Dear Princess ‘Ishka,
It has been at least 2-3 years that I’ve given up smoking. I started smoking around the age of 16 and continued till 21, then I stopped abruptly. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t struggled for many years to abandon the addiction in vain. Still, I finally succeeded and I can consider myself nowadays a non-smoker.
Very seldom, after a drink or two, I can light myself a cigarette in case a friend is already smoking. It is some sort of cultural and fetishist pleasure for me. However, some people and even friends have pointed out that my smoking occasionally is a sign of my self-delusion. As if I can’t truly consider myself a non-smoker.
Far from being a defense of my personal case, this letter will be a defense of a life choice, which could be shared by certain people willing to give up smoking. By defending this general model of a life choice, I won’t only argue for it successfully freeing some people from the trap of addiction, I will also defend the claim that people who liberate themselves from addiction in this way can be considered, from a certain perspective, even more “non-smokers” than those who have never touched a cigarette in their lives.
Obviously, I am not encouraging people to get into smoke (pretty much the opposite) and I am also not claiming that my way out will keep me forever safe from the threats of smoking and the like. Here and now, I will only argue for its efficacy for at least a remarkable amount of time, only with respect to certain people who, like me, could benefit from it.
I started smoking as a teenager because I thought it was cool. After a while, I realized that, when I was particularly stressed or nervous, smoke had the capacity of calming me down. Arguably, the addiction to smoke I grew, was also among the causes of stress and nervousness.
After a couple of years of being a smoker, I started trying to free myself from the addiction, without having any true intention to give up smoking all at once. I could resist the siren call of the cigarettes for one-two weeks, and then I surrendered again. I trained myself to the extent that I could stop smoking even for almost two months. I had the proof that chemical addiction wasn’t the true cause of the irresistible appeal smoke had on me. It wasn’t even the addiction to a certain hand-gesture or the thought that smoke could indeed calm me down (which I realized to be a delusion in my case).
I had to think better and deeper, but I couldn’t help escaping my dilemma. In the meanwhile, I was growing happier: I started travelling a lot, meeting many new people and getting closer to other cultures. The weigh I gave to my personal health was increasing as I realized that doing sports was a great means to keep sadness away. I eventually became vegetarian, thanks to the inspiration of a couple of American friends of mine.
The self-image I had of myself was slowly changing and I got to the point of questioning whether smoke was still belonging to it. I thought that, perhaps, what was keeping me attached to smoke was precisely that I couldn’t think of myself as a non-smoker before. I had an obscure conception of myself, as highly irrational and in constant need of a deterrent for my personal distress. Moreover, I was used to wear clothes in a certain way, show myself as a certain kind of person, the one that doesn’t care for the health of her own body, for it’s perishable and not worthy of care other than the one devolved to the outward look.
But I had changed. I was already becoming much more confident and the shift of values that had taken place in my mind, made me realize that I wasn’t the person of the past anymore. I was different and my self-image was of someone cultivating himself, not only mentally, but also physically. With this new intuition, I decided to stop smoking. And so I did.
It has been a while that I have been a non-smoker, but I think that what makes me a non-smoker the most is that I don’t fear smoke more than what is reasonable to do. A single cigarette won’t cause any addiction, not even two. In cases similar to mine, it is a certain mental asset that creates the addiction. The taboo of smoke or the absolute prohibition of getting close to a cigarette is, from my perspective, a futile self-limitation, which underlies the irrational fear that smoke will crush all our psychological defenses. This can’t happen if one truly conceives of herself as a non-smoker and gives oneself a reasonable threshold to keep away the addictive appeal of cigarettes.
This letter shouldn’t be read as a celebration of my personal (rather unsurprising) success, nor as a teaching I want to give to anyone. As I said before, it is just the defense of a life choice against people doubting its efficacy and reliability.