It’s odd the more stressed out someone gets the more they’ll smoke cigarettes, if they are a cigarette smoker, and in the end it only makes things worse. But that is the nature of nervous energy; almost anything you do that isn’t solving the problem is only throwing gas on the fire. Smokers are like any other species of junkie in that the habit comes first and that in itself kinda helps push other problems away, albeit for a very short time. Smoking seems to be extremely personal sometimes. Just me and my habit, us, against the world and you know if you’re a smoker you’ve had this feeling. Then again, there are times it’s just background noise and you have to think about it to know when you last smoked one. That’s a transitory feeling because if you go too long it will call you, and let you know.
My marriage was dying, had been dying, and was going to die. I can remember the exact moment I knew, really knew, knew beyond any doubt at all it was over and I stopped trying. The remaining time was just waiting for the funeral. There were things going on at the time that wouldn’t allow me to pull the trigger on it, and trust me, I did the right thing in not doing it, but at the same time I kept smoking. My wife went to Texas for ten days and somewhere in that ten days I decided to end it as soon as she got back. The strangest thing was when she would call, and we would always end the conversation with “I love you” like married couples are supposed to do, but this time it was like lying, and I wondered if she knew me well enough to tell, or if she had known for a while. I think in every relationship there is that period of time everyone can tell it’s over and everyone is just going through the motions, but no one wants to say it out loud, and no one really wants to take that first step into hell, which divorce can become, and it will, too.
Ten days seems like a long time, and in some cases it might be. But the first day you wake up and you feel like you have time to decide, and you don’t have to deal with it now, and there are cigarettes to smoke. The sun went down on that first day as I sat on the deck smoking, and I felt a little better about all things because I didn’t have to do anything at all right now. The next day felt okay because there was still over a week left and I watched the sun come up and was drinking coffee, and smoking, and that made all things right in the world. I still had time, and maybe I would win the lottery, or something dramatic would happen. There is no one you can really talk to about this sort of thing without making a case one way or another, and once you start trying to talk yourself out of being with someone you can always find someone who will listen to you, sympathetically. It’s dangerous and futile to do this, and I knew it.
I was going through a pack a day, and at day six I was hit with a sudden sense of panic. I had less than a week to go and nothing had happened. Her truck hadn’t broken down, there wasn’t a massive earthquake, aliens had not landed, and I remember counting cigarettes and pretending I would quit the next day. I wonder how on earth I was going to get a divorce going when I couldn’t stop smoking. We were terribly busy at work and that helped a lot, but with five days left I knew it would get worse without getting any better. A pack a day, a pack a day, a pack a day, a pack a day, and suddenly she was driving back from Texas and the countdown had really begun.
The memory of that day is crystal clear, the emotion, the stress, the jacked up feeling of something terrible happening, and the raw nerve feeling of conflict and the feeling that whatever just happened had just begun, and resolution was far, far, away. Declaring the marriage as dead wasn’t the beginning of the end, but rather the beginning of that third box feeling, where I would never be married or single again, but divorced. It’s a singular and distinct classification, much like what you are when you are no longer a virgin.
If you are going through this for the first time, I might suggest to you it’s going to be as bad as you think, and sometimes it’s going to be worse than you could imagine, and I have a pretty good imagination. I was caught off guard by the intensity of the emotions, which having the process drug out by lawyers made it infinitely worse. Her lawyer told her she “had nothing to lose” by trying to get as much out of me as she could, and so that was where she was going with it. I, on the other hand, locked into the idea she would get nothing, and so the war began. The two lawyers very likely got together and decided how much they could get out of both of us if it drug out, and in the end, they made money, I lost money, and she wound up owing money.
In the end, please realize it is going to hurt, and it should. You would not be human if it did not. You would not be human if you didn’t feel a sense of loss, a sense of waste, a sense of guilt, a sense of tragedy, and a sense of failure. You will feel all of these sometimes, all the time, and there are times you’ll feel nothing at all, too, and this is normal.
No matter how bad it feels, as long as you’re feeling something, you know you’re still alive. It took me four years after the divorce to stop smoking forever. I don’t think anyone ever stops thinking about the end of a marriage, and all in all, that’s normal too.