One

I am an avid smoker. When I wake up in the morning, I feel this inexplicable urge to smoke a cigarette. I have to do it. After a good meal, I light myself a cigarette. I can’t drink coffee without two or three cigarettes – as a side dish, I suppose.

So one day I made myself a promise. For every cigarette I smoke I have to write one page of literature. Good or bad, it doesn’t matter. I have to write one page, five hundred or so words, just so I can puff away some nicotine.

At first it was easy. I found enough inspiration to write thirty pages in a matter of days. It wasn’t so bad. After that, I wrote a twelve page short story in a day or so. Again, it was not the usual amount of nicotine I had been used to, but it had to make due.

To be honest, I was asking for it. For a writer’s block, for a terrible void inside my head. For a burning headache that would keep me away from writing. I didn’t want to break my vow. It was a foolish thing to do.

The more time passed without me smoking, the less I could concentrate. I started to cough, my hands began to shake, and I could no longer control my thoughts. All I could see was a cigarette burning, burning, burning; a thin cloud of smoke slowly rising, rising, rising toward the ceiling.

I have this great collection of lighters. Some expensive, some cheap, some have sentimental value. And I kept staring at them, playing with them, weighing them in my hand. I had a pack of cigarettes on the desk, and all I had to do was stretch my arm and take one out and light it. And after that, write a damn page or maybe even two, so I could redeem my soul.

A week passed without me touching a cigarette, and I still couldn’t write a thing. I thought that I couldn’t write without my lungs being filled up with smoke. Symbiosis one might call it. A perfect balance between two entities in order to create a better, more adapted individual. So I smoked one cigarette. Just one. And I wrote five pages, hoping to kill off the guilt I was feeling.

That night I couldn’t sleep. All I could think of was the pack of cigarettes on my desk. Cigarettes, cigarettes, cigarettes, all lined up like on an assembly line, all lined up like sheep, waiting to be devoured.

But I didn’t want to break my vow.

I just had to write something down. One page, just one. Good or bad, it had no importance. I had to clear my head, to get rid of what I desired so much, and focus. Concentrate; try to find words among so much smoke.

Ghosts, ghosts, ghosts, these words are when we need them the most. I wasn’t feeling well. I could feel the nicotine leaving my body, leaving me empty.

I was slowly transforming.

Without a cigarette, I was half the man I used to be. Without a cigarette, I couldn’t write a damn thing. But I had to do it. I had chosen that vicious circle, I had embraced that stupid connection between one page, just one page of words, and the right to smoke one cigarette, just one, but oh, how much I needed it.

How much I need it. Just one cigarette, not more, just a few puff, puff, puffs and the cigarette will be gone. But I will be a better man. I will be the man I am used to being. One cigarette, so I can write more, so I can write better. I am only writing this page so I can smoke one cigarette, just one, but oh, how much I need it.

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40 thoughts on “One

    • Amazing. You wove emotional addiction in with psychological masochistic despair. I have been there, my friend. I have switched to vapor e cigs and it’s all better now. It’s shocking how nicotine affects writers. I loved this piece. Submit it for short story nonfiction in a creative nonfiction collection!!!

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Lee says:

    I had the same problem when I quit except I never made any deals. It’s like coming off speed–you get kind of stupid for a few months. By kind of stupid I mean that, when I could even handle a pen, everything came out like something an over-caffeinated toddler (if I had coffee) or an especially smart chimpanzee might write. No concentration at all.

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  2. Cigarette smoking does make better writers out of everyone. Just ask anyone who developed throat, mouth, or lung cancer and writing out their thoughts was the only means they had left to communicate. I hope you can kick the addiction. I’m sure there’s more depth lto you lying underneath the smoke haze.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. i was a chain smoker. i smoked during/after drinking, eating, working, etc. i tried everything to stop. tried to quit many times but to no avail. until I stopped trying and just surrendered it to God. then, amazingly, He just took my addiction/craving away. just like that! (hope my comment doesn’t offend anyone, i just wanna share) ^_^

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sammy Lau says:

    I absolutely know what you’re talking about. I’m on the same boat. Wonderful piece. This inspires me to do something similar to what you’re doing. Good luck with quitting.

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  5. byron says:

    I’m with you. I know the struggle and the perverse relationships we develop to smoking, coffee and booze. How we feel somehow beholden to them, unable to shake their grip without losing something in the process. I’ve got no wise words. None. For me it was a matter of finding something to replace it with and that took a bloody long time.

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  6. Peachy says:

    I thought this one is very poetic. It captures the feeling of a chain smoker and what goes on in their head, their dependence on cigarettes.. That urge they cannot control and devours a part of their being.

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  7. I can totally relate too. I used to smoke a pack and a half a day, and I loved it. I tried many times to quit. After a month once, I wasn’t even thinking and mindlessly bought a pack, opened it, and lit it before even noticing! I haven’t had a cigarette in 2 1/2 years now. It gets easier but you always always want just one more.. One is one too many, and one more is never enough. U have to keep your motivation. 🙂

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  8. I have smoked since 13 and like most smokers I used to wake up, light up and then open my eyes! At 19 I suddenly decided that I would always have breakfast 1st before smoking, sort of give my lungs half a chance as it were. I’m not sure why I came upon this idea but I have stuck to this through thick and thin and am 47 now. I don’t smoke for about an hour after waking. I am definitely a smoker though and find myself telling others (as well as myself!) that it is the last vice I own. I don’t do any of the others (except tea, Earl Grey as a rule), been sober since 2002 and other substances just had to go! The crazy things we do in our youth. I am be tempted to try this idea of yours. I am clinging to my last vice. I know my lungs would love me if I did stop. I know it makes sense. It would save me money. My clothes would smell better. And so many more reasons we smokers all know or hear from others, self help groups, doctor’s surgeries, the NHS, etc. But I do actually still enjoy a fag! Fingers crossed…

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  9. I gave up smoking in the waiting room when my wife had a baby in Haverhill, MA. I thought of my lungs, then of my son’s lungs. I pictured them both twenty years later. I put out my cigarette then and there and haven’t had one since September 19, 1970. So I suggest this: Think of your great literature and the state of your lungs today. Then look ahead twenty years. The words will still be crisp on the page, but how about your lungs?

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  10. Stop smoking- write more regardless. Write instead of smoking! Write about how you feel while stopping – can you inspire others to stop? Try e-cigarettes they might help you stop. Try stopping coffee while you’re trying to quit. Just don’t give up trying to give up smoking. Your writing connects you meaningfully to other people – smoking doesn’t – it just kills you.

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  11. My suggestion is to try to find something else that can inspire your writing. I have a playlist of songs that I listen to when I am writing. I try to do it without the music, but my fingers don’t work without the music playing in my ears. With the music playing, the thoughts continue to flow and my fingers race across the keys to get everything down as quickly as possible. There are many things that writers use to get themselves into the writing mood. Try a few different things and see if any of them work for you.

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  12. so true!! I can relate myself with this story! I’m a smoker too and sometimes I think I shouldnt smoke that much but after having been 5 hours or 6 stuying I really feel like smoking… I can not quit to the cigarette after dinner!

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  13. R.E. Daniels says:

    There will come a time in your life when you realize the power to quit was there all along. It was born inside your mind the moment you thought otherwise. When you are ready, you will unleash that power and your writing will excel like never before. You will see. You are closer than you think.

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  14. wjacobr says:

    Have you read Italo Svevo’s Zeno’s Conscience (English title)? The first 20 pages or so, on smoking. One of my all time favorite books.

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