Death Kiss

I quit smoking three years ago. It was tough. I'd been smoking for seven years and working on quitting for about five of those seven years. And I didn't just take up smoking over time: I basically wrapped myself up in it over a weekend, and then I was (for good) a Smoker.

And I loved smoking, really. Loved loved loved it.

In college a boyfriend bought me nicotine patches to help me quit (he was quitting also, but cold turkey). But, we did them wrong, buying patches that were stronger than our addiction to cigarettes, and so, like the Tori Amos lyric, I became addicted to nictone patches.

I tried Zyban the year I was a residence hall director at the University of Minnesota. My student staff were very vocal about wanting me to quit, and I wanted to, too, to an extent. Zyban made me so happy—it is, after all, just the antidepressant Wellbutrin in a different hat. I found myself not wanting to smoke, and when I did, I felt sick to my stomach. Imagine! Aversion therapy in a pill. Then, a student in my residence hall fell from a lofted bed and died. I started smoking.

I tried Zyban again in grad school. Zyban is also like taking crystal meth. I stopped sleeping and was up all hours of the night doing little projects, reading, writing. I was a machine. I needed no sleep and never felt tired! I was also an emotional roller coaster—which face would I be wearing in five minutes? Nobody knew! And so, laughing to crying, thanking to chiding—you name it. My mirror had about seven faces. All of them crazy.

I finally quit on the patch, doing it correctly, then even cutting down the smallest patch into halves and wearing them for an extra four weeks. It worked. I quit smoking. I kicked the addition. But

there are nights, like last night, when the man in front of me at the convenience store buys three packs of cigarettes and I can smell that smoke on him, the brand I smoked, and I'm back. I'm craving. My head swims and all I can think is PUT IT IN YOUR MOUTH.

I remember the way an unlit cigarette smells: raisins.

I remember the way a first drag tastes: toasted peanut butter.

I remember the smoky goodness, the swirl of it sucking down into a lung, the flush in the brain—the way the world tilts forward like a car coming to a hard stop. Sending the smoke back out again, watching it leave the mouth and disbanding into the air...


  1. I quit 16 years ago after smoking for 22 years. I still think about it, crave a cigarette, every once in a while. I don't think that crave ever goes away. At least in my case it hasn't. It is a dangerous and insidious habit. I'll have to fight it my entire life.

  2. I should probably start fighting it.

    I've only smoked for a total of approx. four years--with a year off in the middle, during which time I didn't smoke at all--and so I've yet to consciously feel/experience/recognize any detrimental effects in or to my life. But, a la Radiohead, just because I (don't) feel it doesn't mean it's (not) there.

    Anywho: be strong, brother man. ; )

  3. I quit smoking in January. I quit quitting, which I'd been doing off and on for 3 years and finally made it stick. I quit smoking when I realized that the only reason I was smoking was to kill time. I was smoking because I was bored. Sad, but true.

    I miss the mechanism of smoking, the repetitive action which sent me almost instantly into a trance-like state every cigarette I smoked. I loved to write poems in my head while smoking. I loved watching rain and snow fall as I blew smoke in between the drops and flakes.

    Mostly, I just stopped in to say that I eat peanutbutter every day (don't ask why because the reason is nearly as stupid as saying I was smoking because I was bored) and yes, Charles, the roasted peanut flavor does evoke the taste of smoke, of that first inhalation.

  4. I could send you a picture of the stuff I hack up every morning. Perhaps that would help quell your compulsion.

  5. You're better off without the Cancer Sticks! Congrats!

  6. I am so glad that I am not the only one who thinks unlit cigarettes taste like raisins... phew... loved the patch too.. best way to go!

  7. Okay Charlie so I asked my seven year old today what she needed to quit sucking her thumb and she looked up at me and said…the patch. lmao

    I thought of you.

  8. Charles: I smoked from when I was 12 till I was 24. I quit my first year of medical school (because my then-boyfriend said he hated how it tasted when we kissed, not because of the medical risks).
    I still sometimes fondly remember it (smoking). But not often. It was just too gross of a habit, and I can't believe I ever smoked.

    Now . . . if I could just stop eating chocolate . . . . hehehe.

  9. My name is Tricia Hurley and i would like to show you my personal experience with Wellbutrin.

    I am 54 years old. Have been on Wellbutrin for 1 year now. Helps with depression. No weight gain like with Zoloft or decreased libido like with Prozac. I do think Prozac worked better and the only reason I went off it was my husband complained about that libido thing.

    I have experienced some of these side effects -
    Involuntary jerks of hands and legs. Feels like when you're about to fall asleep and suddenly jerk awake, but this is in the daytime. Often feel like adrenaline is flooding my stomach.

    I hope this information will be useful to others,
    Tricia Hurley

    Wellbutrin Side Effects