The same day my Twitter timeline was filled with people rallying around Josh Hamilton falling off the wagon, offering him support and informing anyone that making any joke about it was in beyond poor taste, someone else on my timeline, one of those supporters actually, complained that smoking hadn’t been outlawed in bars in Indianapolis.
And this led me to wonder…why aren’t smokers considered addicts, too?
They’re not, you know. I’m considered a former smoker, not a recovering addict. Why?
Let’s take a look at some of the common thoughts on smokers and smoking that I’ve encountered (sometimes rather loudly).
Smokers are stupid and disgusting. They smell. They’ve got nasty coughs and yellow fingers. They KNOW smoking is bad for them, but they do it anyway. It’s common knowledge. It’s all over EVERYTHING. They poison the air and contaminate other people’s lungs. They affect everyone around them. SMOKERS ARE STUPID.
Alcoholics and drug addicts are viewed like this, though. They’re to be pitied. They have a disease.
Yet they start drinking/ingesting/smoking/shooting up/snorting despite all of the knowledge of how bad it is for you. Alcoholics will reek of booze. Drug addicts will reek of other things, depending on their drug of choice. They all have health problems, some more disgusting than others. Alcoholics drive drunk; drug addicts drive high. They lie to their families. They steal from them. Poor decision making due to drug/booze affected minds leads to fights, rapes, robberies, and terminally offensive/embarrassing behavior.
But they’re not stupid. They have a disease. It’s a shame.
Nicotine doesn’t affect the brain as severely as alcohol and drugs, but it still has an effect. It still affects the chemicals of the brain. It’s still a way to self-medicate, which is what so many alcoholics and drug addicts do.
I smoked to ease stress and anxiety. No kidding. I smoked after I ate, I smoked after sex, I smoked when I drove (which was kind of a bitch because I drive left-handed and I smoked left-handed), I smoked when I wrote, I smoked when I drank, I smoked when I socialized. But I also smoked more when I was stressed. I claimed that the third cigarette on my 15 minute break was to buy me more time, but in reality, I needed the nicotine to mess with my chemicals a little more. Driving somewhere I’ve never been before? Going somewhere I didn’t really want to be? I smoked a couple of extra cigs to “calm my nerves”.
It was no exaggeration. I felt better smoking. The anxiety decreased when I was smoking. During the time that cigarette was burning between my fingers, I was much more capable to deal with life.
In order for alcoholics and drug addicts to achieve and maintain a successful recovery, they have to basically restructure their lives to learn how to live without their drug of choice. They have to learn how to function sober, avoid temptations, and sometimes they end up cutting out people in their lives that are bad influences. It also takes a lot of self-control and willpower.
I had to do the same thing when I quit smoking. I had to learn how to function without a cigarette in my hand or my mouth (I swear my pool game has suffered because of it). I had to learn to cope with stress and anxiety differently. I had to learn how to drive, write, drink, and socialize without my cancer crutch. I had the added hurdle of living with a smoker. I had to pursue my smoke-free life while watching him continue his smoking life, one that I never wanted to give up.
That’s right. If I could have kept on smoking, I would have. I didn’t quit for health reasons. I didn’t quit because I finally gave in to all of the nagging and harassment. I quit because I couldn’t afford it. It was too expensive and I was too out of work at the time.
Like a recovering alcoholic or drug addict, I think of smoking every day. I wish I could go back to it. I don’t because I don’t want to go through the unpleasantness of quitting again. I dream about smoking. If there was an option to smoke without any harmful consequences, I would do it (I’ve considered getting one of those electric cigarettes, but so far, I’ve resisted). I quit smoking about two and a half years ago and I don’t think I’ll ever not miss it.
Now, here’s the thing. I’m not looking to add any more labels to my name or anyone else’s. I’m not going to be going on talk shows talking about my smoke-free life. I’m just wondering why smokers and former smokers aren’t treated with the same kind of consideration as other addicts if we’re all addicts.
Oh, that’s right.
Smokers are stupid.