There is a years long construction project near where I work. It has been fascinating to watch the process, passing by in the morning thinking ‘I wonder what that crane is for?’ and returning in the evening to see a new skeleton. Every once in a while one of the construction workers strikes up a conversation with me. This morning an older guy taking a smoke break started talking about how he needed to quit smoking. He quit for 15 months and then started up again.

I told him I smoked for 17 years and had been quit for 20 years now. He said “And you don’t miss it do you?”.  I coulda lied but I didn’t.

I told him that it still smelled good, and I still wanted to smoke sometimes, but when I did it tasted and felt awful. The craving is there but the enjoyment is gone.

I’m sure if I powered through and kept smoking the nicotine would start to compensate and I would once again think it tasted & felt good. But I would have to work at it.

The will power to quit has to do with mastering associations, for me at least. It took years for me to stop wanting to light a cigarette when I started the car or had a drink in a bar. The first time I directed a show after I quit was harrowing. My habit was to smoke all through rehearsals – going to a pack a day during tech week – so that was a tough change to make.

Since smoke was in my cells since my conception, I’ll always consider myself a “former smoker” rather than a non-smoker. My last smoking trigger seems to be emergency rooms or hospital visits. Very high stress associations that produce an almost overwhelming urge to go outside for a cigarette. A soothing escape that puts you one step closer to the hospital yourself. Addiction logic.

I told the construction guy that if he could start again, he could quit again. He said maybe. For his birthday. He flicked the butt, told me to have a good day, and wandered back to the site.

The construction is almost finished now, they are working furiously rolling out grass and touching up painting. I will miss my random conversations with construction workers when they leave. I don’t miss my Newports.