Can someone help me understand myself?

I have always been anti-smoking. My mom has smoked for pretty much my entire life and I always hated it. Hated the smell. Hated that I seem to be extra sensitive to smoke. The slightest whiff, even from quite some distance can choke me up. For example, tonight, several people were smoking on the balcony with the door open and I had to close my bedroom door because I could smell it. Of course there’s also the extreme amount of money smokers spend and the whole issue of supporting the evil tobacco companies and plenty of other rational arguments that could be made even if you’re one of the people who believes that there is no scientific evidence that smoking is linked to health problems, but that’s a whole other subject and I don’t want to start that debate here. My issue is more personal.
The part I don’t understand is my own vehement reaction to it. With everything going on with Jess, I think one of things that hurts the most is that she has started smoking again. She smoked before I knew her but had quit before we met. The fact that it even registers on my radar sounds ridiculous even to me. Why do I care so much? Why is it such a big deal? Why is it so important to me that my loved ones not smoke? I feel the same sense of hurt and distance when Larry occasionally smokes too. Now don’t get me wrong, I know that no one is doing it to be hurtful or anything. I just don’t understand why it means so much to me. The first time I saw jess light up on our balcony, let’s just say my reaction was completely and irrationally emotional. Maybe because of our separation my subconscious read more into it like because she knows how much it means to me maybe I stupidly saw it as a big final “fuck you” which, of course, I know it isn’t. I’m sure we all know the stupid things we can think when we’re emotional.
But the fact is is that is a big deal to me and I don’t know why. I don’t think it’s a judgmental thing, but admittedly I could be wrong. I don’t think any less of her for it and I don’t think I’m better than people who smoke. I really do think it’s more of a connection thing. It makes me feel distant and disconnected and I do legitimately worry about the health of the people I love and supporting the evil empires of tobacco (which ironically is a trait directly instilled in me by Jess). To me it feels like it comes from a place of caring and concern and not a confrontational or judgmental place. I value my connections with people and anything that interfers with those connections bothers me.
I just don’t understand why I feel the way I do. I don’t want it to interfere with my connection. Why can’t I just not care about it? When Larry smokes, I feel down. When Jess smokes it’s of a whole other order of magnitude. It feels like it almost hurts as much as our separation which should be ludicrous! I’m sure there must be some deep subconscious motivation at work here. I just can’t figure out what it is. I’m really trying to be better about this and at least not be judgmental or sanctimonious about my feelings. I’d love to find the root of this and find a way to overcome it.

6 Responses

  1. Delle says:

    Well, I can’t explain it, but I can tell you that you aren’t alone. I know of no rationality to it, but I hate people I care about smoking.
    Maybe we can be insane about it together.

  2. Travis says:

    I think I truly do understand this perfectly. I had pretty much the same initial gut reaction to it the first time I saw one of the above for mentioned deck smokers begin at the beginning of this year. I mean I never liked smoking in any form really. I still do not understand the appeal or draw of it. It makes everything smell bad, waste of money, and endangers health. 3 points no one can argue with.

    I guess anyone that came into my life that smoked, I just kind of wrote off in a way. They smoked before we met, nothing I can do, just a lost cause I have to deal with. However when this other person began smoking after several years of me knowing her and her not smoking it was like a kick in the stomach. It was completely visceral and I had no idea what to do. It was almost like a betrayal of some unspoken pact we had. It took me probably a solid month to get to the point where I just didn’t kind of stare in that pleading I can’t believe you are doing this to yourself way every time I saw it happen. And another month or so to accept there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it, this is her life and her choice. If I care about her, I need to accept this along with everything else and hope that it isn’t permanent, although I know it most likely is.

    To a lesser extent I had the same reaction the first time I saw Jess doing it a few months ago. I think because I had seen it before and recently and of course the whole not actually being married aspect of it you have with her it probably bothered me a little less. But I don’t like it for anyone.

