Tuesday, November 18, 2008

On quitting smoking...

So I was just thinking the other day, that it's been officially over a year now since I decided to stop smoking. It was last October, though I couldn't tell you the exact day if I wanted to. The funny thing is, if you had asked me if I could ever do it, I probably would have told you "No!!". Now as I look back on it, it doesn't seem like such a big thing. That's probably because the power that this addiction had over me, is not nearly as strong these days and frankly, I don't even think about it all that much.

Don't get me wrong... there are still those isolated moments when the mental stimulus to have a cigarette, will decide to pop in unannounced. This is normally in a situation where before I would "reward" myself with a cigarette. Normally after doing either some mundane or technical task and I decide it's time for a break or a rest. It doesn't happen every time, mind you and it's not like this really strong craving. It's just like my brain saying: "Hey...ya know, that was a good job there. You should stop and have a smoke. Sit back and admire your handiwork... maybe have a coffee with that smoke. Remember how good it tasted...?". Then my mind snaps back: "Nawwww... it tasted like shite, if ya wanna know the truth. AND I decided I really like this new 'being-able-to-breathe' thing... and my clothes smell so-ooo much better. So does my shop, come to think of it... Why, the benefits are endless! So, no... I don't think I want to pick up that filthy habit again...". On the good side of things, these 'mental intrusions' happen less and less frequently as time goes on.

I suppose it's like many moments in our life, when we find ourselves facing the unknown. The fear and dread of what lies ahead is often much worse than the actual experience itself. That's how I found it's been with giving up smoking. I gave up drinking back in 1990. I probably would have done it sooner and saved myself a whole world of grief, had I only realized that I had the option to. It's been the same thing with smoking, for me. My daughters have been after me for years to stop. Yet just as with drinking, a person has to come to the decision that it is something they must do for themselves. With both decisions, it's your life and well-being that's on the line. Still, a person can't be pressured or coaxed into it. And don't ever use the old emotional blackmail trick of: "If you loved me, you would stop...(insert the addiction of your choice here)". That move will only add more misery to the mix for everyone.

Taking on an addiction is a very interesting and daunting process. Far too many people succumb to their addictions, for the simple reason that they don't think or know, that they have a choice. Hell, most of them don't even know they have a problem to begin with. If a person accepts the realization that he or she is an alcoholic (or suffer from any other dysfunction...), that is the first step in turning their life around and ultimately surviving their addiction. Of course, you have to be willing to go further. There are some people who have no problem 'admitting' that they're an alcoholic, but then use that as a reason for their continued self-destructive behaviour. "Hey...I can't help it, I'm an alcoholic!" Basically, they're admitting it, but they're not accepting it. You really can't get more fucked up (or wrong...) than that. By accepting the fact that a person is a practising alcoholic, they must also accept the fact that they do so out of choice.

They can choose to remain so, or they can choose to change their behaviour. Is it really that simple? Absolutely!! And don't let anyone ever tell you differently. For most of us, it will take one or several horrible, if not near-death experiences, to finally get our attention. This is called hitting your bottom. When you hit a point in your life where it seems utterly impossible that things could be any worse. For some alcoholics, this is still not enough. They will go on to hit their bottom several times. Many don't survive it. Some of us are lucky and live long enough to come to the realization that we "might have a problem in our lives, caused by alcohol". But bear in mind... if a person has been a raving alcoholic for fifteen, twenty, thirty years... they're not going to "get all better" in the space of a long weekend. Or a 28 day detox program. Just like a man who walks 25 miles into the woods, it's gonna take 25 miles to walk back out again. But each day, he'll be a little less deep into those woods. The whole end game is to learn to live a normal, rational life.

Even those of us who for some reason, may be genetically pre-disposed towards alcoholism (I happen to believe that this disease is largely hereditary...), it does not mean that we have no control over the choices we make. Nor does it mean that we should be treated any differently, when it comes to being held accountable for our actions, I might add. Drunkenness ought never be used as a mitigating circumstance, in the judging or sentencing of a person charged with criminal acts. To do so is to absolve them of their behaviour, which in turn only encourages the continuance of same. Remember, a person has to make the conscious decision to have that first drink. In doing so, they have no choice but to take responsibility for everything that might occur afterwards.

Our court system is notorious for the aiding and abetting of such criminals. Our judges have become classic enablers, as has our society in general. The only reason I could ever see for this remaining so, is that there are far too many practicing alcoholics within our judiciary. That's right... the ranks of those who write and enforce our laws in this country...? Full of drunks!!! There is no other reason for it... Instances where individuals have wanted to sue a party host or a bar, because some drunk had left there intoxicated and subsequently taken someone else's life? Utter horseshit! A bar is not responsible for an individual's behaviour. If bars stopped serving patrons when they were legally drunk, they'd go out of business, plain and simple. Is it their responsibility as to "when to say when"? Absolutely not. That responsibility is completely up to their patron. It always has been. This is just another example of a society which wants to hang responsibility for it's actions on anyone else but themselves. It's as stupid and ludicrous as a group or an individual wanting to sue a gun manufacturer, because one of their loved ones was offed by one of Samuel Colt's fine products. It's time to grow up, kids...

But back to this non-smoking thing. I had always been of the opinion that it was something that I 'couldn't do'. It was with great trepidation that I considered stopping. Initially, part of you grieves the 'loss of this longtime friend'. For as strange as it sounds, it's true. But in the end, I had just gotten mad. I was sick and tired of not being able to breathe properly, of that hacking cough I had developed, of the time that I found myself devoting to this particular pursuit. But most of all, I hated how powerless subjugating myself to this addiction made me feel. I had finally had enough and it was at that juncture that I decided: "Okay... time to stop". It was that simple. My time had come.

My biggest problem...? Finding stuff to do during those times of the day, when I would normally be smoking. I had to think of it for a bit at first. Breaks at work here, I would maybe go outside for a short walk around the block, just to change the air in my lungs. I did find myself snacking more than usual. I went from a 34 waist to a 36 (I'm still friggin' there...*Sigh!*), but that's also because I've become far too sedentary these days. I literally have to get off my ass and do something about it. And I will, I'm sure. After all, even though I might be able to convince myself that I deserve a whole new wardrobe for having quit smoking, there's no way I could afford or justify the cost. Besides, all that money would be better spent getting my ass down South during the winter time. For the longest time, I was convinced that I would also have to give up coffee and tea, as these were always two of my biggest 'triggers' when it came to wanting to light up a smoke. Turns out I can still enjoy both nowadays, without feeling the need for a cigarette.

So for any of you who might be of the same mindset that I was... For those of you toying with the idea of quitting but still unsure as to whether or not you can do it... Rest assured, you absolutely can. If the time is right for you, you will know it. Don't attempt it because some has nagged you into it. Don't attempt it "because if you really love me"... Don't attempt it simply because "look at these insurance rates for non-smokers"... Don't attempt it because that really, really hot new chick at work despises smokers... Just do it because you're ready to and you want to stop. I guarantee you it will work for you this time around...

Have faith in yourself. You're much stronger than you think.

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