ISSUE 120

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​ Thursday evening, Catherine Brown quit smoking, her children comparing her to “a broken frog that needs help.” This comment inspired change, as well as meeting long-time smoker Gus, a guy with a penny-sized hole in his throat. And most importantly, she was out of cigarettes and didn’t have money to buy more.
 “This is the last cigarette I will ever smoke,” Brown said following her fifth cigarette bummed off friends. “I’m going to be a new person now.”
 Her children report Brown looked like “a sad whale” the day after quitting. She also got mad at their dog.
 “I was just examining the trashcan and carefully positioning the contents around the kitchen, when she comes in and yells at me.” Rupert the dog said. “Yells at me. Needless to say, I was ashamed, so much so that I chewed up her fancy pillows and pooped on the bathroom floor.” 
 Brown reflected that quitting what used to make her happy was hard. Like many smokers, she described her addiction as a relationship that had helped her through anxiety and stressful situations.   
 “Smoking’s a friend who’s always been there for me—an abusive, overly dependent friend who steals my money and plans to murder me,” Brown said. “I can’t leave a relationship like that. It needs me.”
 The social aspect of smoking may limit Brown’s recovery, as most of her relationships have a common base of shuffling around in a cold parking lot, coughing, and complaining about other people.
 “We recommend non-smokers stop all interactions with smokers, smoking, fog, hobbits, and the color grey,” Ignacio Martinez, an expert in all things ash, said. “Ex-smokers should also avoid stressful situations like driving, talking to others, nightmares, children, and being alive.”
 Her friends plan to do healthy things to get her mind off smoking, a sort of trial run of a healthy life.  
​ “First, we’ll wake up at six and floss,” Jeff Hamilton, a close friend, said, “then eat some plain oatmeal and exercise, maybe jog or yoga with goats. Then, we’ll eat spinach and kale, drink eight cups of water, volunteer, and go to bed at seven. If she doesn’t relapse after that, we’ll have made progress.”
 “I think she can do it this time,” Hamilton continued. “She has the motivational tapes, the patches, and five hundred packs of gum off Amazon. And we’re here to support her.”
 “There’s no way she can do it,” Danice Peterson, an even closer friend than Hamilton, said. “She is going to fail.”
 Brown’s decision reflects a culture that is increasingly health conscious. Scientists report smoking causes cancer and heart disease—but also looks really cool. Smokers say they feel thirty percent more badass when holding a cigarette as compared to holding another object, like a banana or a pool noodle.
 “I feel like a tortured artist or a dock worker when I smoke,” Lesley Barnes, a man with a leather jacket, said. “Or a dragon.”
 The third day after quitting, Brown said she no longer wanted to destroy the grocery self-checkout machine when it said there was something in the checkout area when there wasn’t.
 “I’m glad my clothes don’t remind me of shame, apathy, and cancer,” Brown said. “I can taste food and smell things now too. Sure, I’ll miss huddling over my lighter on winter mornings and sucking tar into my body, but being able to laugh without coughing gets me through.”
 She has even begun recommending quitting to friends, family, and random people on the street.  
 “I can quit anytime I want to,” Josh Vandenberg, a guy nobody believes, said. “Just not today.”
   
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