When Peadar O’Meallain and his wife were both quitting smoking, he learned to say, “I love you even though I’m of absolutely no practical value to you at the minute.”
As I’m writing this I haven’t smoked a cigarette in nearly 8 days. I had been a smoker for so long I had nearly forgotten what it was to not spark up. The first drag in the morning and the last drag at night. The click of a lighter and the sizzle of the tobacco heating up and glowing red, these were the punctuation marks in my day. I subscribed to the Mark Twain School of quitting “Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.
I should know better, actually I did know better. But like any addiction you normalise it and fit your life around it and this was a habit I enjoyed immensely. The sinuously seductive smoke that stained the air. The feel of that smoke in my lungs, the hit when the nicotine stimulated my brain and sated the craving was deeply satisfying (if short lived). Though admittedly the smell and standing outside in rain, not so much.
I had struggled with giving up since we had kids. Before we had kids I didn’t struggle, I just didn’t really care enough. I didn’t smoke around them and definitely not in an enclosed space (house or car). While it’s great that they weren’t exposed to my smoke, in the back of my head I knew that I was shortening my lifespan. Dead Dads have been shown to be a 100% less effective than live ones. I have tried gum and patches previously; they’ve not been much help. Cold turkey seems to be much more effective and has brought me to the place where I feel confident that not only have I stopped but I have finished; and for all.
Partially it’s financial, I’m throwing money away on something that is actively damaging me and will actually cost me even more money, time, and energy farther down the road. On top of that I don’t want my kids to grow up to be smokers. So when we distilled all this information down (my wife was a smoker as well) we decided to stop.
I couldn’t be bothered in any sense to either try to justify my smoking habit or actually commit the act.
So both of us quit, cold turkey, at the same time. Feet first into the deep end. Sure what could go wrong?
Well nothing that we shouldn’t have seen coming. It was a tetchy week we both tried to step gingerly around each other. Most of the other people in our lives got our less pissed-off side. However after 16 years we’re unlikely to be even able to hide something from each other even if we wanted too. To complicate things I’ve had little or no withdrawal cravings compared to my wife, and on top of that I had just entered into therapy for childhood sexual assault. I like a challenge, I do.
To be honest, this is where I was a little confused. What is the proper etiquette when trying to comfort and support your loved one who’s just quit smoking? Under normal circumstances you could suggest taking a break, but dealing with nicotine withdrawal seems to provide loads of nervous energy. I ran quite a bit in the first few days and suggesting to my wife that she take it easy was not well received. Which was in due fairness, fair, as when you’re feeling all agitated the last thing you want to do is be anything but busy.
Realistically, we both had to try and tune out each others snarkiness. I reckoned we would be fine in the long run and we just had to get through this. Once our grumpiness was only directed at each other, I was happy enough to let it run its course. I remember biting my tongue quite a bit, and questioning why I was getting shouted at but trying to let most of it wash over me.
Saturday of that week was odd, as I was involved in an activity on my own which rarely happens on the weekends. I was booked on a Disability Inclusion Training course which was at least 50% practical work so either my phone was off or I didn’t have access.
I turned my phone on at around half five to find this:
Yes that’s a Facebook status and one I’ve been tagged in.
I would have been cool with a text, a spoken sentence, rather than a public apology. However, Tracy is nothing if not fearless. It was well timed though, as I was starting to get to the point where I reckoned I was on the receiving end more often than not.
So where that does leaves us for this week?
Life in general can be harsh, uncontrollable, complicated, and messy and this can be made worse by Nicotine withdrawal. I’ve learned over time that there are issues I can’t fix for my wife or others I love. If I’m the problem, that’s nearly easy, as at least I can change my behaviour. But most of the stresses and strains in life are external.
Life is not an equation to be solved or a problem to be fixed. Sometimes all I can do is listen or distract or both. Sometimes all I have is big arms to hold her and say “I love you even though I’m of absolutely no practical value to you at the minute”. Failing that there’s always this.
Photo: Flickr/Cornelia Kopp