You Don’t Have to Give Up Your Friends When You Quit Smoking
I met so many of my friends while smoking outside of buildings.
When I was thinking of giving up the cigarettes, there was a part of me more concerned with the loss of their friendship than there was with my improving my health.
I spend a lot of time talking about the “smoker identity,” which I mentioned in a previous article to be this illusion of glamour, power, and prestige. Another piece of that identity is the company that you keep as a smoker.
A friend of mine used the line “smokers are social with other smokers because they’re the lepers of society,” and it’s accurate.
When the party carries on in the warm glow of holiday cheer, you’re outside in the cold. The only people around you are people who also are addicted to the same drug, so you become friends.
Really though, is the cigarette the reason you become friends?
I’d argue that it isn’t. I’d argue that it’s because you and these people that you stand outside of buildings with, brave the elements with, get ostracized with, become your friends, not because of the shared experience of having to isolate while you smoke, but because all of you are the same type of people: fucking badass and amazing.
Here’s a secret, though. The cigarette isn’t what makes you badass and amazing. You were that way before the cigarette.
You probably picked up smoking because someone around you, someone much cooler than you were, was doing it, and you wired that habit into every aspect of your identity. You associated it with being tough, with sexuality, and with just about every other positive attribute you could wiggle your mind around.
You associated it with your profession- with fortitude with regard to your work. You associated it with comfort, softness, and compassion with regard to yourself. The cigarette was there for you when nobody else was.
The problem with all of this is that every one of your associations is based on a made-up story, and it’s that story you’re in love with- not the cigarette.
You’re in love with the image of yourself that you’ve created. You likely have taken photos of yourself smoking because the idea of who you think it makes you appear as is so appealing to you. When you look at the photos, you see a warrior.
You likely have referred to the pack of cigarettes sitting on the table as your “best friend,” something that completes you in all regards.
Here’s the upsetting truth- All of that is made up.
Everything you’re believing about yourself as a human has nothing to do with the fact that you smoke. Every positive attribute is actually diminished by your filthy habit.
You’re not strong- you’re weak.
You don’t forge ahead with vengeance- you need constant breaks from the action.
You’re not an image of raw, untapped sexuality. You just smell.
You want to be those things, though, and you see yourself as that person.
All of your friends are the same. You bond and connect so well because you have the same outstanding, brilliant personalities. You all are so imaginatively charismatic. You’re all infinite creators and you thrive in the intimacy of your own self-image- one you are so wed to, you have romanticized it with a drug.
I can’t say that the conversation outside of the building with my friends was ever boring because we wouldn’t let it be.
I loved our oasis on the sidewalk outside of the bar. We knew that that was where the “cool people” would retreat to. We knew that that was where the brilliance of conversation took place.
You won’t lose these people when you quit smoking.
They’re not going to abandon you. They may seem unsupportive at first because they’ll believe secretly that you will fail. After all, everything you are attempting to do seems so hard and unmanageable from where they’re standing.
You won’t fail. As time passes, they’ll be congratulatory. However, it’s on you to continue to lift them up as you go forward.
When my friends would go out to smoke after I quit, I went with them. I didn’t smoke, because I knew it no longer served me, but I continued to be around them to let them know that it was the connection I valued- not the habit.
I never approached them with judgment, but just lived in a state of example. People in my life began to inquire as to how they could quit. I gave them resources and stood firmly in my commitment to support anyone who needed it.
I began living into the narrative that I had in my head all along- that I was a strong leader. I watched people I love throw the cigarettes away, go through the uncomfortable period, and begin living lives free of the nonsense of smoking.
This can be your reality as well, but you’re responsible for making it that way. You can’t hold yourself back because of the others in your life. When you take care of yourself, you’ll innately become a leader for everyone who loves you.
Your friends won’t leave you behind when you quit, because you’re all the same type of human. You’re not friends because you’re smokers. You are smokers because your personalities are gold. And here’s the best part- you get to keep those personalities when you quit.