Looking For Mute.

Looking For Mute.

Lately, I’ve been dreaming about my mother and cigarettes. It’s no surprise. The anniversary of her death is approaching, as is the anniversary of my smoking relapses.

If you ask any of my friends who knew my mom, most will remember calling her Ma’am (as a joke, of course) and whining, “Oh, fucking shit,” one of her often-used phrases, while putting two fingers to the lips in a mock-smoking fashion. We did this to her face, we did this long after she stopped smoking, and we still do this now, because my mother and smoking will always go together.

When I was a kid with little access to cigarettes of my own, I’d steal some from my mother. She smoked menthol, which I do not prefer, but beggars can’t be choosers. If her supply was dwindling and thus my thievery easily detectable, I’d pilfer her ashtray, looking for those butts she hadn’t quite finished but failed to stomp out into oblivion. I’d wipe off the filter tip and get the last few puffs out of it, feeling the most disgusting part of the whole escapade was the menthol, not the used and discarded cigarette itself.

Though I dabbled in the beginning, I smoked every chance I got. As a mostly unsupervised teenager, that was more often than you’d think. By sixteen, I’d announced to my mother that she would be giving me permission to smoke in the house so I wouldn’t have to go for nighttime walks around the block to do so. After all, a 16-year-old girl alone after dark could get hurt out there. She probably didn’t have the strength to argue because as much as I’d tell you different back then, I find it unlikely that she just didn’t care.

And so, here we are, 21 years later and I care more about what people think about my nicotine addiction than I did when I started. I took 10 years off under the guise of my health but mostly because of the money. But then that fateful night happened when my friend brought tequila to my house because I wanted to get drunk and not feel the pain of having a dead mother. I like to tell her that it’s her fault I relapsed on the smoking and that, in the nearly 4 years since that night, I have not been able to get a hold of my desire to smoke, but it isn’t her fault. It’s mine.

I’m the one who thinks ahead to an occasion to do so, wondering when the next time I’ll be with a group I don’t feel uncomfortable around, or maybe just uncomfortable around enough that I can run outside to smoke, but also to take a break from the crowd and maybe sit one-on-one with someone for a little while. I’m the one who counts the number of smokers in the group to see if I’m going to look foolish or if someone else will have my back when I skulk off. I’m the one sneaking a smoke in, pretending no one will notice. I’m the one who can’t put the feeling of a cigarette buzz or the taste of a Parliament out of my mind, not when I’m awake and not when I’m asleep.

Since the beginning, it’s been a 24-hour loop of, “Man, I wish I could smoke,” and my friend just happened to be there with a cigarette the night I unmuted it. It was still playing, I just temporarily stopped listening.

I need to find mute button again. If you happen to see it, please let me know.

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26 Responses to “Looking For Mute.”

  1. outlawmama says:

    That is a perfect opening line. And then you had the rest of the post to back it up. Good luck with the quitting. I miss cigarettes and coffee almost everyday.

  2. Natalie DeYoung says:

    Quitting everything is hard. I’m so glad I quit smoking before it could become an addiction; I have such a propensity to become addicted.

  3. aishasoasis says:

    Cigarettes are so strongly addicting, it’s hard to find something you prefer even more strongly to replace the cigarettes with! Best wishes with the hunt, but when you find it, you’ll find the mute button again!

    • michellelongo says:

      Anything I can think of to replace it would be just as bad. Like pizza. Or burritos. Mmmm. Burritos… seriously though, thanks for the kind words!

  4. Christina says:

    I used to smoke. Some days I wish I still did but I can’t stand it. I just can’t stand it anymore. Instead I eat. Always did that, too, of course, but now it’s bad. And your piece very much reminds me of my own eating habits. argh.

    • michellelongo says:

      Somewhere in those 10 years I couldn’t stand it, but then I remembered how much I liked it. Now I can’t forget that part. I have certain foods that I eat way too much of, far too often, primarily to comfort emotions.It’s so hard…

  5. so tough. it’s like any addiction. it brings comfort. you should see me when I try not to eat ice cream.

    • michellelongo says:

      It is about comfort. But like any other vice, it sounds helpful at the time and after you realize it doesn’t actually help solve anything.

  6. This piece grabbed me right from the first sentence. Any kind of addiction is so rough. I hope you find the mute button.

  7. Stacie says:

    You blow me away every time with your writing. If you quit for 10 years, I just know you can do it again – I’m pulling for you. Cigarettes are so addicting, so hard to quit. I’m happy I never started.

    • michellelongo says:

      I really wish I had never started. I don’t think it’s something I’d pick up as an adult, so I suppose I’m the poster child for making sure kids don’t start. Thanks for the supportive comment!

  8. jenbrunett says:

    Eerie. I thought I was reading my own story for awhile there. My dreams of smoking. My mother and smoking. My mother’s favorite swear words. Smoking in the house. (was thinking about that today, actually!) Stealing her menthol’s! Crazy.

    Quitting was THE hardest thing I ever had to do. And i still get the urge once in awhile. I ended up not buying them for me and ended up bumming from friends. I felt so bad about it I just gave up and went crazy for weeks. Ugh. It’s hard as you know but it can happen!

    • michellelongo says:

      Sounds like we have a lot in common! If I only had the urge once in a while I don’t think it would be so bad. If I really think abut it, I remember getting to that point after about a year after I quit. Maybe I need to let myself get that far again so I won’t fall back to it again. Thanks for the encouragement!

  9. Michelle, I can relate to so much of your story. I smoked for over thirty years (from the ages of 13-45). During my final years as a smoker, I only had a few a day, and I could even go for a couple of days without smoking at all. But I never thought I would quit – I didn’t want to, I liked it too much. Now that I’ve been smoke-free for almost three years, I can’t even imagine having a cigarette (although lit cigarettes smell kind of good to me sometimes, and I occasionally have dreams about smoking). There wasn’t a single factor that motivated me to stop. It was a combination of stuff. I hope you find your mute button. xo Karen

    • michellelongo says:

      I think you hit the nail on the head, Karen. I really do like it, so the thought of never doing it again is hard. But I’m no the type to have one every few months and be satisfied. If I do it once, I want to do it all the time – no happy medium. I need to stop thinking so long term. That’s worked (so far) for me in other areas.

  10. jennbird77 says:

    This so reminded me of one of my favorite stories I read last year, about a mother and daughter smoking: http://www.one-story.com/index.php?page=stories&story_id=178

  11. Samantha S says:

    I smoked for a long time, too, always pretending that I didn’t. I love the longing in your writing voice, especially through the first half of this piece. Nicely done!

  12. Kylie says:

    It’s a strong addiction… it’s also been a big part of my career to help people find the mute button, so here you go: 1-800-QUIT-NOW. They say quitting takes practice–an average of 7 times til you quit for good.

    What else do you associate with your mother?

    • michellelongo says:

      Ack! 7 times? Yikes!
      My mother… wow, that’s such a complicated question. Foods and drinks she used to like, items she used to collect, stuff like that. And some less fun stuff, too.

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