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A Single Tantalizing Cigarette

Because most people that I am acquainted with have the impression that cigarettes suck (they do), I figure I can take a moment to mock myself and explain their appeal.

But let's back up to something seemingly completely unrelated.

Barnes & Noble, an ex-employer of mine, has a shrink philosophy (shrink is where money is lost, to make it as plain as possible. Often through theft, either internal [employees] or external [shoplifters] or through mismanagement or misunderstanding of procedure) that 10% of people are always going to do the good thing, 80% can be swayed either way, and the remaining 10% will always do the bad thing. In other words, the 10-80-10 rule.

I think this applies to the way I approach my life and decisions. I am very 10-80-10. 10% of the time I go for the safe thing. Another 10% I am going to go for something risky or totally not good for me, despite that I know the consequences. And the remaining 80% is where I choose depending on my mood, circumstances, or who I am around.

Applying this to cigarettes for me means taking into account a great amount of history. I was surrounded with smoking when I was a tot in the streets of Budapest. It smells homey to me. And more curiously... I always thought cigarettes smelled wonderful. Alluring. Tasty. My thoughts derailed. Kind of like the way some people like bonfires* - it's a sensory relaxer.

I am well aware that when I start something (not-so-good-for-me in this case), at first I take it little by little. Then one of two things happen: I either distance myself from it or keep coming back, diving in because after a certain point I can't restrain myself. Because it offers some physical feel-good, I want it. I'm young (not an excuse) and there are times I need to let go... albeit in better ways.

I want these things most when I'm dealing with a heavy spell of depression.

Depression dulls life. Things like alcohol, sugar, and caffeine are substances I can imbibe that make everything seem rosier and suffer none or next to no negative after-effects.** Additionally there are certain behaviors that can dull the pain or make me feel relief temporarily.

And because cigarettes are not something I should do, that destroy my normal ability to be me (i.e. I smell/taste like cigarettes the morning after such activity instead of like my usual flowery scent. Gross), I am very willing to partake of it in order to feel a release. Sometimes I just want to be bad. And that doesn't mean I do - but that I am very tempted.

I have a lot of self-control, but when I'm completely off-the-rails depressed, grasping to feel, to live... I can certainly let go. That can become my only desire.

So to combat these things, to prepare for the moments when depression sneaks up on me and I am inclined to dance with my temptations, I have three roadblocks in place: first, I don't keep such things on hand - and when I'm depressed, I'm not very likely to go to the effort of getting them. It ruins the impulsiveness. Second, I don't have friends who smoke with any regularity. This lowers my overall temptation and prevents any possible peer pressure. Third, I'm educated about the adverse affects. And frankly this last one is often enough - say 95% of the time - able to lead my thoughts and impulses elsewhere. Additionally, I aim to hold myself accountable to myself, therefore to participate in such an activity will lead to serious disappointment in myself as soon as the following morning.

The bottom line? I expect the 10% of me that is always good to keep the other 90% of me in check.

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You might be wondering why I've shared this. The point is to offer another perspective on why someone who is very purposefully a non-smoker still faces the temptation cyclically. It's to offer a non-typical experience that might otherwise go untold.

*Yes, you can replace "bonfire" with other words. You have my permission. I'm sure there are plenty of options that would work for what I am trying to say. ;)

**No, I've never had a hangover. Don't know how that has not happened.

© 2017 by Ameka Menes.

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