Monday, April 29, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to Theme Thursday #3

So last weeks "Theme Thursday" post got a pretty neat response. If you're reading this you probably already know about the list and that several people encouraged me to write about each of my "do overs" individually. So I'm working on doing that.

Today we tackle #3 "I'd pass on that first cigarette..."

I suppose I should tell the story of how it all began...

Middle School sucks. We moved around alot and I switched schools in 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. Every year, new school, new form of torture to be had. 8th grade was probably the WORST school year ever. At some point I may tell the tortuous story of the bullying I endured that year, but not today. Let's just say it was horrendous and leave it at that.

I spent an inordinate amount of time in the girl's bathroom that year. Mostly I hid in a stall, hoping to avoid contact with the monsters other people called children. For the most part I was successful. One day while I was avoiding, oh, probably English class, I was in the girl's room, trying not to have a panic induced seizure. It was the middle of class, not a popular bathroom time, so I figured I was safe to come out of the stall. I don't remember exactly what I was doing, probably pacing, when the door flies open and in walks Carla Coggins.

Carla had quite a reputation. She was a "toughie". In other words, you didn't mess with her. She was known to be a fighter, a school skipper, a little bit mean, in general, NOT the girl to be on the wrong side of. She'd take on adults as quickly as her peers. She spent a lot of time suspended from school. You get the point. Carla was also a BIG girl. By big I mean obese. Severely obese. At any rate, I am immediately paralyzed with fear and trying to figure out how the heck I'm going to get passed the biggest, toughest girl in the 8th grade when she's blocking the only exit... of course I started to beat a path to the stall, the only safe haven I thought I might find.

And then something strange happened. Carla asked me what I was doing in the bathroom. She didn't sound mean, or like she was going to kill me so I said, "I, uh, I uhhhh..." Intelligent, I know.

She replies: "Oh, were you going to smoke a cigarette?"

Me: "Uh, yeah, but I just remembered I don't have any."

(Now let me tell you, I was not about to smoke a cigarette, I had NEVER smoked a cigarette, I didn't want anyone to smoke, period, because, well, "they" said it was bad for you and I believed them. What I wanted was for Carla not to join the leagues of bullies I already attracted and kick my butt right there in the bathroom!)

I started to beat it out of there: "I better get back to class..."

Carla: "Hey, I've got one you can have."

Me: Stunned silence...

Carla: "Come on back, we'll smoke one together."

I absolutely did not know what to do. I felt like this was some sort of trap. One wrong move and Carla and her legion of followers would descend on me... or maybe not. She sounded, well, nice. So I crammed into a tiny stall with Carla and lit my first cigarette.

As Carla watched me do the obvious newbie to smoking don't inhale thing, she said "Oh, you still don't inhale. Here do it like this: Take a drag off it and pretend your mom just walked in and do this: (here she makes a shocked inhalation noise)." So I do. And that was that. I was a smoker.

I wanted so badly to fit in. I wanted someone to like me. I had a couple of good friends but I wanted the protection of a group, a clique to fit into. I didn't even care who or what I had to do to get there. And here was Carla, big bad, Carla, being nice to me. I'd love to tell you that Carla and I became friends and that she wasn't mean at all just misunderstood, and maybe that last part is true, but we did not become friends. Not publicly anyway. We were sort of "secret friends". She lived a little ways away from me, but I'd see her sometimes when I was walking through her neighborhood to get to the library, or my church, or whatever. We'd always stop and have a cigarette together. Sometimes she'd smile at me as she passed me in the hallway. We never hung out. We just shared a little secret, and a cigarette now and then. You may think it's crazy, but if I saw Carla today, I'd hug her and tell her thank you for being nice to me.

Fast forward 30 years...

I'm sitting here today, as I write this, with a patch on my shoulder, and electronic cigarette in my purse, a bag of hard candies within easy reach, and 2 real cigarettes left in my pack, trying to quit AGAIN. I've failed at least twice this year already. I hate this habit. This addiction. I hate the expense, I hate the smell, I hate more than anything the hold it has on me. Hate isn't even a strong enough word, they don't make a word big enough for how I feel about this. And yet, I keep coming back. I'm struck by the word insidious...

I would love to have the chance to go back and when Carla offered me that first cigarette to just say "no thanks" and take the ass whooping if it was coming. It may have led to more trouble for me, and I do appreciate that secret friendship, but it would have been easier to get over than this addiction is.

I don't even know if I'll make it through today with this quitting thing. It's unbelievably hard for me. I'll keep trying. I have to, I don't want this having a hold on me forever.

Wish me luck. And if you find a "do over" lying around, have pity on me and pass it my way. I could really use one this time...


  1. I felt like I was there with you. I pictured Carla wearing flannel; is that accurate?

  2. LOL! Yes, most likely she was. And a bandana... it was the 80's after all...

    Thanks for encouraging me to write these and for actually reading them!

  3. They say it is one of the toughest habits to break----my mother was a two-packer a day and I inhaled that stuff for years before we knew what second hand smoke was. I guess that is why I never took to it---I was surrounded by it. And I was way too nerdy & chicken to even try it in high school. Now college was a different story--really stepped out of my bubble then and wasn't afraid to try anything. I smoked--but only because I was bored in the college bars. I never did care for it much---I was just trying to look cool--- and I'm glad I didn't like it because it took my mum years to drop the habit. If she could do it, I know you can too, Traci. You are a strong woman and you'll get there--it just takes time and patience. Let me just say how much I LOVE these posts from you! I love your clear descriptions and the emotions that come through--it is such a pleasure to get to know you and watch you blossom through your blog! Again, thank you for sharing a little slice of your life that is so important!

    1. Thanks Marcia. I love to write, I would love to make a living doing it but... that's probably not going to happen! I'm too lazy to do all the legwork it requires to be an actual "author" LOL. I'm glad people enjoy them. I hope I give people a little something to take away with them, even if it's just a smile, or a sigh, or a confused head scratch...

  4. Throw those 2 real cigarettes away! :) Praying for you.

    1. Thanks girl. I know you are. And I'm very glad you're my friend and you'll shoot it to me straight up.