As I sit here writing, the urge of smoking a cigarette once more is with me. I am in front of the laptop, coffee on my table, and the only thing that is missing is a cigarette dangling from the side of my mouth. Somehow writing without cigarettes does not feel right. I am fully aware that it is a ridiculous notion. I have given up cigarettes too many times to be fooled by this excuse again, I have gone back to smoking again in order to open up the gate to creativity, to be able to write again, but instead ended up with a headache and a guilty conscience. It seems that all the great writers smoked; people whose skills I admire, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Sartre, Camus and so on. Clearly smoking cigarettes alone could not make one a good writer, yet there is something to smoking, one wonders why so many writers have the habit. Is it just that one generation started smoking and the next followed? Is it because you can pose well with a cigarette in your hand? Clearly now that social attitudes toward cigarettes have changed you would hardly ever see a photo of a contemporary writer holding a cigarette on the back of a book. Not long ago though, writers showed off this habit as a symbol of their intellect.
As a smoker, or a recent ex-smoker, I know well the harm that smoking can cause. Smokers are probably the best informed people about the harm of smoking; every time we buy a pack we see a new reason why smoking is harmful. Yet millions, like me, still carry on with the knowledge that they are probably contributing to their early death. I have tried to give up many times to no avail. The longest I have gone without smoking since I started in my late teens has been no more than a few months. I always seem to find a reason to go back. My main reasons have been finding life rather slow paced and depressing, whereas with cigarettes I feel fuller, more myself. At the same time I am aware of the detrimental effect of cigarette on one’s health, and particularly on one’s financial health. For the last few months, my chest feels heavy when I smoke. I have also developed a phlegm problem, and my teeth are decaying faster. Yet I insist on carrying on with this abusive, one sided love affair.
It depresses me that I smoke, it signifies to me that the emotional part of my brain overrides logical reasoning. I see smoking as a sign of my weakness, a sign that I am not in control of myself. It is a strange sort of self-harming schizophrenia. The brain craves cigarettes. I think about this; what is it craving exactly? What state is my brain trying to achieve? It might be safe to assume smoking a cigarette, or more accurately addiction to cigarettes, cannot be beneficial to anyone, so it is therefore safe to assume our brains do not always act in our interest. But who are we if not our brains? If someone is being extraordinarily rude you might for a second contemplate hitting them, but your brain can make the decision not to hit them as there will be too many drastic consequences, or it might immediately recall your moral objections to physical violence. But when you are a nicotine addict your brain tends to forget all the evidence against cigarettes and, like a telemarketer, aggressively over-hype and exaggerate the benefits of smoking a cigarette. Your brain actually rewards you by releasing dopamine to make smoking feel good.. Which begs the question, why my own brain is trying to self-destruct. Why all the knowledge of the harm of cigarettes would be overridden by a vague feeling of nostalgia towards them.
It is disappointing to know that our brains do not cause the same urgency in us to achieve our goals in life. In fact most of the time it tries to jeopardise and hinder our progress, We are certainly more than one person. The person who wants to live a healthy life, who wants to be able to perform in a Saturday league match with ease, is not the same person who wants to smoke ten cigarettes a day, for reasons that he can not put his finger on. Personally, I associate cigarettes with relaxation; I have a lot of anxieties, and cigarettes appear to help me deal with them. It also gives me a sense of confidence; makes me look less square, like someone who is willing to get his hands dirty. Yet these are all very weak reasons to smoke a cigarette. My anxiety is not crippling nor is my lack of confidence. I have relapsed into smoking enough times to know that these are all mirages. When I smoke my chest begins hurting; I see signs of my health deteriorating everywhere. So while it makes me a tad more productive, it adds to my anxieties, and causes me a real fear of fatal illness, and it is not the illness itself that causes the most fear but the realisation of stupidity of this habit. To think that I might run out of time without managing to wise up to this is what I fear most.