Welcome to Marlboro Country
I quit smoking for the first time in 1984. I was 32 years old and had been smoking since I was 14. I liked it. I have no idea how or, now that I think about it, why. I left a partially full pack of Marlboros on the coffee table for about two weeks, then threw them away since I no longer wanted one.
I was living in Manhattan at the time so it must have been peer pressure even though my then husband, let’s call him Mr. Three, was one of those bastards who could smoke 3 cigarettes during a night out and then not have another one for two weeks. I have always been an "all or nothing" kinda gal, so it was a pack and a half a day or none at all. I enjoyed being a non smoker, but not for any of the obvious reasons…I was just glad that I had my own power back.
In 1991, Mr. Three and I boarded a private plane and jetted our way to southwest Texas to attend a second wedding of our very good friend, Charles. I had grown up in that part of the world and was excited to be going back. Blue skies that go on forever, desert flowers, clean, crisp air and the smell of mesquite mixed with horse leather…ahhhhh. Heaven on earth.
After we disembarked on to the tarmac of the tiny country airport outside Marfa, Mr. Three took out his pack of Marlboros and lit one up. No big whup. He’d continued to smoke infrequently during the 7 years of my abstinence. But, for some reason, on that day and at that very moment, it occurred to me to smoke a cigarette. We were in Marlboro Country and the only thing missing was a gorgeous man on horseback with a cig between his fingers and his other hand tipping the brim of his hat to a lady.
I thought, "Well, for heaven’s sake…what can one cigarette do? I haven’t had one in 7 friggin years, and by cracky, I deserve one." May I tell you that it felt like having a slow, deliciously seductive orgasm. It did! But, that was that…it was over and gone and not another thought about it.
The posh ranch wedding festivities spanned three days and took place in the remote desert acreage of Charles’s spread. Our host had laid out a small tent village that offered all the amenities of an Abercrombie and Kent African safari. Laid before the forty-plus guests was just about anything any of us could possibly ask for…except cigarettes.
Having reignited the nicotine monster in my system, I found myself wanting another cigarette that evening with the sunset cocktail presented to me. It was not an overwhelming desire…just a tiny urge that, as I continued to drink, began to grow. I saw a friend light up and casually bummed another cigarette. At that point, I knew I was in trouble. I could hardly let Mr. Three know that I would sell our first born (as soon as we had one) for the NEXT cigarette. After all, I had my power and my pride.
By the end of that evening I had managed to bum another 7 cigarettes. This was tricky because the 3 other smokers had brought their own finite supplies, never imagining that they’d wind up so far out in the middle of nowhere. It was 55 miles of bad dirt road to the nearest nest of civilization. And, I was losing points every time I asked to dip into their stash.
By the second night, I found myself hiding behind our tent smoking Mr. Three’s next-to-the-last cigarette and not caring one bit about how I might explain the rapid disappearance of his one pack of Marlboros. At the reception and dance, I found myself sidling up to one of the local cowboys who worked on the ranch (when there weren’t wedding guests from New York on the prairies). It was obvious that he was a fool for a redhead because I had to physically fend him off with one hand even as I puffed away on his cigarette with the other hand…all done with some deftness in order not to appear slutty.
I know that every reader who has quit and started back can understand my story. I survived the weekend, but continued to smoke for another 15 years. Now THAT’s a powerful monster!
But, it can be done!