My National

My National

This bloke's last smoke

  |  February 27, 2014

Iíve been scaling back my chain-smoking operations, in anticipation of the great habit purge next week. As most of us do, I have several vices. Among my worst is chain smoking, which Iíve done for years upon years, as Carl Sagan might say.

Itís a tad ironic that this comes when Iím working in Abu Dhabi ó a much more smoker-friendly city than any Iíve lived in. Of course shisha is ironically the exception, with the capitalís implementation of new regulations. Iíve had interviewees speak through smoke in their office, and it seems even hotel lobbies arenít off limits. This is a veritable paradise for smokers ó how lovely, to be able to light up in a bright, window-walled coffee shop with a good book.

But all things must pass. Last November, I quit smoking for about a month. I actually began a blog post at the time about the challenges and pride associated with quitting. However, one cigarette lead to another, and soon I was back off the tobacco wagon. I am very glad it didnít get published before I started smoking again though. I wouldíve looked quite silly.

Come January, I decided to give it another go. But I just couldnít get back into the flow of it ó it was just so hard to break that cycle. Iíd tell myself I could have a cigarette in the morning and be done with it. But then Iíd have one Ďlast oneí in the car, then one Ďlast oneí when I got to work, one Ďlast oneí after lunch and so forth until I resigned myself to try again the next day. Repeat this misadventure daily.

I really donít enjoy it all that much anymore. I only get a buzz if I havenít smoked for a millennium, and even then it requires elaborate Tibetan breathing techniques to replicate the wondrous rush. Iíve realised nicotine gum is a much more pleasant medium to inject poison into my bloodstream. It's much stronger, cleaner, and tastier.

I turned 25 a few days ago and it really is time to start taking my health more seriously. Iíve been experiencing chest pain sporadically over the past few years. Sometimes itís a dull ache, sometimes a sharp shanking. In a neurotic spell, I went for two chest X-rays last year, just to make sure it was all in order. It was. When better to quit? If you have chronic agony and donít realise itís time to stop, then a bad habit is the least of your worries.

Itís largely psychological for me, a ritual. The hourly cigarette break gives me time to relax and zone out. Today, though, having gone the longest without a cigarette that I have in a long time, I can sense the chemical withdrawal seeping in. In truth, Iím a zombie minus the cannibalism. Words are difficult at this point in my life. But Iíve worked out little replacement habits and coping mechanisms to nudge me along.

The nicotine gum does assist, but it makes you a little loony after a while. And Iím loony enough as it is. Chocolate and sweets, it is. Better still ó and I admit this is very weird ó instead of going outside for a cigarette, Iíll go and sit in my car with the engine off. My office is freezing, so sitting in a warm car with my eyes shut is a bit like meditating in a dry sauna. Good times at the Rav4, dubbed Sir Ravi, Spa.

Anyway, this time Iím quitting for real. I canít stand the phrase ďtrying to quitĒ, because as Yoda says: ďDo. Or do not. There is no try.Ē

Iím sorry Nicotene, itís not you ó itís me.

Follow me on twitter at @harethb

halbustani@thenational.ae