written in my third month of freedom from smoking and originally posted on january 30, 2002; this is an allegorical tale about addiction, recovery, and relapse.


2009 February 1

you're in a cold, dark, dirty prison cell. you've been here for a very long time. your jailer comes by to check on you every hour or so, except during the really late night/early morning hours when he knows you'll be sleeping.

you feel depressed. defeated. how could you have done this to yourself? you wonder if life is worth living, if you have to live it in this prison cell.

one day, a friend manages to smuggle in a hacksaw and leaves it with you. the only time you can use it is during those overnight hours when your jailer is not checking up on you regularly. because it's so dark, the hacksaw occasionally slips, and you scrape a knuckle or tear a bit of skin off of your hand. you don't cry out; you don't want your jailer to hear you. besides, you know the pain is only temporary, and it's a small price to pay for your freedom.

you grit your teeth and get on with it.

finally, you make your escape; you've cut through the shackles that bound you and you're free! you don't even feel the cuts and scrapes that you got while trying to free yourself; they're nothing. inconsequential. you're overjoyed with your new-found sense of freedom.

but, after being free for a time, you start to look back almost fondly on your time in prison. you think, "that wasn't so bad; at least i knew what to expect. and my jailer wasn't such a bad fellow, was he? maybe i'll just stop by for a quick visit..."

so you go back. the door is open, and the jailer seems happy to see you; he says he's missed you, and wonders why you left him - he was only trying to be your friend... you tell him that you only came back for a quick visit, just this one time, and he tells you that's fine, he'll leave the door open; you can leave again any time you want. so you go in and visit for a few minutes, and, true to his word, he leaves the door open. you leave again.

but this time you don't get quite as far away before you start feeling nostalgic again, and you go back for "just one more" visit. the jailer smiles and lets you in, leaving the door open like he did before. you visit with him for a few minutes and leave again, but this time, you're barely out the door before you turn around and go back, thinking, "i'll just stay for a little while; the door's still open; i can still leave anytime i want..."

but the longer you stay, the less you feel like leaving, until, finally, you find yourself asking the jailer to close the door for you... you watch him turn his key in the lock, and you follow him back down to your old cell; it seems colder, darker, and dirtier than ever before. you feel depressed. defeated. how could you have done this to yourself? you wonder if life is worth living, if you have to live it in this prison cell. all seems hopeless...

suddenly, you remember the hacksaw that your friend smuggled in to you; is it still here? yes! it's still here!!

does the thought of scraping your knuckles again stop you from using it?

7 responses leave one →
  1. 2003 January 30
    Barb permalink

    This will get me through TODAY! The "two step quit plan" got me through yesterday... Thank you for your words. 2 days and counting... Barb

  2. 2003 February 6
    rose permalink

    What a great story. I have relapsed 4 times in the year or so. I am acutely aware that a relapse for me is just one puff away. Your story really hit home. Thank You - Rose 10wks

  3. 2003 March 29
    Dave (Syscokid) permalink

    Wow! That sums up my life as a smoker. The skinned knuckles slowed me down and sometimes stopped me from even trying to escape. But as long as I knew I had the "SAW" I knew I could quit when I really chose to.

  4. 2003 September 24
    Brenda permalink

    I'm sending this to my friend who is quitting again. She quit for four months (even though she was getting a month maybe once a month from someone) and now she has quit again. I'm taking this to her.

  5. 2005 April 8
    PATRICIA permalink


  6. 2008 April 26
    Barbara permalink

    Wow - that is a great story, and so true to how smoking shackles us. This site is an inspiration, thanks you.

  7. 2009 February 1

    note: the comments above were left on the original tale at the date and time indicated.

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