More About Smoking: Here Are Some of the Methods I Have Tried
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More About Smoking: Here Are Some of the Methods I Have Tried

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More About Smoking Here Are Some of the Methods I Have TriedEarlier this year—on March 6th—I tried to quit cigarettes for the first time in my life. I walked into a gas station on Santa Monica Blvd. and the owner somewhat convinced me to take a cherry-flavored lollipop on the house instead of my $7.66 blue pack of American Spirits. “I’ll give you one for every week you stay off cigarettes,” he promised.

On that remarkable day, I did not yet know that I was about to experience the wide-ranging action of alcoholism—specifically the part of the Big Book that follows the sentence, “Here are some of the methods we have tried.” In effect, there was no visible sign of my drinking and addictive disease as I proudly walked toward my car. I only carried a purple candy on a stick as a trophy and extra money in my wallet (American Spirits are not exactly a bargain and in fact more expensive than heroin today).

As I’d expected, the first weeks were rough and all I could see were cigarettes everywhere; it seemed like the world was chain-smoking at me. I rationally knew many of the facts about nicotine—namely that it’s a fast-acting drug that leaves your body as quickly as it enters it. Reassuring percentages echoed in my head: we’re 97% nicotine free after putting out a smoke and 100% detoxed after only three days. I had even read that within the first 20 minutes of abstinence, the heart rate is already restored to normal values and, after 24 hours, the likelihood of a heart attack reduced by half. Yet I obsessed over what my fingers would hold instead of the thin, white paper cylinder and also about potential weight gain—a source of crippling anxiety for a recovering bulimic.

Days went by, and within a couple of weeks, the color of my skin seemed to be improving; my mood did, too. I started running faster and my mezzo-soprano voice made a timid reappearance after barely a month. I was also saving tons of money and could finally smell the expensive drops of Chanel that had gone wasted for so long. I loved the idea of being a non-smoker, but it wasn’t enough nonetheless. Something went wrong and—just like I had done with booze and drugs in the past—I fell in the trap and picked up. “Only one cigarette,” I said.

After three months of clean lungs, life had showed up at my doorstep with unpleasant news. Sure enough, I was hit by amnesia and forgot all about the phrase “This too shall pass.” I also ignored the fact that—just like a drink—a cigarette wouldn’t solve the problem of my manager dropping me and my losing my job and health insurance. But my solution was to buy a pack. “They’re the natural ones,” I reassured myself with the promise of only smoking until things got better. I truly believed it.

One day I was particularly angry and, without too much thinking, I walked down to the garage and grabbed the pack of additive-free tobacco from my car’s dashboard; that’s how easy it was for me to smoke the first one by the kitchen window after months away. “Only tonight,” I vowed while looking at the moon. In less than 30 days, I was back to my old routine of a pack a day. I saved pennies on food but always made sure there was an expensive, natural cigarette available for me to have with my morning coffee.

For two weeks, I kept hiding my cigarettes in the car, swearing that I would only smoke when driving. I didn’t want neighbors and friends to see me, after I’d proudly publicized my new nicotine-free persona; I had some dignity left, after all. So I kept chewing cinnamon gum like never before, spraying too much perfume and hiding my born-again addiction like a teenager.

My rationalizations sounded like such a familiar bunch of bullshit nonetheless—something along the line of Never having it in the house, Switching from scotch to brandy, Drinking only natural wines and the alike, to quote again from the Big Book. I wallowed in denial and self-pity and convinced myself that I deserved those cigarettes. Life wasn’t treating me fairly and—in my head—I could stop any time. But the pattern had become too clear and I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I was using the same escapades and lies that for so many years I had used with alcohol and drugs. On top of that, I had never lied about cigarettes before, not even to my mom when I was 15. Why now?

I was so in denial that it wasn’t until I thought about writing this that my eyes began to open to the subtle game I had been playing and—sadly—already lost.

It’s been almost three months since life has knocked on my doorstep with the unpleasant news. Losing both my manager and gig turned out to possibly be the best thing for me—doors opened where there were only walls and the only thing I had to do was footwork and letting go. As it turns out, cigarettes aren’t an ingredient in the recipe for serenity. Today I am a few days into a brand new smoke-free trial and though still terrified of gaining weight, at least fully confident that my disease is smarter than me.

I should know this by now: there has never been one drink, one line or one pill. There has never been one cookie or one spoon of ice cream. There is no such thing as one cigarette.

Hopefully this time I can remember that for longer than three months.

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About Author

Alice Carbone Tench is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles. A former translator and interpreter from Turin, Italy, Alice moved to Los Angeles in 2010 and worked as a journalist and foreign correspondent for several Italian magazines, among which Vanity Fair, the Italian news agency ANSA and the online magazine Fine Dining Lovers. In 2011 she started a blog, Wonderland Mag, to share the American experience with her Italian friends, but the blog soon became something more, the source material for a book. Her debut novel, The Sex Girl, was published by Rare Bird Books in July, 2015. The book is currently out of print. From 2013 to 2015 she hosted the interview podcast Coffee with Alice. Today, Wonderland Mag has evolved into a candid portrait of Alice’s life: Stories of healing, of being a woman in today’s America, stories of food, love, and of how to dust off after a storm, to move forward stronger than before. Alice is currently working on her second book, a collection of essays from this blog titled Making Sense of Reality. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, keyboard player Benmont Tench and their daughter, Catherine Gabriella Winter.