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Mr. Pixel quit smoking at the same time as I did. He was a little more of a casual smoker, and so far, the effects of quitting haven't hit him hard, at least physically. His Hell Week was just a normal week.


Once Week Two, aka Heck Week, rolled around, I was up and around, and ready to start rejoining the living again. I knew that it would be an adjustment to get back to my usual routines without a smoke at hand. I was prepared for that. I knew my brain would need to relearn a few things, and I was prepared to deal with some changes. But I never once thought that the way Mr. P and I related to each other would change as a result of stopping the cancer sticks as well. That was a bit of a shock at first.


When we'd get home from work, the first thing we would do is head outside for a smoke and discuss the day. Then we'd go in and start making dinner. The rest of the evening was punctuated by smoke breaks. Looking back, it's almost like smoking was the scaffolding on which we hung the rest of our lives; we fit in what we had to do, and what we wanted to do, between smokes. When we took that underlying structure away, we were both at a loss.


That led to some crankiness and some petty squabbling, which is usually not our style. There were times we would sit on the couch and uncomfortably stare at each other. Now what? And that's not us either. We've been together for over a decade and have never, ever been at a loss for conversation or activities. We're curious, and active and interested in so many things. We have a lot in common, and a lot of differences, so it's always an adventure. And it's good. There's always something going on around here. This was just weird.


But slowly, we came to realize that, even though we've been together a long time, and we knew each other really well, we've never known a time where we were together as non-smokers. Every single thing we've ever done over the course of 13 years has been punctuated in some way by a smoke; dates, trips, dinners, walks, parties, funerals, weddings, work, even workouts. Smoking was as deeply woven into the fabric of our relationship as our feelings for one another. It was a frightening realization. Could we make this better? How? Now what, indeed.


So we started by asking each other one question, "What do you need right now to feel 'normal', other than a smoke?"


Answering that proved to be the key. It turned out that it wasn't really the smoke itself that we missed, but rather the routine of heading outside, walking around a bit, talking about our day or the news or whatever. That particular smoke was actually a signal for us to shake the day off and ease into the evening. It was a bridge from crazy day to relaxing night. And without that signal, we were kind of lost. So, we took a walk. And we talked. And we didn't smoke. And it worked. After a few days, that became our new normal and we no longer missed having that after work smoke. We still had that thing that we actually needed - the reason for the smoke - without the smoke itself.


From that point on, anytime we felt 'off', we would go back to that question, "What do you need right now?". And it's working. I've come to realize that as we remove that scaffolding, we're revealing the beautiful structure underneath. We've been building it for over a decade, and it's solid. It can withstand much more than I thought it could, and, best of all, it's at the point where we can continue to build upon it, without all that messy, ugly scaffolding. After all, scaffolding is only ever meant to be temporary anyway. The building underneath? That's the real deal.

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Beautiful story PS !! Nicely told and I'm glad it had a happy ending :) Love the "scaffolding" reference too; it's perfect!


It would be pretty scary to quit same time as my partner I think. My wife quit years ago and I have now. It's been fine one at a time like that. I can see it could get pretty explosive for some couples though. We aren't always at our emotional best during our quit.

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Thanks R! :) This whole thing has been a revelation so far in so many ways! I'm sure I have more surprises coming down the line.


I'm glad you and your wife were able to avoid that part by quitting a different times and all worked out well. :)


The more I think about it, the more I realize how insidious smoking really is. It just gets into every single nook and cranny of our lives. Bleh. It governs our routines and our emotions to a really uncomfortable degree. Glad to be banishing it bit by bit.

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