About Me

Behind the smoke

My office complex borders another large business in town that recently instated a rule that no one could smoke on their property. The shrubs between that office and my complex has become a weird smoker gateway. The smokers from that business creep through the broken sections of vegetation and hang out to smoke on our side of the trees. It’s quite entertaining to see it happen because you wonder what someone who doesn’t know the new ruling at the business thinks. Why do these people just emerge from the trees?

As a former smoker, I often find myself jealous of those people. More often that I sometimes care to admit. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I’m not the one killing myself 20 times a day. And throwing my paycheck to the tobacco industry. But — when I smoked, I used a cigarette as a reward of sorts. I would say to myself, “Finish this one task and then you can go smoke.” So, when I was smoking, it was indicative that something had been accomplished. In the years since I’ve quit, I’ve often wished I had found a suitable replacement. Not only does it give you some reward, but it sometimes kept me focused on a tedious task for longer chunks of time. I tried using donuts, but my ass requested I stop that habit.

I’m also jealous of the social networking done from the tree people. It’s hard to understand if you’ve never been a smoker, but as a smoker, you find yourself forming bonds with the other people in your carcinogenic group. When I was in Austin at SxSW, I would see the smokers gathered on the balcony and I actually felt sad that I couldn’t be in those groups. It’s like instant camaraderie. Some of my best friendships were formed over shared lighters and bummed smokes. At my college, a smoker would actually announce their upcoming smoke break so everyone could chime in and say something like, “Give me five minutes and I’ll join you.” We traveled out to the breezeway in packs, leaving the non-smokers behind. We even said if we ever formed a business together, we’d have to incorporate the word “Breezeway” into the name because we did our best brainstorming there.

Don’t get me wrong – I never regret quitting. It was – without a doubt – the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Seriously. It may be one of the things in my life I’m the most proud of. I did it cold turkey. On Christmas Day several years ago. It didn’t become easy for months, and I cried more during that period than during any other chunk of time in my life. It was hard. I would never go back. But – I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it. And seeing the smokers creep towards my office several times a day, reminds me of that.

But man – I’m so glad I don’t smell like a dirty ashtray anymore. As is the rest of my family. And it’s nice to spend that money on more tangible things. Like beer.

34 thoughts on “Behind the smoke”

  1. I have to say I’m with you. That sums up how I feel perfectly. It’s been over 13 years now and there are times I still miss it. And the camaraderie is one of the biggest reasons. It’s a fabulous & easy way to meet people.

  2. I imagine the instant camaraderie must be tempting, but I’m sure your lungs thank you! I’ve never smoked, but I’ve seen how hard it is to quit.

  3. I hear ya! I’m not a smoker either, but it’s like that Friends episode where you feel like you miss out on so much when everyone else is out smoking.

    During our sales conferences, I’m almost in the minority because everyone smokes. I admit, I go out with them sometimes to get “fresh” air just to hang with them and be in on what the cool kids are doing.

    But being a non-smoker is the best! You should be so proud quitting cold turkey and keeping it up!

  4. I’ve never been a smoker, but all three of my college roommates (and many more of my college friends) were. I actually just went on all their smoke breaks with them, standing out there inhaling second-hand smoke. Probably not the smartest thing ever, but honestly if I never did that? I may not have been such good friends with them all. But I definitely understand what you mean about the whole camaraderie thing. I sometimes get nostalgic for college just by walking past someone who’s smoking. (Then I just get grossed out by the smell of smoke.)

    All three roommates have since quit, thankfully.

  5. I, too, used to smoke. I’m glad I quit, but there are many, many days I’d love to have a cigarretted. My boss has not smoked in over 20 years, and he says there are still times he craves one. Isn’t it scary … the addition of nicotine?

  6. I’ve actually crashed smokers’ gatherings more than once. I may not be toting a cigarette, but they seem more than willing to let me take my “snack” break with them. Sure I’ve earned a few chuckles but no one seems to mind.

    We all need a break from the office every now and again. Taking 10-15 minutes once in a while doesn’t hurt anything.

  7. It’s like that episode of “Friends” when Chandler takes up smoking again because of the group at work. In real like, I know what you’re talking about. My smoking sorority sisters seemed to have their own sorority going. Someone would yell, “Time for a smokey treat!” and the smokers would climb out of the woodwork to hang out on the porch. I may have smoked once or twice to be a cool kid.

  8. I’ve never smoked (my parents did and I hated it, so I was never tempted to try during my rebellious years), but I experienced that wannabe smoker feeling many times. At parties where I feel awkward, it would give me something to do. It would give me something in common with people at work.

    My bad habit is picking at my fingers (cuticles and nails). It’s an awful habit, but at least it doesn’t give you cancer, and it’s free 🙂 I can teach you if you want. I’m a real pro.

  9. I quit smoking 7 years ago and still, it is one of my proudest achievements. I will BEG my kids to not smoke because it is so hard to quit. That churning of the stomach when you crave a cig is the worst feeling ever. The other thing about smoking is that truly, it promotes an unhealthy lifestyle. When I started smoking, I stopped running. Bad move on my part, obviously.

  10. I think I was laid off from work due to a smoke social group a few years ago.

    My manager and another designer were the only 2 smokers, and they became very chummy together – and I heard rumor that at one point when it came down to lay-offs coming up – the designer was able to make her stand about why she shouldn’t be laid off (we were both contract) and lo n’ behold, the next week I was gone, after having an excellent review.

