Rehab notes: Ben Willow
Sunday 30 May 1999
It had taken a lot to get her in here. She was finally persuaded by The Boss to endure the indignity of being dragged through the papers, her children being teased at school and the threatened loss of her career. What she hadn't been prepared to do was to stop smoking. Coke, dignity, livelihood and protective love of her children were all up for grabs, but not fags. By which I mean addiction with rouged nipples, glitter pants and a riding crop.
When they once tried to ban smoking here we smokers decided to leave en masse. Now we can smoke, but only in tramp-like conditions in the yard outside. They'd finally got Diana by the simple lie that she'd be allowed to smoke in her bedroom.
To a non-addict this probably seems a small price to pay to stop cocaine and Diana uniquely smoked her way through a couple of hundred cigarettes in the first few days, mostly in her room. But we knew it couldn't go on. We're here to reverse the spiritual and moral degradation caused by addiction, not to stop using one substance.
In what we fatuously call the "real world", smoking tax pays for the health service. Smoking is legal, tolerated and normal. When was the last time you read the headline, "Forty year old mechanic smokes himself to death," rather than, "Beautiful schoolgirl dies from Ecstasy"? Yet nicotine kills 60 times as many people as all the illegal "recreational" drugs out there put together.
Deprived of darling alcohol in here, I now smoke twice as much. And for the same reason that I drank - to alter my mood and perception. Cigarettes are twice the friend they were. I remember there was an advertisement once for a brand of cigarette called Strand. A louche man in a trenchcoat and trilby leaned against a lamp- post smoking. The caption read, "You're never alone with a Strand". When sales plummeted, this was changed. What the non-addict public had spotted was that only some sad bastard would consider a cigarette as a friend. Addict's first priority, however - our best friend - is our addiction.
So Diana duly filled her bedroom with smoke until the crunch came yesterday in Process Group, when she was told flatly that she would be out unless she stopped. There followed a Cecil B De Mille scene. Invective and hairstyles flew. Then she walked out. She'd trashed everything for the freedom to smoke. Call that freedom?
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