Chain S̶m̶o̶k̶i̶n̶g̶ Reactions Part I

This is going to be a very narrative post, as today is a poignant day for me to reflect at some of the events that have occurred in the last 365 days.

The last 365 days, since gave up smoking.

To give you a little back-story, I had been a smoker for a long time. When I was eleven, I was good friends with my sister’s boyfriend’s little brother, who was around my age. We would steal a cheeky cigarette from his packet of ‘Skutlers’ [a local portmanteau used to refer to ‘skanky Lambert & Butlers’] while he was distracted shouting at Goldeneye 007 on N64 – which helps timestamp these events!

With our swag in hand, we would hightail to a dark, narrow, muddy and rarely-trodden pathway that meandered between two sets of back garden walls few streets away.

In our safely secluded place, safely distant from family who could catch us, and having also light-fingered the matches from the kitchen, we could strike up, ignite, and set about pretending to be ‘old kids’.

This was sporadic, and didn’t escalate into a regular habit, but whetted the appetite.

Zip forward three years to April 2000, and I go on a school trip to Italy. I’m a few months short of my fourteenth birthday, and it’s a socially challenging time. Puberty is starting to really open up, and the competition for who’s cool and who’s popular is getting heated.

Around bustling cities like Rome, Florence and Pisa, our every move was being watched with nervous intensity as the holiday mentors [teachers out of their suits] endeavoured to corral thirteen and fourteen year olds. The leash was loosened, however, in a small walled mountain town called Volterra.

As the town only had the one way in and one way out, there was little danger in us getting lost, so they let us explore freely. Combine this freedom with an increasingly contagious rumour that the legal age to buy cigarettes in Italy is fourteen… and the aforementioned social competition just got a little extra fuel to its fire.

Who was man/hard/cool/daring enough to try to get served?

Apparently quite a few of us.
At this, impressionable, socially awkward time, I was one the silly ones who thought smoking proved I was cool.

The addiction evolved from here.

So.

What is the relevance of these little vignettes from my childhood?

Purely to illustrate just how long smoking had been a part of my life.

January 21st 2010 I gave up. Just shy of THIRTEEN years later. When you consider I was twenty-three years old on said date, that thirteen becomes even more frightening, as over fifty per cent of my time on this planet.

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