How to Quit Smoking When You’re Really, Really Good at It

I started smoking cigarettes because I couldn’t get a first kiss. I didn’t know how else to be cool, and everyone was kissing, and in order to get a first kiss, you have to find another willing participant, so at age 14 I bought my first pack of Marlboro Reds. I turned out to be good at smoking; maybe even the best.

I went from Reds to Camel Blues to Parliaments to, now, Marlboro Blend No. 27s—and sometimes Dunhills, if I’ve just been paid. I have enough opinions about tobacco to refuse an American Spirit. (I wouldn’t smoke those things on a desert island. They taste bad, I don’t care what the actors in Los Angeles say.)

It didn’t matter that I had funny bow legs and sucked up to the popular girls. With no prior social verification, I had Cigarettes to do the talking for me. I started smoking more of them than I wanted to or even liked. I was tolerating a pack a day by the time I hit 16. When fellow teenagers asked me if my mother knew, I’d respond, “How could she not?”

By the time I was a senior in high school, I was known for smoking. The “cool” group of parents (it never ends, does it?) gathered in the Hamptons for a party one night, and a solid topic of conversation was “that Annie—the chimney.” This was the first time I felt shame for smoking, but I still didn’t stop.

Whenever I feel scared, or uninteresting, or boring, or sad, or horny, or tired, or pretty much any ounce of emotion, I smoke a cigarette. I have too many feelings to feel all of them all of the time. Plus, I like being social every second of every day. Loneliness curbs with a cigarette in between my fingers.

Smoking is the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I do before I go to sleep. I got caught clutching a vape during doggy-style sex by an ex who deserved it (me vaping during sex). Sometimes I’m proud of it. Smoking is the least desperate thing anyone can do. My desperation would spill out if I stopped smoking. It would smell bad, worse than an American Spirit. That’s what I think when I’m feeling proud.

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