When You Have to Break Up with a Friend: Goodbye, Smoking

Dear Cigarettes,

What a friend you were – at first. You went with me everywhere! I was never totally alone. If I was by myself in a crowd, I had you to keep me company. If I had to stand around and wait for something or someone, I didn’t feel dumb – I had you!  If I was upset or excited (you’re so flexible!) I had you at my side. You were there for me when I needed a break from a task, and there for me when I had coffee first thing in the morning.

When we first became friends, more than 20 years ago, you were so cool! You were subversive, you were who the cool kids hung around with! You represented everything rebellious, you were the “bad boy” and a best friend all rolled into one. You got a bit expensive to hang around with in the past few years, and I also noticed that other people don’t think that much of you. When we hung out, I sometimes got dirty looks or asked to move. People just didn’t understand our friendship! So we stood outside together, sometimes in the cold, or the wind and even the rain. We always found time to be together, somehow.

Over time I noticed that you had become very demanding and needy. You made it so that we had to sit or go outside when we when out for dinner or drinks. You made it so that we had to rush to the airport exit immediately to hang out. Sometimes you made it so that if we couldn’t do that, you’d pester me constantly about being separated. You became the most important friend that I had. And that loyalty actually was pretty toxic because you were hurting me. I always knew that but like all abusive relationships, I was in denial. You made me dependent on you and you made me feel guilty, ashamed and unhealthy. I’m pretty sure you made my hair and clothes stink, too. I realized that it is time we go our separate ways, you and I.

I know, I know we live in a stressful place and in a stressful time, but there are better friends to help me through those moments. Yes, yes, I know, lots of people have you as a friend here in Israel. That’s okay for them. Just not for me. I know, I know, we all need vices and life is short and dangerous but you know what? I’m not buying that one anymore. I can’t afford a vice like you. You endanger my health and my well-being. I can’t afford to gamble with those things anymore. The stakes are too high. I see you clearly now.

I’m so glad I mentioned our relationship to my family doctor through Macabbi, Dr. Azuri. He didn’t judge me, but he did suggest that I sign up for the smoking cessation program. Uh oh, what was that? I could feel you cringe, like a vampire being exposed to light. Oh nooooo!  Oh yes.

Ten minutes later, I was signed up for the program and I found out how it works. I would receive a prescription for a smoking cessation medication for a very cheap price if I also signed up for weekly phone counseling sessions.

Oh no! A group where we had to show up and admit that we have a toxic relationship? No. A phone counseling session. Where the counselor and I could talk without you interrupting all the time. (Well, you did try to interrupt a little but the counselor didn’t mind.)

Over the first 10 days, the medication helped me to hang out with you way, way less. (The counselor said we could hang out sometimes for the first week or so, but I wouldn’t feel like it as much.) She was right! When we did hang out, you and I, it just wasn’t the way it used to be. My counselor and I talked behind your back. She told me about how nicotine works in my body and how my respiratory system works and thinking about all of those intricate, elegant parts within me and what you do to them really made you much less appealing. I couldn’t look at you the same way.

Then my counselor and I chose a day when you and I, dear frenemy, would break up for good. But my counselor suggested that I say goodbye to you – really thank you for what you did do but also let you know why this is over. It really is you, not me. I’m saying goodbye like this, because I’m a writer and a letter made sense. But also I know that you are a frenemy of many other people and I’m hoping that by making our break up more public, maybe others will feel brave enough to break up with you too.

I’ll be honest, I’ll miss you already. I miss you a lot. But I’ve noticed new and other friends and activities. I have noticed that I can have coffee with friends and not have you there! I’ve noticed that things smell nicer lately. The coffee, the flowers, the air outside. I think I smell better too!

Goodbye, cigarettes. Adios. See ya. Wouldn’t want to be ya.

If you are interested in breaking up with cigarettees too, Rosh Hashana is a good time! Macabbi has a great smoking cessation program and if you don’t have Macabbi I’m sure your chupat cholim can also help. The Israel Cancer Association is a great source of information. Shana Tovah!

About the Author
Julie Gray is a writer and editor who made the leap from Los Angeles to Israel nine years ago and has many (mostly) humorous adventures ever since. Julie is the author of The True Adventures of Gidon Lev: Rascal. Holocaust Survivor. Optimist.