Nat Luurtsema has given up smoking and it’s going GREAT. Just don’t stand next to her at bus stops. Or touch her Aero.
Earlier this year I woke in the middle of the night, frozen with fear. Someone was in my room, breathing with the rasping, leering wheeze familiar to anyone who’s ever had a dirty phone call. I lay there, too frightened to move, until my sleepy brain realised that I was my own sex pest intruder.
I wheeze when I sleep, apparently. I re-rolled myself in my duvet and felt a mixture of emotions. Relief dominated but shame loomed pretty large, and I wondered for the three hundred and fortieth time if I should quit smoking.
The trouble is that smoking suited me. I smoked as a teenager because life was boring and then I smoked at university because life was too interesting and I was shy. Then I smoked as a standup because I could loiter outside feeling nervous and disguise it as a fag break. Now as a writer I smoked because it perked my brain up and was a perfect little reward system.
So I ignored my anxieties, as always (which is why I have a worse credit rating than Greece). Until one evening on the tube when I looked up and saw myself reflected in the window in unforgiving light; I looked like an old shoe. I had lines running from my nose to my chin like they were fleeing a crime scene.
Vanity is a powerful thing.
So I quit. I went completely cold turkey: no patches, no gum, no NHS help, because I am an idiot. If I were you, I’d grab one of those leaflets in the chemist about quitting. I bet they’re useful. I wouldn’t know.
The first month wasn’t too bad because it was dramatic, and people kept congratulating me, saying my skin was glowing. I had a brand new boyfriend, prepared to tolerate my exciting mood swings and my habit of sniffing ashtrays, humming, “I like big butts and I cannot lie”.
But in months two and three, people expect you to get on with it and stop being a baby and flying into rages at bus stops. (It’s like they don’t know me at all.) And this is the hard slog – she says, reaching for a mint Aero under her mattress.
I’m at month 3.5 and I still don’t smoke. I still want to, but I don’t. Even now, when I hold a glass of wine in one hand, I look at the other hand and think “Shouldn’t you be doing something, lazy?” Someone suggested I should quit drinking at the same time, to remove this temptation. Hahaha. Silly sausage.
As my mum warned, there’s been weight gain. My clothes are now so tight I walk like the Tin Man. I’m scared that if I sit down I’ll put my jeans under untenable strain. The button of my jeans may be the last thing someone sees as it flies through their eye and kills them instantly.
BUT, once my weight returns to normal, the rage subsides and I stop sneezing as the little hairs in my nose grow back (sexy), I will finally be OVER cigarettes.
It’s sad in a funny way, ending a chapter of my life, but it’s long overdue. Now it’s time for a new chapter. I’m just deciding between “life of crime” or “soup entrepreneur”.
Nat Luurtsema is a BAFTA-nominated screenwriter, stand-up and author.