I'll Smoke Tomorrow

By Amber Tozer 07/12/15

It wasn't easy, but quitting smoking wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.


Sometimes I forget that I quit smoking, I guess because it didn't ruin my life like alcohol did. But, yeah, I was a smoker—sometimes a few a day, sometimes a pack a day. I was young enough to not get lung cancer and I only coughed up phlegm sometimes. Alcohol was a way more trickier addiction, because it felt more like a friend than a habit, it was something I needed because it seemed to fix whatever I thought was wrong with me—it was too deep to understand. Cigarettes were something that I wanted to do and I understood that I was addicted to it. Alcohol was more of a spiritual problem and cigarettes were more of a scientific problem—one could not be explained, while the other could.


Before I became a chainsmoker, I had always hated cigarettes. I tried them growing up, sneaking a puff with friends behind bleachers and barns, and then in college I’d get hammered and would take drags from friends' smokes. I’d cough and spit and I honestly could not wrap my head around the idea of smoking. I thought maybe I cared too much about my body to do it at that time. Smokers, to me, seemed suicidal, and I thought it was both really fucking stupid and really fucking cool. I liked people who did bad stuff and didn’t care about it, people who were like, “Fuck it. Fuck you. Fuck everyone,” then they’d take a puff off a cancerous, smoky cigarette and blow the smoke out real slow, as if cigarettes were all they needed in life. I thought they looked like bad asses, even though deep down I knew they were being dumb.  

I became a dumb and suicidal smoker about a year after I moved to New York City. I was 23 years old and had just started hanging around the comedy scene. I wasn’t performing yet, but wanted to and I’d get real nervous in social situations and I would drink A LOT. And, at this time, you could still smoke in bars. YES, I AM OLD ENOUGH TO LIVE DURING A TIME WHERE YOU COULD SMOKE IN BARS. I HAVE 30 GREY HAIRS. LEMME KNOW IF YOU EVER WANT TO PULL THEM OUT OF MY HEAD, I WILL LET YOU. 

It was such a fun time to be in New York, the city was hoppin’, it was the dot-com boom, pre-9/11 and people were partying and everyone seemed to have money and a fun job. So when we did something unhealthy like binge drink, lines of coke, chain smoke, or sleep with people we wouldn’t normally share a meal with—it was just like,“You don’t need to care about your insides when you have everything on the outside, trust us. We just got $4 million from an investor because they like our new website—it has a dancing hamster on it.” It was a nutty time in the city and I loved it. 

I was working at a dot-com, thinking of doing stand-up comedy, and was ready for chemicals to be in my bloodstream—alcohol was my preferred drug but I was openminded when it came to sabotaging my mind and body. I worked with a guy who smoked Djarums, they're these long brown clove cigarettes and I sort of liked them more than cigarettes. They had a little bit of a sweet spice flavor to them and even though they have the same exact bad stuff as cigarettes, I tricked myself into thinking they weren’t real cigarettes, therefore I wasn’t a real smoker.

What I came to love about smoking was—for a couple of minutes—it gave me this extra little bump of a buzz. It didn’t last long, but it was just this little boost of lightheadedness that sunk its claws into my psyche, and for the next seven years, I became a heavy smoker. I went from being like, “Eh. No thanks. I don’t really like it,” to running out of a bar to the deli across the street: “Hi. I’ll take two packs of Parliament Lights please.” (After a few months of of trial and error, I had settled on Parliament as my favorite brand of smokes.) 

The first few years of smoking was fine, I didn’t really know how shitty it was making me feel because I was so drunk and hungover all of the time that it was difficult to know what effect cigarettes had on me. I knew I had more headaches, less energy, and stunk—but other than that, booze covered up any other symptoms I may have had. On average, I ended up smoking about four packs of cigarettes a week. When I would drink a lot, I’d smoke one pack in one day, gross myself out, then only have five smokes the next day. Regardless, I was very addicted.

I tried quitting many times. I read Allen Carr’s book, The Easy Way To Quit Smoking. It had so many helpful tips in it, but I was such a drunk that I had forgotten that I had even read it. Even the stuff that I knew about smoking didn't matter—the damage, the cost, the waste—I hated myself so much I didn’t care and just kept smoking. Plus, I was in my twenties. I used the “I’m young, I’ll quit when I get older and start to get wrinkles” excuse. I was always worried about getting smoker wrinkles, but my face was real smooth so I kept smoking. 

Right before I turned 31, I got sober. I didn’t plan on it, it just sort of happened. I stopped drinking and wanted nothing to do with it anymore. Call it a miracle, an epiphany, a common sense decision, but I asked for help and quit drinking. Hooray! But, the weird thing is, or maybe it’s not weird and sort of understandable, my smoking doubled. It was like without the drinking I needed SOMETHING, so I ate a bunch of frozen yogurt and was smoking a pack a day. It was really fucking disgusting. I was coughing and had headaches and thought I should start drinking again so I wouldn’t smoke as much and then I remembered that I have mental problems and my ideas aren’t that great. 

After being sober about a month, I was on my way to meet my sponsor. I smoked a cigarette on the way, it was the last one in the pack. I thought, “I’ll pick up a pack after I meet with her.” I met with her and we talked about what we have control over and what we don’t. I remember her saying something like, “If you’re trying to control someone else or a situation, it’s like you trying to control the traffic on the 405. It’s impossible and the harder you try the more you will fail and be resentful and be a crazy person running around in traffic telling thousands of cars what to do. You have got to let go of the majority of situations and people in your life and let the Universe handle it. It’s not your job. Take responsibility for your own actions and let God do the rest.”

I was like, “Ok. Right on. I don’t know if I believe in God, but whatever. I like the idea of something or someone else handling this shit.”

Then I felt like smoking a cigarette. 

We hugged goodbye and I drove to a 7-11 to buy a pack of smokes. I thought about how much I had been smoking and wondered if smoking was something I couldn’t control and maybe it was something I could just give to the world because my way wasn’t working. I thought about how smoking made me feel like I was getting something, like alcohol. I couldn’t control alcohol and when I decided to quit, I had to just trust that my life would be ok without it. Maybe, I could do this with cigarettes. I sat in the car for a minute and told myself, “I’ll smoke tomorrow.” I drove away and haven’t had a cigarette since. 

It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. I’m sure not drinking helped A LOT. I had a willingness to get healthy, and was aware of my tricky thoughts, but the physical cravings for cigarettes were really fucking intense. I remembered that Allen Carr said that the physical cravings only last a few minutes and then they pass and come back and the craving cycle does this until the nicotine is out of your system. So, when a craving would pop up—I’d wait it out and psych myself out by saying, “I’ll smoke tomorrow.” Saying this made it feel like it wasn’t such a big deal, like, “Yeah. I’ll have one soon. Just not right now.”  

It’s been over seven years since my last smoke and I think my favorite thing about not smoking—besides not smelling bad and having more energy and not having headaches and not spending a lot of money and not coughing up phlegm—is the freedom from being controlled by something that was killing me. 

If you’re a smoker and you want to quit, I hope this helps you in some way. And, if you’re a smoker who doesn’t want to quit, why the fuck did you read this? 


Amber Tozer is a comedy writer who lives in Los Angeles. She last wrote about a date gone awry, and five whole reasons sobriety tends to be awesomeFollow her on Twitter @AmberTozer

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