I started smoking in a dream, when I was 16. I was staying at a friend's house for the weekend; she and both her parents smoked in a small 3-room trailer. I, like my father, was allergic to cigarette smoke and I was miserable for the first day. My friend kept after me to try a cigarette; she desperately wanted a partner-in-crime her own age and had been trying to get me to take it up for months. I was staunch: smoking was unhealthy and stinky and a Really Bad Idea, and since my father was allergic to it he could smell it from down the block. He would know immediately if I took it up. No amount of washing would save me. I'd be disowned. Sent to military school. Worse -- home-schooled!
But at R's parents' trailer, everything was already saturated with smoke, including my hair, my clothes, my skin. My eyes. My lungs. Blech! R kept telling me this was my chance; I had an alibi for smelling like smoke. I could try it and no parental super-sense would ever be able to determine that I, not she or her parents, had exhaled the smoke that clung to me. I had no interest in adding to the clouds, though, no interest in choosing to take up a chemical dependence, in ruining my singing voice and coarsening my speaking voice, in any of the hundred awful effects of smoking.
Until the second morning, when I woke up from a beautiful dream of serenity and optimism, feeling alive and awake and something else, something... growing. Gnawing. Hungry? No, thirsty. No -- grumpy? Itchy? Afraid? Edgy. Craving. R picked up my mood, and as I tried to describe to her how I felt, becoming less coherent and more panicked as every minute passed, she finally pinned it down and started laughing. "Sounds like you're having a nic fit," she said, and passed me a cigarette.
Yes! That was what I wanted! R later told me it took her a while to believe I hadn't been smoking surreptitiously for a long time, because I smoked like I knew just what I was doing, like I had been accustomed to it for years. My dreams will alter me like that sometimes.
So I always said I started smoking in my dreams, and I'd quit smoking in my dreams as well. It was a witticism for "never", I thought, but with some truth behind it. From that day on I was a smoker, no matter how long it had been since my last cigarette, and I came to believe that no waking willpower could match the subliminal power of dreaming as a smoker. I even practiced at lucid dreaming, hoping I could catch myself smoking in a dream and put it down. But I never again smoked in my dreams -- until last week.
At a time of great stress, in a moment of abject desperation to feel better, I picked up a cigarette (just out of habit, not realizing what I was doing) and began to light it. As I pursed my lips around the filter and brought the lighter close, as the first acrid waft of burning paper hit my eyes before I inhaled -- I stopped.
What am I doing? I don't do this any more. This is not me now. I have changed this. I do something else instead -- something else... Yes, that 510. Yes, this Janty Stick. Yes, Cinnabiscus, please. Yes, white chocolate. Yes, this is better. Yes, this is me.
And with my first puff of vapor, I woke up.
And now I know I will never be a smoker again.
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