From: “Letting Go”

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“My last cigarette was smoked in a bar at Charles de Gaulle airport. It was January 3, 2007, a Wednesday morning, and though Hugh and I would be changing planes in London and had a layover of close to two hours, I thought it best to quit while I was still ahead.

“All right,” I said to him, “this is it, my final one.” Six minutes later, I pulled out my pack and said the same thing. Then I did it one more time. “This is it. I mean it.” All around me, people were enjoying cigarettes: the ruddy Irish couple, the Spaniards with their glasses of beer. There were the Russians, the Italians, even some Chinese. Together we formed a foul little congress: the United Tarnations, the Fellowship of the Smoke Ring. These were my people, and now I would be betraying them, turning my back just when they needed me most. Though I wish it were otherwise, I’m actually a very intolerant person. When I see a drunk or a drug addict begging for money, I don’t think, There but for the grace of God go I, but, rather, I quit, and so can you. Now get that cup of nickels out of my face.

It’s one thing to give up smoking, and another to become a former smoker. That’s what I would be the moment I left the bar, and so I lingered awhile, looking at my garish disposable lighter and the crudded-up aluminum ashtray. When I eventually got up to leave, Hugh pointed out that I had five cigarettes left in my pack.

“Are you just going to leave them there on the table?”

I answered with a line I’d got years ago from a German woman. Her name was Tini Haffmans, and though she often apologized for the state of her English, I wouldn’t have wanted it to be any better. When it came to verb conjugation, she was beyond reproach, but every so often she’d get a word wrong. The effect was not a loss of meaning but a heightening of it. I once asked if her neighbor smoked, and she thought for a moment before saying, “Karl has . . . finished with his smoking.”
She meant, of course, that he had quit, but I much preferred her mistaken version. “Finished” made it sound as if he’d been allotted a certain number of cigarettes, three hundred thousand, say, delivered at the time of his birth. If he’d started a year later or smoked more slowly, he might still be at it, but, as it stood, he had worked his way to the last one, and then moved on with his life. This, I thought, was how I would look at it. Yes, there were five more Kool Milds in that particular pack, and twenty-six cartons stashed away at home, but those were extra—an accounting error. In terms of my smoking, I had just finished with it.”- from The New Yorker Magazine – May 5, 2008, Letting Go: Smoking and non-smoking.
by David Sedaris

Recently, I listened to a podcast in which David Sedaris discussed how he quit smoking. “I smoked all of my cigarettes.” Then, he added, “I took all of my drugs, too.” This struck me as a really interesting way to think about addiction. Maybe I have drunk all of my drinks…God, I hope so!


2 thoughts on “From: “Letting Go”

    Lilly said:
    July 8, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    Oh I love David Sedaris. I can’t remember right now if he’s ever talked about drinking or not? I know he was a big pot head once upon a time. Have you read any Augusten Burroughs? They’re quite different but I think if you like one you’ll probably like the other – they both have that hilarious, neurotic, twisted sense of humor. And Burroughs (you may well know this already) is a recovered alcoholic. Loved his book ‘Dry’ about getting sober.

    carrythemessage said:
    July 9, 2013 at 8:57 am

    I just tell people that “I’ve used up all my drink tickets in life” if they ask about why I don’t drink. 🙂

    Love Sedaris too.


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