Prior to the day I smoked my final cigarette (10/25/19) I'd been tracking my smoking via a smartphone app. I couldn't help but notice I'd cut down from ~20/day to fewer than 4 in less than a week. There seemed to be a momentum in my behavior that only a fool wouldn't seize upon. So, Friday evening while driving home from work, I had the spontaneous realization that it had to be now. This was my best chance to quit, and I loved the idea that I'd had my final cigarette earlier that day when I didn’t even know it would be the last
I didn't tell anyone for a while because I didn't want to feel stupid if I failed, but I didn’t fail. I finally said it out loud to my girlfriend two days later on Sunday evening. She actually works for a counseling center that specializes in addiction, and her professionalism kicked in immediately; after congratulating me, she asked if I'd gotten rid of the cigarettes as well as all lighters and ashtrays. I replied that I had tossed the ashtray and lighters, but for some reason, wasn't ready to part with the cigarettes just yet.
The next few days had me lost in thought and trying to process what exactly I was going through. I didn't feel good and experienced many of the classic withdrawal symptoms, but I was also never seriously tempted to smoke. Some part of me realized that I’d likely feel worse than I already did were I to cave. Also, still having the cigarettes in my possession —yet not smoking them— made me feel empowered in an odd sort of way. I kept thinking to myself, "I don't smoke anymore," "that ship has sailed," and "it's out of my hands." That's when it hit me: This felt like the death of a friend and it was really grief I was experiencing ...I could be upset all I wanted, but a thing that dies is gone forever and can never be brought back.
I honestly think that’s why the idea of discarding my remaining cigarettes in the nearest trashcan never felt right. This was something that had been a part of my life for so long. I felt like it would be a missed opportunity NOT get rid of them in way that was meaningful and might help me resist the urge to smoke again (were I to ever experience that temptation in the future). The problem was that I didn’t yet know how to do it. Eventually, I remembered a conversation with a friend from several years back.
Ashley and I had been out most of the day on a bicycle ride and decided to stop for a little break. We wound up pulling off the road near a boat ramp just off the Ohio river. This little rest turned into what would later feel like a very important moment in my life. She told me that she’d finally given up smoking and that it felt like a major accomplishment. I congratulated her, but couldn’t really relate to how happy she was or the significance of what she'd managed to do at that time.
Fast forward approximately 7 years... I had stopped smoking for an entire week, but couldn’t think of a proper way to toss what I had left —then I remembered my friend and our conversation. So, on Friday, November 1, 2019, I drove to that same boat ramp where Ashley had told me about her victory, and, with Elton John’s “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” running through my mind nonstop, I ceremoniously tossed the remainder of my cigarettes into the Ohio river.
Any time I experience a craving or otherwise feel tempted to resume smoking for whatever reason, my mind returns to that moment when I purposely laid my dead friend to rest upon the water. That which dies cannot be brought back, ever.