The loss of nicotine isn’t what makes me abruptly crave a cigarette. In fact, I had almost no withdrawal symptoms when I quit smoking this time around. I was relatively pleasant; I didn’t grind my teeth; I didn’t have too many moments of, “Oh, fuck it. Does anyone have a light?”
I do feel undone, however.
I’ve been rereading Mary Gaitskill this week, and one of her themes is the importance of props to our notions of who we are. Relationships falter when one’s props are no longer simpatico; frequently, characters assign one another slightly off signifiers, proving the utter implausibility of ever being able to accurately communicate with another human being. And for me, cigarettes were central to who I am. Was?
I feel bereft of my security blanket. Cigarettes buy you time. They’re an excuse, a motivation, a breather, an emotional barometer. They provide a literal smoke screen between the smoker and the rest of the world. That’s what I miss the most. I don’t want a cigarette when I’m upset because it’s soothing; I want a cigarette in the same way knights put on a suit of armor—they are my protection. And now I’m learning how to live without protection and sometimes the feeling is of overwhelming terror because who you were is not who you are becoming.
But then I think about all the money I’m saving, and the whole point is moot.