One thousand days ago Melky Cabrera laid down a sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the ninth against the Yankees with the game tied 6-6. What was supposed to advance Jose Reyes to third, turned into an overthrown ball to first and Reyes scored, giving the Jays a 7-6 win. Later that night, some friends and I walked back to my nearby apartment and I smoked a Colt cigarillo on the balcony as we reveled in Melky’s walkoff bunt. I haven’t smoked since.
I didn’t set out for that to be my last smoke. I had just kind of stopped already, weening myself down to an occasional smoke if I was having drinks with friends. There wasn’t really a conscious effort to quit smoking, I just didn’t want to do it anymore. I don’t feel comfortable with this being some motivational “I did it and so can you” sort of thing, because it wasn’t like that. It is a victory though, and one that merits some celebration.
I started smoking in 2004 in my first attempt at college. When I dropped out, I came home to find my friends doing the same, so I kept it up. I hid it from my parents for months. They were heartbroken when they found out. That wasn’t enough to stop me. Maybe that makes me a bit of a monster. Maybe I was young and stupidly stubborn (probably). Either way, I kept it up for nearly a decade with very few sincere attempts at quitting.
I sort of took to being the person people would let loose with. If friends didn’t usually smoke, they’d have one with me, just like they’d eat worse with me before returning to their healthy ways when they went home. I didn’t give myself a healthy way to which I could return. I liked offering people that escape, probably because I didn’t feel worthy, or feared those people wouldn’t return otherwise. I’m happy I think differently about myself and relationships now, at least more often.
It feels like an alternate timeline, as if Smoker Duncs is a completely different, shittier version of me in some nearly identical universe. If I look back to photos at parties though, there I am with a dart and a beer. I can remember how much worse I felt day to day. Those gross morning coughs. Walking far to a convenience store at 3am because I wanted one before bed. Sitting far away from people at family gatherings, or just being outside alone. It’s a big part of life if you smoke, and I was no exception.
I don’t have any philosophical insight into addiction, at least none that isn’t already available from smarter people. It’s shitty and destructive, though. Destruction you can live with is still destruction, and I’m sure glad I’m not doing that anymore. For all the talk of tissue regeneration and lung recovery and every other benefit you begin to enjoy the moment after your last puff, I have no idea what I did to myself over nine years. I could be diagnosed with cancer tomorrow, or next year. I might already have it. This is true of anyone, I guess, but I can’t get those nine years of shitty choices back. There are never guarantees. I might have another cigarette someday. I would say it’s unlikely, but I have no idea.
It’s a weird thing to want to celebrate something in which you feel no pride. I didn’t set a goal and endure hard temptation and cravings to kick the habit. I just got bored with it. I’m fortunate in this respect and absolutely grateful my tendency to lose interest in things could benefit me for once. For whatever limited audience reads this, I’m sorry there’s no real payoff for you. This is just a small attempt to balance some negative thoughts I spray into the universe with something I’m pleased with – that a thousand days ago I made a good choice, and I’ve made it again 999 more times. I hope I have a few thousand more of those left.