Tomorrow I stop smoking.
There, I said it.
It's not the first time I've stopped. I once jacked the fags in for nearly 3 years, only having the very occasional puff on a monthly night out at a particular club, where I knew I could cadge 4 or 5 ciggies off friends "just to keep my hand in", as I'd joke. Then quite happily live without them for the next 4 or 5 weeks. The cigarettes, that is, not my mates.
I have a peculiar relationship with tobacco. I started in my teens, as you do. Just experimenting. When I started my chosen career in hacking at the tender age of 16, I took up smoking full-time. And discovered that hacking has more than one meaning. For me, smoking was not just about looking cool, it was an essential part of being a journalist. As much a prop as the editor's blue pencil, writing and smoking were inextricably combined. I was in love with the romanticism of the hard-bitten hack puffing away in the wee small hours as I bashed out words on my old typewriter.
It's fair to say cigarettes have been the enduring relationship in my life. Lovers and husbands have come and gone, but I was still in love with the evil weed.
Last time I gave up, it was because my ex-husband was a non-smoker. And giving up was surprisingly easy (apart from the clandestine drags at the aforementioned nightclub). But then the marriage foundered and, out of the blue, I met someone else. Someone who was a hardened 40-a-day man. I slipped back into my old habit and it was like coming home. But since we've been together, I've been coughing up lumps of disgusting brown muck every morning. I tried to stop last year, but lapsed when surrounded by my beloved's smoking paraphernalia. Working from home gave me no real incentive to stop.
Then last week, my beloved announced that, after 27 years of serious nicotine addiction, he too was going to give up, defeated by the forthcoming smoking ban. "Hurrah", I thought, "I can stop again at last."
I've just lit my last. Tomorrow is a clean slate. Hello healthy hack!
Part of me mourns the departure of my lifelong best friend. I already feel the nostalgia for those times when a cigarette sustained me through writer's block and I'll miss the smoke that kept me going when I was under pressure to hit a deadline. But no doubt my 45-year-old lungs will thank me for it.
Wish me luck...