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No More Butts

by Luke de Kock / 26.09.2011

It’s come back again. That undeniable cough in the morning is getting worse. The phlegm you spit into the sink is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a whole twisted web of that yellow ooze crudely laminating your alveoli mate, and it’s there to stay. That is, unless you stop. Yeah come on, fuck it. Stop now, throw out your box of reds, clean the ashtray and stick a damn candle in it. I mean, how hard could it be?

But you’ve been through this before. It’s one of those revolutionary mid-hangover resolutions where your mangled organs start to get their message across, if only briefly. Your mashed head conjures up thoughts of going for a run, making fruit smoothies, eating muesli, finding a girlfriend, picking up squash, getting married, white-picket fences, making it work. Kak.

Quitting smoking is a thought not to be taken lightly, not to be flirted with. It has to be one of those amber-light decisions; either put foot or yank the handbrake. Be indecisive at your peril. It’s this thought process that has led me to stop at the red lights. I could wait for green, wait for the hangover to pass, at least then the physical reminders of my tarred lungs will cease. Or I could use this as some sort of motivation.

According to the American Medical Review Board, only 5 to 7 per cent of smokers who quit (without support) are still smoke-free a year after quitting. They call this the “7 percent club”. The thought of a group of sanctimonious, weigh-less nutters with name stickers on their chests sitting around a table sickens me. But at the same time, the end goal is to be smoke-free, right? Cigarettes simply aren’t one of those things you can do occasionally, sadly, it isn’t their nature.

quit smoking

It is, however, in their nature to go perfectly well with certain things. Coffee, for instance, cries out for a smoke to complete the ritual. Moreover, that first five minutes after sex can tend to be a vacuum of emotion, a vacuum easily filled by a smoke, depending on the context of course. Either it was embarrassingly short and you light up for comforts sakes, to give you something to do whilst you ponder your inadequacy. Or it was a Leonidas-esque headboard-shaking fiasco, and lying back with the filter hanging on the edge of your lip feels close to godliness.

That’s the thing. These gaps in one’s life that cigarettes now fill weren’t there to begin with. Surely not. But now addiction has taken a machine-gun to the fabric of your existence, peppering it with cavernous black holes. You feel them when either hand is free of task or purpose. You feel them when you’re stressed. And when they come, the vacuous emptiness is so vast that you plug the hole with the end of a cigarette and set fire to it. That’ll teach it.
Nowhere else are these holes more felt than in the presence of beer. Alcohol takes the machine-gun into overdrive. Bullet shells scatter across the bar top; stompies spill over from the ashtray into the garden outside the window.
Picking up a smoke halfway through your first draught feels more natural than putting your socks on before your shoes. It just works that way. Slowly you come to realise that if you’re going to stop the rapid fire, you’re going to have to put down the bottle.

A comedian once mentioned that the relationship between smoking and drinking is exactly like the relationship between shitting and pissing. But the bond is stronger than that. Will a month off the drink be enough to quell that most natural of desires? Probably not. If said comedian is to be believed, there are some things that are hard wired. There is an ineffably, inexorably strong connection between a number two and a number one. Perhaps no amount of not-shitting is going to make you not-piss when you next take your seat on the throne. As an acid test I go to the golden arches and load up. Mcfeast, Mcdouble, Mcmassive: the lot. Hours later I take my seat on the throne.

It’s impossible.

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