  11. Now that I’m in a new city, I REALLY miss smoking just for the social aspect. Sadly, it’s a great “in” to social circles and making quick friends. Of course, then all of your friends smoke. But it’s much less awkward than jogging along and running up to someone to strike up a conversation. 🙂

  12. That breezeway. I loved that breezeway. I miss those times horribly. And I miss my cigarettes. And I miss my smoking friends, many of whom no longer smoke. Remember when I would come over at like 8am (we were such good neighbors) and we would drink coffee and smoke a pack of cigarettes before we went to Wesleyan.

    I think I will always miss cigarettes, not because of the cigarettes, but mostly because of the great memories made around them. Even when I slip up these days and have the rare cig, it’s never the same, because it’s the nostalgia and the old friends that I really want. I usually put it out halfway through.

    Thanks for the memories, though…:)

  13. I wonder if the feeling of missing out – but not really – ever leaves? I haven’t smoked for about 5 or 6 years and when I’m out having a good time, drinking a fantastic beer, I can’t help but think a cigarette would be good.
    I also miss the natural ice breaker it gave me, the socially inept IRL, bumming a light – finding a friend.

    That said – can not stand the smell & have become hyper sensitive to it. Also – I didn’t think it was possible, but food tastes better. In the end I’m glad I quit.

  14. I totally agree. I quit cold turkey 10 years ago and for hte sake of my health I’m glad I did My grandmother died from cancer caused by smoking and so I could never take it up again because it would devastate my fanily, but I do miss the social aspect of it. The environment that only a smoker really understands, where someone you wouldn’t ever talk to in other circumstances interacts with you. The only way I can explain it is like when someone you don’t know needs a tampon in the ladies room and you have one it forms a little bond . Although you don’t really hang around for that one.

  15. I think I know where these “tree people” congregate! 😉 It’s the new get-healthy-so-the-company-doesn’t-have-to-pay policy. I tried smoking once in college and decided I wasn’t doing it right so I never tried again. My dad has smoked forever … even after prostate cancer. At least, now though, he goes outside to light up.

    Ever seen “The Kings of Comedy” with Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer, Bernie Mac, etc? Cedric does a hilarious bit on the lengths smokers will go for that cigarette.

    Quitting has got to be one of the hardest things ever: it’s a great accomplishment.

  16. I did the cold turkey quit on NYE 2005 and let me tell you… its still hard to be a social outcast in a group of friends that are ALL smokers, we go to dinner and they go out to have a post dinner, pre dessert break… and there I am sitting at the table ALL BY MYSELF… I too don’t miss the health aspect of smoking but your 100% right about the social aspect.

  17. I hear you. I quit in May of this year cold turkey in a place where I am, quite literally, the only non smoker now. I miss the friendships and bonding terribly – much more than the cigs I smoked from age 10 – 35, actually.

  18. You said it, Zoot.

    As a former smoker, I always used the cigarette break as my Sanity Break.

    I totally miss my smoking buddies and taking that time to myself.

    But, I love being Henry’s mommy more. I’ll cop to the fact that I bought a pack of cigarettes last week, in the height of the Unemployment Crisis. I had a few drinks, had a few cigarettes…and DONE.

  19. That must be quite a sight. In my mind it’s like the movie, Field of Dreams, when the baseball players come out of the corn field.

    It’s too bad you can’t break for a mid-day beer! That would inspire some bonding.

  20. I never smoked, but sometimes I was jealous of the smokers because of the friendships & connections they made.

    I’m glad that you don’t smell like an ashtray anymore, too … means you won’t die of broken lungs!

  21. I am about to try quitting again. I too use it as a reward, usually it is more of “good job on not killing your co-worker!!” I do think it is kinda weird that I smoke more at work, than I do at home. And socially? Yeah…that is the hardest part.

  22. Ha, JP beat me to it. I was going to say something about “Friends” too.

    I’m trying to think of something you could use as a reward instead of a smoke. How bout… Crap, I can’t think of anything but food.

  23. As an ex-smoker myself (1,110 days, but who’s counting?) I sympathize with you. My company used to have indoor smoke rooms with special ventilation and all. Sweet. About a year after I quit the smoke rooms disappeared (county permit expired) and everybody had to go outside, in the winter, in the New York snowbelt. It wasn’t hard to NOT feel jealous of the smokers and their breaks THEN!!

    So you went from smoking to running a marathon, right? Proud of you girl – way to go!!

  24. I agree. I quit but there is a bonding formed between smokers. Like you, some of my best friends from college are former smokers too.

  25. I quit smoking the day my son was born, cold turkey, and I totally get the missing it part. It’s been a little over two years, but that friendship, that everyone going out together. Yup, miss it.

    I’m just glad Id idn’t start up againw hen I started going through my divorce, that was a proud moment.

  26. Amen. I don’t miss it either, but every time I think I do and try a puff of one, I realize that they’re so so gross. That’s a happy realization. My state now has a law that forces people everywhere to hide in shrubs to smoke (Ok, so the law doesn’t really require shrubs). It’s really funny to see folks all over town smoking in odd places.

  27. ROFLMAO!!! Like Beer??? ha ha ha. I quit 4 years ago cold turkey as well. It was like the 100th time I’d attempted to quit. I expected it to be hard and I expected to fail. But surprisingly it was very easy. The cravings just left and never came back. Guess I had the right motivation. I am so happy I did it.

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