No Cigar

I have been on some voyage for the past few days. Not the kind where I travelled to unexplored planets and discovered new species, nor the variety which has seen me steering a vessel across choppy waters in search of islands to colonize, nothing quite as prestigious I’m afraid. This journey has been to the darkest recesses of the human mind and I have learned one thing in my time there; that being never to return. A few days back I scribed an article called The Great Escape and, for the first time since I started writing from the soul, I held back. There was more that I wished to divulge about my current plight but I felt hamstrung by my reluctance to sound beaten. As you know, I have no interest in bringing down others around me, and desire only to do the precise opposite. This is all well and good but when I read it back afterwards it seemed positively powder puff compared to how I was actually feeling inside. Truth is, I was in the darkest place I had ever been in my life, and ready to throw in the towel once and for all.

The reason for this may not have been clear at the time. Anybody who knows me will be more than aware of my financial situation and also that I am hanging in grimly while I await a fresh set of circumstances which don’t appear to be forthcoming at this point. However, for as much as this has been a constant source of frustration for months now, it wasn’t the reason that I felt it necessary to elaborate on my sorrow. I have gotten used to the setbacks by now and it should come as no surprise when I receive the news that I will be required to hang tough for a little longer than previously anticipated. Life isn’t always fair and I get that; never stopped me having faith before so why now has it felt like time to raise the white flag? I’ll tell you why. My mind hasn’t been my own; it was callously snatched from me by a heinous force hell-bent on destroying me and I have only just reclaimed this priceless piece of equipment. No alien abduction to speak of or pilfering pirates either; just a simple prescription drug designed to assist with giving up smoking. It damn near destroyed me.


Champix has been championed by many as the most effective rearguard against those nicotine cravings and works on blocking the brain’s boisterous receptors, thus stifling their pleas for a further fix. On paper this sounds like a wonderful idea and, indeed, the success ratio makes encouraging reading. However, there are many known side-effects, and over the past couple of weeks I have suffered pretty much every last one of them. I can take a little nausea, sickness, and loss of appetite, if it for the greater good but what I have discovered is that I don’t fare so well when it comes to severe depression and feeling a complete lack of self-worth. I won’t digress just how grave my thoughts became as it won’t make for light bedtime reading but let’s just say that I closed off all avenues of light as Champix got me just where it wanted me…alone. There it whittled down any remaining defenses and convinced me that there was no reason to keep the faith, in stark contrast to my usual upbeat mindset. I have endured many lows in recent times, and things have looked decidedly bleak on occasion, but not once did I ever buy into the notion that things wouldn’t get better if I continued to weather the storm. That was until my ability to reason with my inner demons was banished from the equation.

A mind like mine is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, I pride myself on my aptitude for perception, particularly when it comes to others. While I would consider this an incalculable asset for the most part, it also comes with a distinct downside once another unknown quantity is added to the melting pot. I haven’t made a habit of clocking up adversaries during my lifetime and regularly refer to myself as benign to the spine but, in Champix, I found myself my very own worst enemy and it almost finished me off. What started as an inability to write myself out of peril continued to escalate until which time as I had no real desire for anything in particular. Any positivity was snuffed out and replaced by nagging voices which repeatedly asked me what the point really was in carrying on. For the first time ever in my life; I couldn’t come up with an answer. It felt as though my best defense amounted to nothing whatsoever and, while I suspected foul play, there didn’t seem to be a single thing I could do to stop the rot. Then today I finally reached the foot of my chasm.


It is astonishing how low your own mind can be prepared to stoop in order to fend off the cavalry. There have been a number of people reaching out to me, all of which I hold dear, and none of them have been granted access while Champix has been attempting the ultimate smackdown on my sorry ass. Every thought has been grim, each moment more glum than the last, and I have never before felt misery like this. Having said that, I’m no stranger to hardship, and have an uncanny knack of realizing my impending doom just in the nick of time. Earlier today, as I sat comatose in my perch, I finally caught wind of the skullduggery. Things had been looking increasingly futile until that moment but I discerned a faint battle cry and that was all it took to rally the troops. In an instance of remarkable clarity, it all became crystal clear to me, and I knew precisely what needed to be done in order to shake this hoodoo. I am only too aware of the damage that smoking is doing to my body but right now I would take that over having my mind hijacked. I spared a thought for Chuck Norris and considered how his Delta Force would deal with such a heinous threat to mental security. They would roll up their sleeves and take the battle to the terrorists before these infidels knew what had hit them. And I would be required to do exactly the same.

So the long and short of it is this: Champix has been defeated in the eleventh hour and I have managed to wrestle back control of my mind before plummeting any deeper. I still have a significant struggle before me and there can be no illusion about that. However, I flat refuse to go out like a chump and, if I am to die by my sword, then that is still preferable to having it plunged into my back by a drug which clearly doesn’t agree with me. It may well be a wonder cure for many and I am not about to suggest the contrary as the statistics speak for themselves. But there is always an exception to every rule and I think I may well be it. The next few days will be critical as it will no doubt refuse to go quietly but I have its number now and never again wish to feel as hopeless as I have for the past week or so. There is too much work afoot to capitulate now; too many people rely on me to simply throw in the towel. I always stated that I would refuse to do so while there is breath in my lungs. One day I will invariably die but, when I do, I won’t leave behind a bunch of hollow words and broken promises. That’s just not my style. Fuck you Champix. Nice try, kudos for the sneak attack, but alas I’m all out of cigars.

Truly, Really, Clearly, Sincerely,

Richard Charles Stevens


Keeper of the Crimson Quill



  1. I struggled with clinical depression for a number of years – most of my teens and 20s and a bit into my 30s. I took anti-depressants for years. I’m fairly certain I would be dead if it weren’t for the 10 years or so I was taking them.

    I don’t pretend to know what you went through, as depression seems different for different people, but I am glad to hear you are pushing on.

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