(Published in Business Standard on March 9, 2013)
I mentioned, last fortnight, that I’d quit smoking. Did I mention that I quit smoking? I’ve quit. I’m not smoking any more. I am liberated from the slavish habit that kills. I don’t smoke. I am a non-smoker. I do not smoke. No thanks, I don’t smoke.
Everything is better! My carbon monoxide levels are down to zero. My damaged nerve endings have started to regenerate. My gums are zinging with circulating blood. My bronchial tubes are sipping pina coladas on the beach. My sinuses are clear. My brain acetylcholine receptor counts have down-regulated and receptor binding has returned to levels seen in the brains of non-smokers, hat-tip some website I got that from.
So what if I’m a little snappy? It’s a small price to pay for getting rid of the chronic cough and the hateful smelly weed for quite some time, now—approximately twenty-six days, nine hours, thirty-four minutes and seventeen seconds. Not that I’m counting, because it doesn’t matter, because I no longer smoke. I don’t smoke. Get away from me. I do not smoke. I quit.
Other symptoms are a little more aggravating. Two thirds of the weight I’d lost over the last couple of months is back, hanging over the waistband of my jeans like someone leaning over a balcony and having a smoke. I’m suffering from tortured similes. And, worryingly, my memory is worse than usual. Like, I forgot to write this column.
I’m serious. I forgot what day it was and spent the whole day slaving over other work, until I realised at 6.30pm that it was the day I was supposed to write the column.
Throbbing with panic, and flooded, by the way, with the urge to chain-smoke, I went into emergency mode: filled a bowl with some delicious salty puffed rice, spread out on the sofa in front of the TV, and watched a good chunk of Legion, from that bit where they’ve whacked the possessed old lady with the small evil sharky teeth who jumped on the ceiling, and then the archangel Michael shows up at Paradise Falls diner to protect the unborn child of Charlie the pregnant waitress and thus save humanity from the wrath of a disillusioned god. I figured I’d start working after that.
But then after that I went out for the evening, because, well, I was supposed to go somewhere, which meant spending some time buying a bottle of wine from the wine shop and a birthday present from a designer friend. After all, I had all night to work. The party was not large, but it featured a fair amount of wine and pink champagne and birthday cake. Thus it was that the last third of the weight I’d lost returned as I drove myself home—I saw the seatbelt suddenly puff out over my midriff.
At the end of that, well, I had to go to sleep, because I am a sensible human being who has healthy habits like, for instance, getting enough sleep and not smoking. After all, I could wake up early and beg for a deadline extension, and maybe pad the word count with a film plot summary.
That is all to say that my memory and concentration have been severely affected by all the quitting. Luckily, though, if I am obliged, as a rational, educated person, to stop being dumb and killing myself, the rest of the world is obliged to put up with the tiny instabilities I may subject it to as a result of the trauma. It’s a small price to pay, after all, to soon normalise my insulin resistance.