I noticed today it’s around a year since I started this blog. I’m not great at staying the course with things – I’m your ideas woman not the completer finisher so I’m proud I’ve kept this up. I’m also aware that a year on I’m not so proud that I’ve not done much about the next stage of ‘getting sober’ – the cannabis. I had a thought a while ago that perhaps I would have to reach the point I had with alcohol to stop – the one where you hate yourself and just can’t carry on and just need to end the constant battle in your head. The trouble is smoking doesn’t make me feel like that in quite the same way. It’s not so obviously taking from me. ‘Except for your breath right?’ the sarcastic part of my mind just chipped in. Having just done a week of morning pranayama classes I’m in touch with the idea of breath as the conduit of our life force. It’s literally zapping my life force so why do I seemingly not even want to stop? Maybe I need to look more closely at my history with smoke?
I had my first puff on a cigarette when I was 4 or 5 years old. My brother, just 18 months older persuaded me to steal one from the packet with the lighter that belonged to the teenager who helped look after us. I knew it was wrong and I was nervous but I ran in and did it. We took our booty and ran out the house and into one of the barns. It was an old wooden barn full of straw bales at that time of year. There was a narrow wooden staircase up one level and you could just squeeze in with the bales right in front of you and the open space of a window behind. My brother lit the cigarette and took a few puffs and handed it to me. I don’t actually recall the smoking part. The next thing I remember is my brother saying ‘I wonder what would happen if I …..’ as he lit a piece of straw inches from our faces. It went up instantly and flames and smoke were everywhere. We got out quickly enough down the stairs though the smoke choked our throats and we were scared. Outside my brother (always good at getting out of trouble) quickly came up with a plan. We ran inside yelling ‘mummy mummy we were playing in the garden and saw the barn on fire’. The fire engines came and went, the barn was a blackened shell and I overheard adult conversations that expressed relief we had seen it or the house could have gone up too and what if the children had been in bed? I was consumed with guilt and shame. Over time the memory faded then one evening I was being put to bed early – I can’t remember why and as she swept out the room my mum said ‘and you burnt down the barn!’. ‘How did she know?’ It was never spoken of again until it was joked about in adulthood.
Fast forward and I’m 11 years old roaming the countryside with my friend and we start smoking. The pub sells us them as we chirp ‘10 No 6 for my mum please’ at the hatch at the back. We wanted to be naughty and it felt exciting. The last year of primary school and I was trying on being a bad girl. I didn’t fully commit and in the next year or so I distanced myself from that friend without explanation to her, behaved myself and stopped smoking. I started again when I was 14 and depressed. Wanting to be cool, image and being bad was part of it but looking back it was probably the start of self medicating. The first time I took anti depressants I remember thinking I didn’t feel a need to smoke. I still did though.
There was always a part of me that was ashamed of smoking though. The smoking part of me held the shame and the badness but I turned being bad into a success. I was the rebel who got away with it. I could laugh off those shameful feelings whilst living up to them simultaneously.
My first cannabis experience was visiting my sister at college. We got stoned with a friend of hers and I loved it. Laughed for hours. I didn’t smoke it regularly until well into my university years but it was always associated with fun, friendship, relaxing and not caring about the consequences. Just like alcohol. Slowly it became a necessary part of my day. Like alcohol it came to mark the transition from being a responsible adult all day to switching off, relaxing and taking time for myself. Whenever I stopped smoking cigarettes I kept up the spliff. If I stopped I would get so low and so wound up I would cave in. I stopped smoking completely for 6 months but a spliff at a party got me back just like that. Eventually I gave up giving up and began to accept the smoking part of myself as just who I am. This good girl by day, devil at night dichotomy is how I’ve lived for years.
So in the last few years I’ve not been ashamed of my smoking self and I’ve not really tried to stop. Giving up drinking triggered the internal conflict but I’ve sat with it for over a year now. As I wrote this I became irritable (a sure sign of cognitive dissonance) so I had a cigarette!
So here I am still smoking. I’m fairly sure it’s not adding much to life but I’m not sure I can let it go yet. I don’t want to get in a fight with a part of me it took me a long time to accept, but I’m not sure how to politely say goodbye to her either.