There are a million places to go here, and while I’ve written at length about recovery from addiction and releasing that which no longer serves us, I’m not interested in this particular piece being about how we need to stop using what we use to cope with whatever we experienced in the past. Those wounds are real, the cravings are epic, and the idea of getting through even a single day without the security of your most trusted companion feels like both heaven and hell. I used to use food the way those who left these butts behind use cigarettes, and I know that my concerns about nicotine litter will not be solved by shaming smokers about their addiction.
The time I spent collecting these cigarette butts changed me. At first, it was the anger and judgment that fueled me. I rushed about, squatting and standing, retrieving the evidence and depositing it into my jar. But as I continued, I began to ponder the realities of addiction and coping, shame, and the realities of disassociation. When we are engaged in behaviors that are out of alignment with our integrity, it’s really hard to stay engaged and alert. It hurts too much.
I couldn’t help but wonder about the man with the ring of smoker’s debris around his car. What is brewing within him that leaves a trail of destruction like that, and what happens to the body that receives such persistent abuse?
I wondered about the one who smokes only the first half of the cigarette. I found them from one end of this neighborhood to the other, always the same brand, always burned down to the same exact length before being discarded. I only found them on the driveway, not the sidewalks or grassy areas. And there was a significant collection of random butts at the neighborhood entrance, I can’t help but wonder if there are people living nearby who are keeping secrets from their families.