I've lurked on this board a couple of times per year over the last few years but could never even bring myself to work up the courage to post, as if my wife or someone I know would stumble across it and piece together my story. Silly… Tonight I was reading some older threads and came across Mick D's post that said: "What kind of mental issues or denial must one be at the effect of not want to talk about it with other people the same CLOSET? We are all in a (virtual) place here where we can do it annonomously, without judgement, and anytime we want to talk???!!!"
Well that struck a chord. My wife's out of town for the weekend, so I smoked a couple of Marlboros and decided I'd finally post my story, in the interest of therapy. I apologize if it's long-winded, but hey, it's my therapy! Here goes…
I'm 27 now. I never had any attraction to smoking at all—and in fact was rather repulsed by it—through 6th grade or so. I remember walking to the bus stop where older kids smoked and thinking only that they were losers. The next year, when I was in 7th grade, something inside me clicked, and all of a sudden I found myself longing to join those kids for a cigarette. No idea what triggered it…
I grew up in the Northeast, where oddly enough, all the cool kids who smoked, smoked Marlboro Reds. When I was first drawn to smoking, I didn't feel strongly about any brand, but soon I became fixated on that red and white, flip-top box and the orange-filtered cigarettes inside with "Marlboro" written just above the filter. I even loved the very words "Marlboro" and "cigarettes"—I get a thrill just typing them. I loved the sound of the ligther flicking, the way the tip glowed when during inhalation, the way the smoke looked when exhaled. I didn't recognize it for a fetish for several years.
But my family was very firmly against smoking (both my parents were former smokers who told me NEVER to start -- it was OK to drink and maybe even to smoke weed--which I was never drawn to--but smoking cigarettes was the dumbest thing you could do). I was the typical "good kid," a great student and an athlete who never got in trouble. And I guess I cared too much what other people thought about me.
So I didn't even try smoking until I was 16. I think my first cigarette was at a friend's house, but not in the usual manner--my friend didn't smoke, and naturally, I had to be sneaky. His older brother was dating a sexy blonde girl who smoked Marlboro Reds, and she had left a pack on top of his TV in his room. I happened to be staying with my friend, and one afternoon I was left alone in the house. I pulled a cigarette out of that pack and went into the woods behind the house, where I lit it up. I took a few puffs and said out loud, "Jesus, they taste just like they smell!" It was awful—I didn't finish it, and figured I had this whole thing out of my system.
Of course, I was wrong. I'll never forget buying my first pack, that winter. My family and I went out to a Mexican restaurant, and there was a cigarette vending machine in the front entryway, just outside the doors to the main restaurant. During dinner, I said I had to go to the bathroom (which was located by the front door), but instead I snuck out to the entryway and went to that vending machine. I had just enough one-dollar bills to buy a pack (Marlboro Reds, of course, in a box), but my hands were shaking so much, my heart was pounding in my chest, and I couldn't get the damn thing to take my bills. I fumbled out there for what seemed like forever, expecting my dad to bust through the doors any minutes and catch me in the act. Finally I realized I was just putting in the bills backwards! So I bought my cigarettes, stashed them in my pocket and returned to the table. I was too nervous to eat, so I just said I wasn't feeling well (which was true, I suppose).
A few days later, when my folks were at work, I waded through the snow to the woods behind my house and tried smoking again. This time I made myself take more than a few drags, and I got my first nicotine rush. I felt so dizzy and light-headed, like nothing I'd experienced before—it was both exhilarating and frightening.
I got more bold later in the week, thinking I could smoke at the end of my driveway, where anyone who drove by could see (I didn't know anyone who lived further down the street). But my mom unexpectedly came home early that day, and I saw her car pulling up just in the nick of time. I pretended to fall in the snow, snuffing out my cigarette, and told my mom I was just going to get the mail but slipped. I rushed inside before she could get in from the garage and ran upstairs to take a shower. Somehow, I got away with it--she never suspected.
I threw out that pack after smoking just a few, again thinking I was over this stupid phase. On my 18th birthday, I bought my first legal pack of Marlboro Reds at a gas station. I'm pretty sure I finished that pack.
When I went away to college that fall, I had to check a box on my housing form--smoker or non-smoker. I agonized some over this decision, which would have a huge impact on my life. I decided to check "non-smoker"—I think deep down I knew I would smoke in college, but I deluded myself into thinking I wouldn't. I've regretted that decision many times—how much more would I have enjoyed my college experience if I could have smoked openly with a fellow smoker roommate? Away from all my non-smoking friends back home, I could have forged a new identity as a smoker—after all, everyone at college wouldn't have known me to be anything else.
