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Dear cigarettes - screw you

11 February 2016, 13:01 Paballo Molahlehi

Nairobi - I can’t recall what made cigarettes so appealing to me, or when exactly I decided to become a full-time smoker.

Perhaps it was watching my dad in awe as he took a drag from his Peter Stuyvesant when I was a little girl. Maybe it was the envy rushing through me when I stumbled upon advertisements glamorising female smokers, associating smoking with success. Whatever it was that lured me into this addiction, I owe it the middle finger because it has taken me over a decade to break the habit.

I started experimenting with cigarettes in primary school and would occasionally steal cigarettes from my father. By the time I was in the 10th grade, I would buy a box every week. There was something therapeutic about inhaling the smoke as it polluted my body and before long, I was using it as a coping mechanism.

No amount of coughing, short breath, stained teeth, or TV programs dedicated to highlighting the lethal effects of smoking could deter me from getting my quick fix. The more excuses I conjured up for my dependence on cigarettes, the more my consumption of them increased. My most frequently used rationale being that I needed to indulge in cigarette addiction to unlock the “secrets of my art” as a creative and a writer. It didn’t help that the authors I looked up to, like Hunter S. Thompson and Ernest Hemingway had led equally destructive lifestyles. How idiotic that must’ve sounded.

But now at 25, I find my fascination with cigarettes gradually waning. The mere thought of my reliance on this poison makes me more sick than the actual smell of it. I’m desperate to rid myself of its enslavement of me.

In his book Easy Way to Stop Smoking, Allen Carrs declares: “There is a common misapprehension that we choose to smoke. Smokers no more choose to smoke than alcoholics choose to become alcoholics, or heroin addicts choose to become heroin addicts. It is true that we choose to light those first experimental cigarettes. I occasionally choose to go to the cinema, but I certainly didn't choose to spend my whole life in a cinema.”

Never did I imagine that the experimental cigarette would lead to the control that cigarettes now have on my life. I never imagined that it would be nicotine I run to in order to deal with stress, anger and heartache. Or that I’d suffer from mild anxiety attacks triggered by not smoking. It’s a ruinous habit I wish I’d never picked up. And this is why, at this very moment, I’ve decided to say “fuck it” to my continued use of cigarettes as a crutch.

It won’t be easy. If it was, I would’ve quit five years ago. The flame of this toxic affair needs to be extinguished. I need to kill this addiction before it kills me.

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