Cuddling up in bed with a pack of cigarettes
Art by Enacio Diaz

Cigarette Pact, 2.0

By Joel Vaughn


Hey boys, girls and all the other fine folk out there. It’s me, Joel, you’re either favorite or least favorite mouthpiece for bitching about quitting cigarettes.

And well, since the last article I’ve written on being a millennial smoker I’ve quit, sort of. I’ve ditched the aesthetics of being overly verbose and idiotically grandiose in favor of getting down to brass tax in my writing. None of the dilly-dallying around how I started smoking or why I think it’s going to kill me, you’re just getting the skinny on what my relationship with cigs, butts, stogs, darts, etcetera has been since I quit in October. 

That’s right my cherished reader, I quit! Well, quit for the most part. I’m still weaning myself off nicotine itself with the aid of nicorette and tobaccoless snus pouches, which basically just keep the raging, agro AF nicotine demon off my back. But while we’re talking about asterisks next to my name in the halls of ex-smokerdom, I should note that my plastic resolve, my less than iron will, has faltered on two occasions since I officially put the pin in my addiction. Make it two asterisks actually, one for each of the packs that piggy-backing ciggie demon got me to buy over the last six months. 

In my last article, I really went up in the depths up my ass to form a half-baked pun of a metaphor about making a pact — gag — with myself that I’m not actually quitting every time I buy a pack — vomit — of cigarettes. I know, I know, it’s forced, unoriginal, kind of sophomoric and definitely self-involved. But hey, it’s the metaphorical bed I made for myself so best start laying and smoking in it. Hopefully the sheets are flame retardant. 

So the first pact I made with the smokey demon in a pack of ultra light American Spirits was over Christmas break when I broke under the weight of holiday family drama. They were nauseating and nostalgic since I chain-smoked those suckers while gnawing nicorette gum like I forgot nicotine seasickness was a thing. The nostalgia was from being back at the family home I started sneaking out of to smoke Camel Crushes. 

Each drag off my holiday coping mechanism, those pretty perforated butts, brought me further back to the precipice of my parents’ divorce, which got old real quick. Then Christmas morning came around. Family problems peaked and I began to think about every awkward confrontation with my parents when I was in my late teens about why the neighbor saw me sneaking out the night before. Flashbacks of interrogations on why I smelt like burning Djarum cloves and clogone when Dad caught me sneaking back in, and how even at 18 I couldn’t say it was because I didn’t feel safe, comfortable or accepted at home so I spent as much time as I could sneaking out for a smoke. 

So I made another pact when I crushed that pack ultra light Spirits and drove back to Long Beach. A pact that I was over revisiting bad memories, filling my lungs with bad memories, I thought that I could burn the past by not burning stogs.

I mean, that’s ridiculously fucked melodrama and I was wrong. But hey, that brings me to the second pact I bought and made in the pandemic. Oh yeah, that’s right. Bet you didn’t expect this article to ramble its way into commenting on social distancing, but here we are.

 So I’ve been spending a lot of time at home, in front of my laptop typing, attending online classes, and stewing in just general anxiety. It’s fun, I don’t recommend it at all. But to deal with the festering, fucking, bored restlessness I picked up a pack of Camel Blues and chain-smoke those babies in two days. 

That was about two weeks ago, and I’m still wondering if I’ve given up and become a smoker again. Probably not, but what I’ve realized is that I’ll never be able to escape having a coping mechanism that is in some way self-destructive. 

You know, self-isolating has its ups and downs. Quite a lot of downs, at least for me, but one thing that it has allowed for me, as trite as it sounds, to sit down and observe myself. At least that’s what my therapist has told me to try to start doing with these long stretches of being alone, and what I’ve founded is that I don’t really need cigarettes. I mean, I need them in a way to manage stress and all that, but I’m confident that if I just don’t I’ll be okay. 


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