A mid-day musing instigated by a plume of smoke.
My face broke through the acrid smoke lingering in the still air. I notice the half-lit cigarette lazily draped from the man's hand. I can literally feel the seconds-long chain reaction that the airborne nicotine has on my body.
Secondhand smoke seeps into my lungs against my will. The nicotine rips through the beautiful buds that line my lungs in order to get into my bloodstream. The unwitting transporting cells carry the nicotine from my lungs to my brain, liver and kidneys. I can practically hear a dejected sigh from my organs as they gear up to deal with the poison that they have long ago stopped fighting. In my brain, my dopamine pathways flicker weakly with just enough power to relieve any tension I might, or might not, be feeling.
"The world's most powerful weakest drug" I thought. I had allowed myself to superficially boost my dopamine levels every 30 minutes for ten years. I could barely feel the brain effects because instead of a sense of euphoria (like so many other dopamine-enhancing substances) I was merely feeling relief. Relieved that I didn't have to constantly feel the normal, everyday emotions that everyone else was subjected to.
Growing older, hand-in-hand with my cigarette addiction, I wasn't aware of why I did it. I'm not so stupid as to go around stinking like garbage and fueling cancer, so I must enjoy it. I live in the moment. I just don't give a fuck. You can't tell me what to do. It's not bothering anyone anyway. I laugh at that last thought as I practically choke on the stranger's secondhand.
Days of internal conflict between that part of me who was never allowed to say no for long and the part who just wanted one more cigarette. I would float into the store and buy the cigarettes and a lighter since I had thrown all my paraphernalia away in a fit of confidence. Without the need to even think I was able to light up and inhale the first drag deeply. The dopamine bolt. Toward the end of the cigarette I would gaze with disgust at the evil smoke curling up from the end of the cigarette and floating toward the skin of my hand. I would throw the rest of the pack out only to dig through the garbage later. Resigned I would eventually just hide the pack of cigarettes until I needed them again.
"Those days are over," I think as I continue to walk down the crowded street. No more internal conflict - instead there's a distant and weak echo of my past addiction as I walk through street-level smoker's circles. I feel my heartrate increase and remember that I used to attribute this feeling of anxiety to the strong pull of addiction. I feel the addiction as it really is now - desperate and sad. Nothing controls me but me.