Smokers are instant family. Stand outside anywhere and light up and pretty soon you've got camaraderie and kinship, like-minded souls with an unbreakable bond. Freedom, to a smoker, is the ability to blow smoke around and have no one complain about it.
When I was working, I had a group of smoking friends. We all went on break together, stood outside together, gossiped and laughed and had a grand ol' time. Friends forever! Life was great and we were great and guess how many I ever see today?
There's a guy in one of the apartments across from me who stands outside by his car to smoke. I've said Hello a couple of times, just passing by. But without a cigarette in my own hand I know I wouldn't be quite welcome if I were to just walk up to him and start talking. He'd cup his hand around the smoke and act like I'd invaded his sacred space. Which I would have done. His "freedom" is easily broken.
I no longer have a posse of smoking friends, nor do I stand outside infiltrating other groups of smokers. So it's time to learn how to connect with people in other ways. I have no wisdom to offer in this area. Yet. But what I DO know is that I have real freedom. And I have actual family to get to know all over again.
Real life seems lonely sometimes, and it's understandable to long for those days of ease and welcome that being a fellow smoker brought with it. I know I do once in awhile. But those days were fleeting and false and superficial at best. There's a saying I like very much that I remind myself of on days like that:
Don't look back...
You're not going that way.