    Now it seems as if the majority of the people I truly like to spend time with are smokers (not all, just has slid over on the scale significantly). So I just do it. I ignore it all as best I can. I spend time with the people that I love and make me happy. There has been a few times where it has gotten to almost the breaking point of saturation where I want to just leave. Almost universally now I come home reeking of smoke, I take all my clothes and shove them to the bottom of the dirty clothes or just wash them immediately, to get the smell gone and then I take a shower. I know that I can’t sleep afterwards or even really be productive until I get the smell removed from myself as best I can.

    In the end I basically just hold out hope they will all stop and go back to a happy, non-smelly, clean lung life, but in the mean time just enjoy the time I have with them and ignore the rest as best I can.

  3. Heath says:

    I appreciate the comments and knowing I’m not alone but I also really want to stress what I told to Jess. I want to be able to express my feelings and talk about them but hopefully in a way that doesn’t make my smoker friends feel persecuted or judged. Much like Travis I also don’t understand it at all. I guess, with Jess in particular, that’s why I want to talk about it. Not just to express my feelings but hopefully to maybe be able to gain a better understanding of why she wants to do this. I don’t just want to tell her my opinions, I want to understand hers. It’s a tough balance to strike. Basically I will always love Jess and all my smoking friends whether they smoke or not.
    There was one point in particular in our conversation though that might not apply to many people. She instilled in me an awareness that I didn’t have before her. We buy recycled paper products, free range eggs, tried to make sure we were with an ethical bank and generally try to avoid companies whose funds or practices are questionable in the ethics department. I just don’t understand how anyone who cares about those things can just overlook it when comes to having a smoke. Again it’s tough because I don’t want to appear to preach or lecture to anyone. I know that I have probably made choices in my life that go against all this but many times they were out of ignorance before Jess gave me the facts.
    I guess the tough balancing act is that I want to be able to express my feelings but conversely I want my friends to feel comfortable doing whatever the hell they want and not feel judged, persecuted, watched or nagged. This was really en experiment to try to and see if there’s a way those things can co-exist.
    The best way I could think of to put it is that if anyone ever wants to give me the best present in the world, quit smoking. That would be a greater gift and make me happier than all the Nintendo Wiis, Xbox 360s, musical toys or anything else in the world. However for those that choose to continue I shall do my best to give acceptance and love and they’re perfectly welcome to light up on my balcony any time. And this does go for anyone I know who smokes, not just Jess.

  4. Travis says:

    If ya ever want to get together and chat about it just let me know. And whole heartedly agree. Top of all future wish lists for any present is stop smoking for any and all friends.

  5. Amy says:

    I feel almost entirely the same way you do. I say “entirely” because there are a lot of people around me who smoke, and many times it’s just too much to deal with to freak out about it all the time. So often, I’ll pretend that I don’t care when, really, I do.
    I have so much to say on this issue, but I think the point I want to stress. My aversion to it is a two-fold thing. 1. I don’t like it because it’s harmful to the person who does it (i.e., the person I care about who smokes). 2. It’s harmful to me. And that’s, really, what the problem is. In that sense, smoking is worse than cocaine, at least from my perception. When what you do makes me sick, makes me smell, makes my house smelly and covered in tobacco residue, that is not on.
    I don’t like it because I can’t hang out with people who smoke without dealing with the smoking. Likewise, if every time I hung out with someone they were constantly flicking me in the face or kicking my legs, I wouldn’t like that either. Why should I be made uncomfortable and, actually, physically damaged just so that you can do this? It’s killing you, anyway.
    Blah. Um. Thanks for providing me the opportunity to rant! This was in no way coherent or sensible, so I probably would have been better off with a “You are not alone.”

  6. I can sort of understand older people smoking — *everybody* used to smoke, and there wasn’t the awareness of the side effects then that there is now. I have a lot more trouble understanding why someone would start smoking now, though. Especially when I see the horrible effect it’s had my father’s health — he landed in the emergency room last month because of it — and the stranglehold the cigarette addiction has on him.

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