No longer an outcast

The jitters have set in.

I try to fill my mind with other things, but I can turn every thought back to that single, shrieking, wailing one.

For example.

OK, coffee. Let’s have some coffee. Mmm, coffee. Strong, black, aromatic. In a big mug. With a nice cigarette in the other hand.

No, OK, work. Work, work, work. End of term reports to write… Julie is a good student, who works hard and is continuing to make good progress. However, sometimes she can be a little distracted. I know the feeling, and find that a quick cigarette can settle the mind quite nicely.

No, no, let’s see. The weather. Let’s think about the weather. Starting to get warmer… soon be spring… nice warm evenings, sitting outside having a few lazy drinks… with a cigarette

You get the idea. Plus I’ve got insomnia – real, mind-messing, achingly-tired-but-wide-awake insomnia, which has never affected me before in my quitting attempts, but which actually led to me getting up at 6am this morning, having had 2 hours of sleep. I’m in for a fun day. And t’internet’s advice re: nicotine withdrawal insomnia? Avoid caffeine. Did you ever?!!!! Caffeine is going to be practically life support for me today.

On the plus side, I’m hoping that my allergies will start easing up slightly now that my insides aren’t battling against smoke as well as hopelessly polluted air. No sign of that yet though. Still cand breade.

But let’s find some more positives, lest I run downstairs to Alex and demand that he gives me back the Marlboro Lights I handed over to him yesterday (couldn’t trust myself with them, couldn’t bring myself to destroy them). Well, yesterday when I got up, I realised that I wasn’t grimacing at the unbearable taste of stale smoke in my mouth – plus I could taste my cereal, and when I drink coffee now, my taste buds practically scream in ecstasy. And I’m more inclined to exercise, if only to distract myself from the gnawing, painful, tormenting cravings.

I don’t know exactly why I decided, yet again, to make a serious attempt to quit. It’s definitely something to do with the fact that it’s not exactly acceptable to be female and a smoker in Korea. I overheard one colleague of mine remarking in amazed and slightly disgusted tones that she’d seen a woman standing outside a bar smoking a cigarette: “not hiding – but proud!”. That’s the Korean attitude towards female smokers. If you are one, you should do your best to hide it. Women aren’t welcome to smoke in public, even though men chain-smoke practically everywhere – in bars and restaurants, in the streets, in apartment buildings, in taxis…

Women smokers do exist, but they can’t smoke in a public building like a bar or restaurant without fear of condemnation. It’s not against the law or anything, but I can imagine the horrified stares you’d get if you tried lighting up after your meal – unless you’re in a Western bar. On nights out in Korean bars, I’ve encountered (and joined) a handful of Korean girls furtively puffing in the grotty, smoke-filled toilets while their male companions smoke contentedly in the air-conditioned bar, sipping their beer. I don’t like it. It makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong, like if someone knows that I smoke, they think I’m less of a woman or something. I want to not have this horrible guilty secret any more.

I’ve tried in earnest to quit smoking about 5 times in the past 10 or so years. Once, I stayed off the cigarettes for almost a year, but usually I slip back after about 3 weeks. The time that I had the most success, I was quitting because I strongly wanted to, and because I felt that I could cope without cigarettes. Slipping back after all that time was a stupid mistake I’ve regretted ever since. The times when I quickly failed, I was being pushed or doing it to please someone else. It has even come close to being a form of control – a situation that makes me try in misery for a while out of a need to please the other person, and then subconsciously rebel through resentment, lack of support or encouragement, and a barrage of accusations. Leading to me becoming a secret smoker who hides around corners and carries breath mints, a clean jacket, body spray, and feelings of shame and guilt everywhere.

Will it be easier now that I’m doing it for myself, living in an anti-female-smoker culture where it’s probably easier not to smoke, and enjoying a healthier, more active life? Time will tell.

I need another coffee. And I’ve still got another hour to kill before work.


7 thoughts on “No longer an outcast

  1. nelly says:

    It’s a tough one – to start with. It does get easier.

    Here’s a tip – from early on tell yourself regularly that you are a non-smoker now. Not some one trying to give up, but a non-smoker.

    Say it to yourself like this, “I’m a non-smoker. I don’t smoke,” and permit yourself to feel PROUD.

  2. The Parents says:

    The sister if off the cigs almost a year now and this time next year I will be saying the same about you. Yes I will, I will, I will! You can do it. xxxx

  3. MO – thanks, the cheering is spurring me on!
    Nelly – I said it a few times today and it felt good… I just hope I can say it next time I’m out for a drink!
    Camille – Thank you. :) And it definitely feels very different this time, having reached the decision totally alone, without anyone nagging me.
    Parents – Yes, you will! I’m determined. And if I survive the horrible withdrawal symptoms, I don’t ever want to go back.
    Ganching – Thank you, and I agree – the mental battle is the most difficult part.

    Thanks all for the encouragement. It helps!

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