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I grew up in a house where both matriarch and patriarch smoked cigarettes on a regular basis. They didn’t go outside to do it either. The smoking ban was almost inconceivable back then (less than ten years ago), so the thought of venturing out in to the cold for a cigarette only to prevent second-hand smoke was laughable.

As a result of my forced inhalation of poisonous substances, combined with finding my voice post puberty, I gave my dear old mum quite a lot of jip about her habit. Why wouldn’t I? She made me and my clothes stink.

But now, having fallen into the trap of unwittingly joining the rat race, I am wise to the fact that us rats need masochistic stress relievers like cigarettes just to be able to deal with all the shit we encounter in the sewers on a daily basis.

Not only that, but I have tasted the addiction smokers are afflicted by – ‘afflicted’ is probably the wrong word there because a smoker’s addiction is undoubtedly self-inflicted, but I’ll leave that term in there just to convey my new understanding of a smoker’s plight. After all, I have now felt the extremely powerful magnetism nicotine possesses.

Because of this, I must now class myself as a casual smoker. Although shame causes my stomach to contract when I accept that – but that could just be my irritable bowel.

Nevertheless, no one likes a casual smoker. Non-smokers detest them more than they do smokers – at least smokers have some dedication and allow their habit to cripple them financially as well as physically. To non-smokers, ‘the casuals’ are disgraceful, suicidal fools intent on dragging out their martyrdom for as long as possible.

Smokers dislike casuals for more possessive reasons, regarding them as lowly, half-hearted scroungers. (A smoker will, however, embrace a casual like long-lost kin if said smoker is alone among a pack of non-smokers, especially on a night out in the peak of winter. That’s just simple safety-in-numbers thinking.)

Luckily for everyone but the subject, a casual smoker’s position is as temporary in nature as a kamikaze pilot’s, with similar results, minus the honour.

The descent from casual to full-blown smoker is a sheer drop into a deadly abyss. Not that I’m one for hyperbole or anything.

This is a somewhat autobiographical tale of how someone becomes a smoker, told in the second person to make you feel more involved:

It all starts with a drunken, “Can I have a drag of that?” on a few nights out. This is obviously because the consequences of smoking are the last of your worries when you can’t see straight. Alcohol’s ability to make you feel invincible can sometimes be subtle, but always lethal.

The trouble is… you enjoy it. It makes you feel even more relaxed than alcohol alone, and who doesn’t want to feel more relaxed?

Eventually you start thinking ‘I could just do with a cigarette now’ every time you have a drink. So you begin to actively seek out those among your group of friends that smoke and (politely) ask them for a cigarette, always saying: “I just like smoking when I have a drink,” more to yourself than the friends that raise their eyebrows at you.

Very soon you are buying your own cigarettes. Although they do last quite a while, your claims of never smoking sober only give your addiction another barrier to destroy. And, when it comes to destruction, a nicotine addiction is comparable to a Michael Bay movie; just replace Optimus Prime and Bumblebee with your own lungs.

By now you are pretty much a full-blown smoker. All it takes is a particularly stressful day at work, halfway in between which you realise those cigarettes are in your bag. You immediately assume they are the ointment to the mental stress rash that’s consumed your brain and go for a smoke. Your colleagues see this and you’re soon invited on the fag breaks with the rest of the smokers. How delightful…

You’re pretty much a smoker now. All it takes is openly smoking in front of the most respected member of your family and you’re done.

There it is then; the treacherous journey from non-smoker to smoker, with the perils of being a casual smoker laid bare.

I hope by reading this you realise that smoking is like playing with fire both literally and metaphorically, only with the added effect of making you a pyromaniac after just a few flirtations.

Now you can’t say you haven’t been warned, kids.

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