New Year’s Day, 2010.

It was still dark when the act of coughing up sludge awoke me. Shit, I thought. No cough syrup available because of the alcohol content. No soothing Benadryl or Tylenol PM to rock me gently to sleep despite the lung ratting. We couldn’t even take allergy medicine with antihistamines, which would cause a dirty result if the director decided to randomly drug test us.

Thankfully I had the room to myself. I’d have hated to wake up a roommate before 8 AM on one of the only days off we got here.

I kept hacking, regretting the cigar I smoked last night to ring in the New Year. Though I’m not a smoker, I neededΒ something to help me celebrate. With no bottle of champagne to myself, my usual New Year’s tradition, I felt skittish all day. I talked too fast during our break, and when Delia offered to pick me up something for tonight, I asked her for a cigar. One of the flavored ones, preferably grape.

Fraternizing with the opposite sex was usually forbidden, but on New Year’s Eve the rules loosened a bit, and we all stuck in nervous clumps on the cafeteria patio. It looked like a junior high school dance at first, but we gradually crossed demarcation lines.

As I lit up my cough syrup-flavored cigar with Delia on the patio, a group of the men buzzed around her like a swarm of bees. She had that kind of effortless magnetism, a personality that made you feel as if you were better than you were.

Terry, one of the men who worked on kitchen duty, pointedly asked me as I took a deep breath of the cigar, “Wait, you don’t smoke, right?” He looked surprised at the cloud of smoke around my head like a dirty halo.

“No. I’m just celebrating the New Year,” I said. Though I felt a little light headed, this wasn’t what I wanted. I took another deep inhale.

“Are you inhaling?” Jim asked me, raising his eyebrow. I didn’t even know these guys knew who I was. So far, I had tried to make myself invisible here.

“Yes. Why?”

“Wow, that’s hardcore,” he said, shaking his head and chuckling a little. What was he talking about? Hardcore? I thought the point of smoking was to inhale.

“I’m a hardcore person,” I told him, which was a lie. Sort of. I wasn’t really sure what kind of person I was.

Now, in the wee hours of the morning, I was paying for that uncertainty. As I spit out some of the crap I coughed up into a tissue, wheezing and feeling my lungs contract in familiar pain, I understood why inhaling a cigar is a bad idea. It probably didn’t help that I had recovered from a severe case of pneumonia the month prior. I am so stupid, I thought.

I threw the tissue on the nightstand, then also realized that I wasn’t drunk. Last New Year’s began the time of life when I didn’t stop drinking, no matter the time of day.

I am coherent, I thought, and I’m coughing up shit. So far, this is a very different New Year’s.


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Back from blogging hiatus to be with my favorite peeps at yeah write.



New Year’s Day — 42 Comments

  1. Happy New Year Natalie! I also celebrate very differently these days…surrounded by kids and step kids at home instead of out with drunk, crazy people. “Celebrating” can take on many forms, and it doesn’t have to include alcohol to be fun. Just having (or doing) something special that you don’t treat yourself to very often can bring it up a notch so you don’t obsess on the missing drinks.
    All the best to you in 2014!
    Beduwen recently posted…7 Tips to Survive the Call To ChangeMy Profile

  2. This year, New Year’s Eve was different without The Polish Guy. I poured a drink but only took a few sips before heading off to bed. When I was with The Polish Guy, all of our time together revolved around drinking. Without him, I’m back to being me and only occasionally drinking and then in moderation. I no longer regret his absence from my life.

    PS I used to love those flavored cigars!
    Vanessa D. recently posted…Want to be a stripper? Don’t worry! Canada’s government is looking out for you.My Profile

  3. Grape cigars? That probably still wouldn’t have made it palatable for me! I’m glad this, although better than prior years, was a few years ago. I hope ringing in 2014 was awesome!

  4. weird, first time I ever smoked a cigar was new years eve…I was thirteen

    Hope you feel better. I love your writing style. I always feel engaged and as if I’m in the story with you.

    Happy Catorce, Natalie…can’t wait for lefty pop
    Lance recently posted…One Piece At A TimeMy Profile

  5. I had no idea about flavored cigars. That must have been an odd New Year’s – the first without alcohol. I think the first time we break habit or tradition over anything feels strange…until it feels normal. I hope your cough didn’t last long.
    Ilene recently posted…A Modern Family ChristmasMy Profile

    • Oh yeah, totally weird. It felt alternately sad and happy – sad because I wanted to drink, but happy because it felt like I had a new chance at life.
      And no, it was gone within a week. πŸ˜‰

  6. Because I am a really mean person, I laughed at you in my head when I read you were sucking the smoke into your lungs. And then I realized that not everyone gets taught how to smoke a cigar when they turn 12.
    So, just in case you haven’t figured it out yet and are again called upon to smoke another cigar (hopefully one that is not fruit-flavored. Fruit wood, maybe, but not a flavor that can also be found in bubblegum) – cigar smoke is to taste. You just let it sit in your mouth, swish it around, blow it out and taste it. That’s all you gotta do. It’s not for putting in your lungs; it’s not a cigarette.
    And also, I am still giggling in my head a bit. Poor you, with your lungs full of chemical-grape cigar smoke!
    Erica O recently posted…To find holiday joyMy Profile

    • Oh, you’re not being mean – it was funny! I’ve since learned, and while I’ll never smoke my own cigar again, I’ve taken a puff here and there of Mike’s cigars with NO inhaling, lol. And no nasty flavoring.

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