Instead I lived with non-smokers for four straight years and spent my entire time in college sneaking around, carrying a change of shirt in my backpack every day, seeking out private places to smoke and then changing into a shirt that didn't smell. So pathetic--and the worst part was, I knew it was pathetic, but couldn't do anything about it. Sometimes I would go to parties and sneak away to smoke; every once in a while I'd find a group of smokers I didn't know and I would smoke with them, but only when the probability of getting caught by one of my non-smoker friends was remote. Even worse, sometimes I would turn down social opportunities so I could stay home and smoke in peace—of course, I would have to sneak off to the exterior stairways, and change my shirt in the stairs before going back to my room. That could be embarrassing when someone else would stumble across me changing my shirt, but somehow that was less embarrassing than admitting I was a freakin' smoker. As others on this board have said, how sick are we?
Thank goodness all the bars in town allowed smoking then, so I could go out and have an excuse to come back to my room stinking of smoke after I turned 21.
I smoked about two packs per week throughout college—which wasn't easy to do when you constantly had to sneak around. In college, most of the "cool people" smoked Marlboro Lights, which influenced me to start smoking those about half the time starting my junior year. Those were great because some very attractive women smoked them, which turned me on, but they were still very "cool" for men to smoke.
Going home for holiday breaks was the worst--I was clearly addicted, and I needed my fix. I would sneak through windows to get outside and smoke without waking my parents. Over one holiday break, I finally got caught. My mom was utterly distraught, just so disappointed in me and in herself--she really made a big deal of it. I said I had just started a month before and swore up and down I would never do it again.
And I honestly believed I wouldn't. But soon after arriving back at school, I gave in again, and soon I was back to my normal two-packs-a-week routine. She still hasn't found out I broke my word.
When I graduated, I moved in with a friend who smoked. Finally, I could smoke openly (at least at home—certainly not at work)! For about six glorious months, I smoked about 10-15 Marlboro Lights per day (sometimes a pack when we'd go out drinking)—sitting in my living room or on my porch, with my roommate and a few other friends who smoked. But when non-smoking friends came to visit, I acted like I didn't smoke, and for some reason my roommate never called me on it, even though it must have been weird that I didn't want to join him for any cigarettes. I guess he must have realized I wasn't ready to be completely open—I never talked about it with him.
But both of us resolved to quit that New Year's. I made it almost a month, then started sneaking them again, and even after he relapsed fully into a regular smoker again, I continued to sneak. Why? Who knows?
I met my future wife that year. She didn't smoke, but I told her I used to on occasion. She smelled it on me a few times, and she thought it was dumb but she took a much more grown-up approach—I was an adult, and it really wasn't that big of a deal. Still, she certainly wasn't going to date a smoker, so if I wanted our relationship to continue I could not smoke openly. She used to ask me on occasion if I'd been smoking (sometimes when I had, sometimes when I hadn't). I would deny it, and she'd accept it. It's been a couple years since she's even asked, so I've got her thoroughly fooled. Which hurts me, really.
After we moved in together, I would smoke in the mornings after she left for work, giving me plenty of time to wash away the smell and taste. I was down to a couple per day. Several times, I have gone a month or two without smoking at all, but I'd always give in and buy a pack when I was on a business trip, or anytime she spent the night somewhere else.
I've set so many quitting dates over the years, and I've proven to myself I don't need the daily nicotine fix, but whenever I get the opportunity to smoke without consequence, I always give in. Even now, I don't smoke daily—only when she's out of town or I'm out of town (like right now) will I buy a pack of Reds or Lights (I still go back and forth about which is my favorite—but if both brands came off the market tomorrow, I really don't think I'd be tempted to smoke at all anymore… my attraction is tied into those two particular kinds of cigarettes, for whatever reason).
So many times, I've ended up disgustedly throwing out cigarettes and lighters before I've finished the pack, in a half-assed gesture of asserting my desire to quit. I've done it so many times the gesture lost all meaning long ago, yet I still do it.
As you can tell, I have nothing but contempt for both my smoking habit and my need to keep it secret—but I love smoking so much! And I guess I'm just weak, because no matter how many quit dates I set, I always give in.
For me, the answer is not to "come out" as many on this board so often suggest--that's not an option, and as much as I fantasize about being able to smoke openly, it's not what I really want, either. I want to be strong. Strong enough to quit smoking forever, and never look back. I'm terrified of coming down with a smoking-related disease that will reveal to everyone that I've been smoking all these years. I'm terrified of the embarrassment that would cause, but even more than that, I'm terrified of the betrayal my wife would feel because of my years of deception. I love her very much, and I am actually very happy with every other part of my life. (And, of course, nobody wants a painful disease, especially early in life.)
So what I need is to somehow discover the strength to overcome this irrationally, frustratingly fierce compulsion I have to smoke. I always hoped I would just out-grow it, but I fear it's a part of me that I'm stuck with. So I just need to be stronger than it. Sometimes it feels so hopeless, but I do still have hope. Melodramatic? Yes. I know my smoking is utterly insignificant in the grand scheme of things… but like I said, rational thinking takes a backseat when it comes to me and cigarettes, which have had far too great a grip on me for over a decade now.
Thanks for putting up with this mess of a post.
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