the muscle memory of post-tobacco addiction


A smoking room at the airport in Perth, Australia. Do you think this idea is something Pinoys will like?

WOULD YOU like an explanation of the title before I go any further?  Here it is.  Muscle memory by popular definition is the “second nature” acquired by your muscles from movements and activities you perform regularly, over long periods of time.  Examples are your leg muscles acclimatizing themselves to the long grind of distance running, your biceps, triceps and latissimus dorsi muscles getting used to your lifting deadweights, etc.  Sometimes the use of the term muscle memory is extended to both athletic and non-athletic activities, because so much of our daily lives is governed by routine.Despite the fact that I’ve given up tobacco smoking for almost five years now, it’s mildly unnerving to know that just the sight of people smoking triggers an almost primal urge in me to light up myself, even though I live with the conviction that I’ve conquered said addiction albeit after almost a quarter of a century.  I won’t mislead you and say it was a breeze, for I’ve hurdled and stumbled on quite a few bumps in the road on the way to freedom from cancer sticks, but on the other hand I won’t squash even the faintest hopes for addiction recovery, and tell you it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  It wasn’t, and if you can get through the first week, you’re probably three-fourths of the way home.

But I digress.  Today I just want to focus on the little slivers and morsels that remind me of the Way of Life that is tobacco smoking, and how indirectly they might help you to find out who’s a smoker, or is still smoking even when he or she says the smoking’s stopped :

These are the nice ways of showing that you are aware that someone has been smoking 🙂

Aroma, odor and scent.  Trust me, no one can smell out a smoker better than someone who no longer smokes.  This is first because the ex-smoker has developed an aversion to the aroma of tobacco smoke, which unfortunately stays behind on the personal effects, clothing and dwellings of the ex-smoker’s friends who still smoke.  Secondly, the olfactory skills of ex-smokers, which for so long have been desensitized to the daily exposure to tobacoo smoke, have slowly but surely begun to return.  The rejuvenation and restoration of nose power awakens the challenge in the ex-smoker to sniff out whatever sensory challenge is out there, and among the edgiest challenges is to find out who’s been smoking the most among wretched still-smoking friends.  I’ll never forget the words of a confirmed quitter : passive smoke never sticks enough to your shirt, car, and especially not on your breath to stay with you the rest of the dayWhen an ex-smoker says he/she smells of passive smoke, odds are it’s smoker’s smoke, duh.

Smoking, like misery, loves company, so this cat will have to do.

Misery loves company, smoker’s haunts, and endless breaks.  No value judgment here, but in the name of satisfying a nicotine fit, you’d be surprised to what lengths a smoker will go.  After smoking has caught you in its tender embrace, it becomes your Number One Priority to light up every time you feel like it, every half hour of the day, every day of the week, and every week of the year.  Because of this, productivity, work ethic, and finally common sense all bow to the mighty ciggy.  So that after the mid-morning break, there’s the pre-lunch cigaret break, then lunchbreak gets extended by a quarter-hour for a post-meal smoke, 3.00 merienda is quickly followed by a post-merienda trip to the sidewalk vendor, and just before bundy time, why not break for a yosi among friends?

And smokers enjoy a conspiratorial fraternity that keeps everyone else out and swears each of its members to cooperation and secrecy.  When one smoker smokes, chances are he or she will ask a co-smoker or two to tag along.  And if there are deserted, rarely-visited areas of a building, even if that entire building is supposed to be a no-smoking area, those half-hidden places will evolve into smokers’ haunts forever.  This is why, outside all-night call centers on Emerald Ave on Ortigas Center, you see groups of smokers everyday of the workweek, inside and outside the building.  Each building is like one giant chimney that never stops spewing smoke, it would be hilariously funny if it weren’t so dangerous to the health.

There’s always an excuse to smoke.  When I was a smoker, I smoked after a heavy meal, when I needed some heavy-duty thinking, when I was happy, when I was depressed, when I just finished doing the nasty, or just about every waking activity between getting up and going to bed.  Pretty soon, you don’t need an excuse anymore, because it’s part of your daily routine, and before long, it becomes part of your system.  You can’t conceive of a life without smoking, and it takes a life-changing event to consider quitting, like a near-hit with terminal illness or death.

I didn’t have a near-hit, but I saw enough close calls to say, enough is enough.  I still get the urges and never finish a day of my life without once thinking of smoking, but I know where I would’ve ended up if I hadn’t quit when I did.  It’s never too late to stop smoking, and now is as good a time as any.  As the TelstraClear ad says, now’s good.

Thanks for reading !

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7 thoughts on “the muscle memory of post-tobacco addiction

  1. Yes, Kapatid, nicotine addiction is hard to kick but I am glad to see you keeping up your resolution to stay clean. For the sake of your 3 kids and esposa hermosa, please stay healthy.

    • wow, thanks Nancy, if this particular blog can just connect to one smoker and convince him/her to quit, then it will have been well worth the effort, don’t you think? I’m grateful always for your support! God bless kapatid!

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