The Smoking Yogi
I started smoking cigarettes officially when I was thirteen although I made an attempt many years before when I was only about seven years old and my mother left a cigarette burning in the bathroom. It was the 80s, mom’s did that then. I crept into the bathroom when she was gone, grabbed the cigarette and put my lips tights around the end and blew as hard as I could into it. I didn’t see what the point was then.
By grade eight, I had learned that you had to suck on it and breathe it into your lungs. Most people’s first experience smoking was horrible. They remember coughing and sputtering and feeling stomach sick. But in the name of being cool, they pressed on until a habit was formed. Not me. The first time I smoked, I coughed, but I was into it immediately. I somehow got my hands on a pack the next day and was a smoker from then on.
Smoking was the reason I never really went into sports. I was a competitive swimmer my whole childhood by smoking obliterated that from my life almost immediately. Needless to say I never picked up another sport as a kid. By the start of university I was a pack a day smoker, but despite smoking, I was already very much into health. Even in my get-drunk-and-make-bad-decision days, I was still eating mostly whole foods and exercising regularly, even in the face of a pack a day.
I have been such a confirmed smoker that even non-smokers have always wanted to smoke around me. There was something so natural about me smoking, something that didn’t seem dirty. Still, I knew it was really bad for you, even if it didn’t show in my body or my skin, I knew it would kill me. Like many young smokers I told myself I wouldn’t smoke past thirty. Actually, I held on to the vain idea that one day I would have children and because I was so vehemently against smoking and pregnancy, that children would force me to quit.
Thirty came and went and I didn’t have children or quit smoking. But I tried. In fact, by thirty, I had tried a lot. I had done acupuncture twice, once quitting for three months and hating myself every single day of my non-smoking life. It was like being a dry drunk; sure I wasn’t using my drug of choice, but I resented every minute of it and like a bad haircut that wouldn’t grow out, I was angry and it was that anger that drove me back to smoking.
I once quit for a few months on Zoloft, but it made me a zombie, emotional and depressed and not myself at all. I quit cold turkey on a long weekend at a spa with my mom and stayed off the cancer sticks for a few months then too. I have been hypnotized twice; neither time worked. I’ve taken the patch, chewed the gum, used the inhalers and tired a homeopathic method that included smoking therapy, but none of it worked even for a week.
Alan Carr’s book, “Easy Way to Stop Smoking”, worked like a charm; for eight months. I stupidly thought, “if I could quit so easily with the book, then surely I can have one cigarette when I go out and just read the book again if I need to.” I’ve read it thirteen times since, but it’s never worked again.
Now I’m thirty-six and I smoke natural tobacco without additives in bleach free, biodegradable paper. I have about three rolled cigarettes a day, the equivalent of one full cigarette of tobacco. And you know what? I don’t even give a shit about it anymore.
Smoking has kept me incredibly healthy my whole life. Yeah, I said it.
If it wasn’t for smoking, I would have never run two half marathons and raised thousands of dollars for charity in an attempt to cut down or stop smoking. If it wasn’t for smoking, I would have never become a yoga teacher (I quit leading up to and during my training only to start again the very second I finished). Fellow yoga teachers have always admonished me openly for smoking, the worst of all the health taboos, even though a lot of those same people eat low grade meat and drink a bottle of wine on more than the occasional night. I’m not much of a drinker, cause I smoke. I have been a vegetarian in some form or other since I was twenty-three, because I smoke. I have been active and sought organic and local food my whole life, because I smoke. Smoking has kept me away from every other vice possible, because I’ve been so terrified that adding anything else to the mix would mean instant death.
My lung capacity is twice that of a non-smoker; this I think is mostly genetic, and partially due to swimming for so much of my life. I look about ten years younger than my actual age and I’m healthier than most of my peers pound for pound. I’m not advocating smoking, not by any means. Especially cigarettes. But when I look at my life over the past twenty years, I often feel I have smoking to thank for helping me to say no to all the cheese burgers and meth that have come my way.
There is clearly some emotional connection I have with smoking that goes beyond the physical and I feel deeply that when it is time for me to transcend that connection, smoking will pass like my affinity for lipstick in high school. In the meantime, I do the best I can. I enjoy each one of those delicious rollies and I try not to sweat it too much. After all, believing you are ingesting something negative must be equally as bad as doing it in the first place right?
So I say…smoke em if you got em and live the best life you can!