There’s one main reason why cancer sticks are so easy to stick with.

I‘ve been an on-again, off-again smoker for a decade. I almost wrote “almost a decade,” that’s how in denial I am. In truth, it’s over a decade. I hate admitting that; it’s embarrassing. I’m the type of person who was doing Yoga in the 5th grade. I’ve been a vegetarian for 15 years, and I wrote my senior thesis in college on Alternative Medicine as a Feminist practice. I work out constantly. I’ve run a marathon. I treat my body like a goddamn temple; yet for some reason, I smoked cigarettes. I loved cigarettes. I mean, I love them, I still do, and I always will.

Three months ago, I decided to quit. Like the, this isn’t an option for me anymore, there’s no turning back, I’m getting old, I’m getting ugly, so it’s time to grow-the-fuck-up and never light up a cigarette again, quit. I was a committed quitter.

The thing about quitting smoking cigarettes is that it’s much more than just not doing something. I mean, it is, but it isn’t. Sure, to successfully quit smoking one must literally not pick up and light a cigarette and inhale it ever again. I wish it were that adorably simple. I wish it were just, you break this bad habit, and your body no longer craves nicotine. But… that’s not the real beast, at least not for me. The hardest part about quitting smoking is handling all the feelings that I never knew I felt.

This is how I used to function:

I wouldn’t even get to the place where I’d actually identify the feelings because they’d so quickly be cauterized by the cigarette. I’m only able to recognize it now: It’s in those moments that I want one the most. All of the nicotine is out of my system. I was only on the patch for a couple of weeks. I don’t crave the ritual of a cigarette in hand while I drink a cup of coffee or have a beer with a friend. It’s just when I feel something that I don’t want to feel….

I’m really into Alanis Morissette right now. In a blog post on her website, she writes:

Some of our relief-givers offer the sense of regulation and connection that we yearn for with every fiber of our being. Is it any wonder why so many of us seek those forms of warmth and aliveness? If the pain is too big, to have something available to soothe us; and if the deadness feels too despondent, something to “bring us to life.” If these “addictions” weren’t things that end our marriages, ruin our relationships, ail our bodies, and smash our dreams—not to mention eventually hurt and kill us—I could make a great case for continuing them.

When I’m high, I’m very in touch with my body’s processes. I’m hyper-aware of my breath, my heart rate, the heaviness in my shoulders, and the ache in my foot from a break that occurred at 18 years old while dancing drunk to Britney Spears. When I was getting high while smoking cigarettes, I’d slip into a dark spiral about just how terribly I was treating my body. Every cigarette smoker has at least one moment a week where they’re convinced they are about to have an aneurysm and drop dead. Maybe it’s not an aneurysm, maybe it’s a chest cold that won’t go away or a headache or a tingly sensation or a sore in their mouth. Things that may or may not be inextricably linked to their dumb addiction.

So, now I’m feeling feelings, big feelings. Big uncomfortable feelings that facilitate exactly the sort of growth I need during my Saturn return—stuff I probably should’ve figured out years ago. My sister and her husband, both hand-rolled cigarette smokers who live in Europe, asked me how I reconcile the fact that I still smoke weed. Is it just another way of numbing out my existence, of suppressing my anxiety?

Not for me. If anything, pot has always amplified my reality. Stoned thinking encourages hard introspection, an essential tool in recovery from not just a chemical addiction, but a psychological one, too.

Danielle Leibowitz is a writer and artist who cracks herself up in Los Angeles.
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