Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Act of Slowing Down....

My Smoking.

Part One - the History of Stephanie and the Cigarette:

Smoking was a big No-No in my family. Although, all my grandparents (well, except my mom's mother) and most Uncles and Aunts, smoked. When I was 3 or 4, I remember my Uncle twirling a cigarette and then throwing it up in the air and catching it in his mouth. I wanted to do that too. So, I went over to his pack and picked one up. I don't really remember what exactly happened. I just remember commotion and being swooped up and a lot of "No's" being said and I think I got swatted on the butt.

I had no clue that a cigarette was bad. That just looked like a neat trick.

I also was not allowed to play in a room where people were smoking. I was a very sick child growing up with a lot of cases of pneumonia. As I got older and less sickly, that rule got little more lenient. However, most of the time, when I was around cigarette smoke, I would get woozy, nauseated, hard time breathing or all of the above.

I never thought I would ever smoke or even be able. I didn't like the way I felt when I was around it, so why even bother trying. And, since I mostly hung out with the geeks and band nerds, I was never really around it.

Only once do I remember actually thinking, I want a cigarette. High school. I was dating the lead singer of a band. (A band all my friends were in as well.) And, he ended up dumping me for a bleached blond hottie from Sweetwater, TX. (And, going to a tangent for a moment - I ended up, in college, getting dumped by the guitarist of another band for said Sweetwater chic. Irony? Or just dumb luck? Small world?) Any way, I was talking to my friends about the break up and said hottie and got really frustrated and angry and sad and just blurted out - "What I wouldn't do for a cigarette right now."

What, wait? I had never smoked in my life.

My friends I was with had been smoking ever so often. And, even though I did hang out with the above mentioned geeks, I did have friends who smoked. But, except for that one time when I was 3 or 4, I never really touched a cigarette.

Then, came college and I ended up doing a scene for my acting class where the character smoked. Seeing that I wanted to play the scene as close as possible, I set out to teach myself to smoke.

No dice. Didn't work.

I had friends that tried to help me. Tried to teach me. Nothing. I couldn't inhale. Every time I tried I would gag or cough. Or, I just couldn't. My friends told me to just keep trying and practice. By the time the performance of the scene happened, I was no where near being a convincing smoker. My director/professor really liked the scene, however, he told me that if he ever saw me on stage not inhaling when I smoked - basically, looking fake - he would come up on stage and slap the cigarette out of my mouth.

I didn't touch cigarettes again. Decided probably for the best.

Then, my 21st birthday. I was going to Lubbock to see my grandmother. She was an amazing lady and if I had to pick a favorite relative - it was her. She was a smoker since she was 16. She had stopped smoking about 5 years before her death. A week before my 21st birthday, while on a choir tour, I saw her. She gave me a ring of hers and told me to take it because I would never see her again. I told her that I would be coming down for Spring Break and she didn't need to give this to me now. She said she just knew I would never see her again and she wanted to make sure this one ring got to me. Anyway, Spring Break came and I did not get down to see her. Then, the day after my 21st birthday, she passed away in her sleep that morning.

Some friends took me out that night, after a rehearsal, for the birthday drink and to comfort me. I was really shaken up. I had other family members die, but this was the first one that really hit me hard. We were all drinking; I was talking about my grandmother when I asked one of my friends for a cigarette. He said sure, gave me one and then reminded me of the "not being able to smoke" thing. He lit it, and I inhaled and had no problem smoking.

Thanks Grandma. Thanks for the gift of smoking.

So, after that, I smoked VERY rarely. One or two every few months. I started with Lucky Strikes (non-filter), then went to Camel (no filter) before I finally became a Camel Lights girl. Again, smoking rarely, or better yet the social smoker - only at parties where large quantities of alcohol were served.

It wasn't until I was graduating college. I was directing a full length piece (that I had to design all myself, from lights to costumes to set - you get the picture) while working 2 jobs (Facilitator at a Ropes Course and Waitress at a Black-Eyed Pea). I worked the Ropes Course, then went to wait tables, then went to the theatre to work on my set. I walked out onto the docks of the theatre at about 5:30am that morning to watch the sun come up and have a cigarette. I reached into my pack and there was only one left. I bought this pack yesterday. I smoked a whole pack in 24 hours.

Woah, this is not good. I'm no longer a social smoker. I'm a smoker.

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