For the past month or so, I have had a sore throat. I have attributed it to the fact that for that same amount of time, I have been living in close proximity to people who smoke.
The extended-stay hotel I was in reeked of cigarettes and the only way to keep the smell out of our room was to have the air conditioner cranked at all times. Since the East Coast was experiencing a heat wave, this wasn’t such a big deal. Still, I was thrilled to check out, although something in me knew that leaving wasn’t going to remedy this problem.
When we arrived at our temporary apartment, our land lady let us know there was an ashtray on the balcony, but that smoking wasn’t allowed inside, of course. Those were her words. Later she invited me into her apartment, which is a floor below us in the same building. A haze of smoke was filtering out through her back windows. That night I could smell her cigarettes smoldering below me.
At first, I was really annoyed. Although I don’t mind it when people smoke around me (I actually welcome it sometimes), I don’t like being trapped with it, having no choice but to breathe it in.
This was one of those occasions, I realized, that the Universe was trying to tell me something. But what?
Addiction has been on my mind a lot lately. I recently re-upped my sober challenge, heading toward 200 days without booze. I’m around the 140 day mark, and I’ve been thinking about what this means. Am I quitting forever? Life has been really rad since I stopped, after all.
But I’ve also had a lot of cravings for alcohol as well, which I know are completely psychological. And while some of them seem normal, like “Oh I would love to drink glühwein in the holiday markets this December,” or “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a glass of French wine in France?” there are others that concern me.
Take last night, for instance. Sante received some news that our shipment (read: our life that came over on a boat) would be arriving early. This was not good news because we don’t have our permanent apartment until September. This means paying for things called storage-in and storage-out insurance, not to mention the storage itself, which is criminally high because they know you will pay it. They have your stuff after all.
(Moving lesson relearned: The things you own end up owning you.)
This was a frustrating situation, and we were both really upset. Swears were said. Hate was spewed. And during all of this, I thought, Man I could use a drink. This seems to be the trend lately. Every time something happens that raises my blood-pressure levels a bit, I seem to want a glass of wine.
Funny thing is, it used to be that I would wonder how I would celebrate without alcohol. That doesn’t seem to cross my mind any more. Now it’s about easing the pain, no matter how first-world it really is.
And all this brought me back to when I first quit smoking. At first I struggled with the idea that I wouldn’t have it during my morning coffee and after the upcoming Thanksgiving dinner. But I got over it. Then, months later, after things had simmered down a bit, the cravings hit me hard.
I was in Canada for the Winter Olympic games, out partying with people I didn’t really know and suddenly I desperately needed a cigarette. It took a friend jumping on me and literally dragging me away from two smokers to show me what I was doing.
I was out of my element, sleeping in a new place. I felt slightly uncomfortable. And I convinced myself that smoking that cigarette would make everything normal — that I’d feel better about things. Of course that wasn’t true. I’d have finished the cigarette, everything would’ve still been new and weird and I would’ve just felt terrible about smoking. I would’ve used it as an excuse to start again, probably.
Every time I think about how long I’ve been a non-smoker, I think about how grateful I am for that girlfriend who pulled me away from those cigarettes.
I bring this up because that’s what I think these smokey places are doing for me now. They are reminding me of how bummed out I will be if I have a drink. They are wafting into my nose and into my brain, telling me how I am in a new place where I am feeling uncomfortable, and no amount of wine (no matter how cheap and local it is) is going to change that.
And the surprising thing about all of this now is that I am somehow grateful for the smoke. Suddenly I see it as the friend who is pulling me back to reality, showing me that I’ve got some distorted thinking patterns. It’s not my fault, really, it’s just part of how I’m wired right now.
Until I can learn to rewire, I’ll just continue on toward 200 days and hope my sore throat goes away once we move into our new house. Unless I’ve got another lesson to learn. Life brings us some of the strangest teachers sometimes, doesn’t it?
Tags: 100 day challenge, 200 days without drinking, addiction, change, cravings, habits, life, life brings us strange teachers, quit drinking, quit smoking, smokers, sober challenge, teachers, triggers