enough to make you read the entire diatribe, so I’m just giving you the highlights. This is kind of a bummer actually, because the funniest parts, I can’t even print. I promised myself that if I ever quit smoking (and I hoped that I wouldn’t) that I would never be that preachy, a-hole, “guess what I did, and you should too,” recently quit smoking guy. And the main reason is that both I and the rest of the world HATE “THAT GUY”! So I instead, opted to roll with the self-deprecating humorous take, which is kind of my thing anyway. The last thing in the world I want is praise, encouragement, support, admiration, or a pat on the back. All I really want is a freakin smoke!

Back to the point at hand, I had to break this article into multiple parts. The ‘body’ has been a weekly continuation, but the ‘intro’, and ‘closing’ paragraphs have been real time progress updates. So, before I pick up where I left off last week, let me give you a quick progress report. I started back to work this past weekend at my restaurant job. (You remember …the least favorite of my three professions, but the only one that actually pays the bills.) It was actually kind of nice to leave the house and speak to grown-ups for a change, but about three hours into my shift, I wanted to be back home in my living room (which had been converted into a massive fort), watching Disney movies, and hanging with my daughters. At that point, I didn’t need a vice; I just needed my comfort zone. There I was, twenty pounds heavier than the last time I’d strapped on that apron, tie, and pants, and all I wanted was my girls and my own living room.  Well, there’s this week’s update, so now we’ll pick up where we left off.

The first cigarette-free day proved to be pretty brutal. I could not have chosen a worse possible day to stop smoking. My eight-year-old daughter, who’s usually my helper with the babies, had a sleepover to attend so she was away for the night. I’m not sure if it was a preplanned thing or if she made a desperate call when she overheard her mother and I talking about me giving up smoking. Either way, she was safely tucked away in someone else’s house. My wife had to work a 3-close shift at the bar she still works at part time. Unfortunately, her going back to work was a necessary evil. So she was away from the house for about ten hours. At least I THINK she was at work. That’s what she told me, and she left the house in her uniform. But anyone who had a chance to be away from me in the formative hours of my new nicotine free life, I would not blame them for using whatever means necessary to do so, including deception. That left me home alone with the two little ones. My wife went to work claiming with tongue in cheek that she was concerned for the children’s safety. I texted her while she was at work that they were safe in a box in the attic.

About six hours into my life as a non-smoker, the Ravens playoff game was coming on. Me being a gung ho, diehard Ravens’ fan, I thought this would be good and therapeutic for me. I could not have been more wrong. The game was played in Denver, against Peyton Manning, and the winner moved on to the AFC Championship game. There were multiple lead changes, and the game went to two overtime periods. I’ve never wanted to just steady chain smoke so bad in my life. As if the anxiety of watching that game wasn’t enough, I had an infant, and a toddler playing dueling colons the entire game. They had their own little Crap-a-palooza going on. I almost couldn’t keep up. Supply had grossly exceeded demand in the poop market.

So that first day was really rough. Once my wife had left for work, I began to have a bit of a panic attack. I hadn’t been an actual non-smoker since I was fifteen. My fuse was already pretty short and I thought that maybe I should at least go get a pack to have around in case of emergency. I was seriously considering making a run to the convenience store when I did a quick mental inventory of exactly what that project would entail. I would first have to make sure that two little girls had on clean diapers, which so far to this point in the day had not happened yet to both of them simultaneously. I would have to dress them both in warm winter attire as it was very cold out and getting colder by the minute. I would then have to get them both in their coats, hats, scarves, shoes, and gloves. I would have to walk out in the pouring rain to warm up the car as I got them ready. To do so, I would have to disassemble my key chain so that I could remove only the vehicle key. I had to use the house key to lock the dead bolt behind me when I went out so the 19-month-old didn’t open the door on her own and come running out. I’d at some point have to get my own shoes, coat, and hat on. Needless to say, the only umbrella I own was already in the car so it served me no purpose. I would have to strap the infant into her car seat while still in the house, and cover her with a blanket. Once I thought the car had warmed up enough, I would have to take the toddler out to the car first and strap her into her safety seat. She usually puts up a bit of a struggle, so I would be getting rained on the entire time. Even though we would be traveling about a mile and a half round trip, I would still have to make sure she had a drink, a snack, and her stuffed Puppy with her. Once she was safely nestled in, I would go back into the house for the infant, carry her out with my own body slumped over the entire car seat to keep her dry, then strap her into her spot. She too would require a beverage, and a companion for the journey. I would then have to go back to the front door, lock it, remove the keys from it and run back to the car. Now, with heat on, defroster on, wipers on high, both front and back, and two very unhappy children in the back seat I would travel the ¾ of a mile to the store.

Once I had gotten there, after sitting at a red light that usually takes about four minutes to turn, I would of course have to park my vehicle. It’s 2013 now, so I can’t leave the car running, and I most certainly can’t leave my kids in it. So I would have to turn off the car, run in the rain from one side to the other removing both children to carry them simultaneously into the store. I would then have to stand in line at the counter dripping wet and holding two fussy babies. Had my desperation purchase been diapers, or milk, or medicine of some sort, I’d have been looked upon as a hero, but I was just some jerk Jonesin for a smoke. At first, people would be looking at me sympathetically until I made my purchase request of the sales clerk. Then they would all turn on me immediately and look at me with disdain. They’d give me that how dare you? look. They’d find me as repugnant as if I had just asked the clerk for a copy of Bestiality Monthly. Then, I would of course have to place at least one child on the floor to retrieve my wallet, which if you recall, only had eight dollars in it. So I’d have to empty it, and then go into another pocket to remove enough coins to complete my purchase. By now, I’m the most hated man in Ocean Pines and everyone wants to take my kids away from me. I won’t belabor the rest of the process; just reverse the first several steps. Back into the rain, start the car, drive home, run kids in house one at a time, remove outer vestments, etc. And all of this, just so I could get a pack of cigarettes.

Well needless to say, I did NOT in fact go to purchase another pack. I considered it very briefly in the midst of one of my withdraw moments, but then I remembered three things. The first is that I was a smoker, not a junkie. The second was that the whole concept was insane. And the third was that I love my children so much more than I ever did any of my vices.

Now back to the present…Well, I’m a month in and haven’t cheated at all. The only aid, or supplement I’ve use so far is my newfound affinity for cookies. I’ve gone up an entire waist size, but I don’t cough nearly as much. I got a text from my friend the other day notifying me that my Girl Scout cookie order had come in. The last time I was that happy and excited, I was holding a still slime-covered baby girl for the first time. Thankfully, she lives on the same street as me, so from the time I received the text, to the time the first Samoa was inside of my face, only about eight minutes had elapsed. Thanks for playing along.

Until next week,

Syd Nichols

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