I am trying to get back into some sort of rhythm or routine with writing but life keeps intervening. First it was a week or two of computer issues, then the craziness of the holiday, and now…..sick. A cold, my first (I think) since I retired. Which is remarkable seen that the cold germ and I were deeply entrenched in a steamy toxic relationship for years – stress, long hours, and exhaustion provided a vile cocktail that would feed the germ and drag me down. It seemed that I would just be clearing the cough of one cold when another would slide into me. And even though I do have a cold, it is not the same as the old days; being able to stay home and to sit and rest makes all the difference in the world. But even though it is not dragging me to one of Dante’s levels of hell, it is still unpleasant and disruptive.

I do have to add, the fact that I was a smoker certainly contributed to the depths and severity of the colds I caught. I had my first cigarette around age 14 I think, and really never looked back. It ws intermittent at first but by age 19 or so, I was smoking every day. At its worst, I would do two packs in a day – hard to even type that it is so embarrassing – but it is true. It was the single most insidious addiction I think could ever plague a human. The habit required careful planning to ensure I would not run out of the 20 little precious monkeys destined for my back. Storms required advance purchases to ensure I’d have enough to tide me over. Trips were difficult as smoking became less and less tolerated in public. I recall taking a airplane trip and being able to smoke in my seat in the plane. And then I remember a layover in Philadelphia and I had to leave the airport and go outside to have a smoke, then go through all the security lines all over again. Insidious.

I can’t tell you how creative I could be in finding places to sneak a smoke. And I hated every minute of it. I hated the lack of self-control; hated the grip it had on me. Yet on I smoked. Through my 30’s and 40’s and into my 50’s. Don’t get me wrong, I remained fit – ran, hiked, and so on. But I smoked, like the proverbial chimney, for years. I did quit though – five or six times. But could not seem to make it hold – there was always an excuse, a reason, to go back to smoking. And I loathed myself for it; absolutely hated the grip in which it held me. I got myself down to fewer and fewer each day until it was just two, and then, just one. And on my 57th birthday, I finally loosed the grip in which the habit had held me for over 40 years and I stopped altogether.

Over the last years since I did quit, I’ve watched friends who still smoke literally run out the gates at work at break time and lunch time so they could have a smoke. And every time I saw it I felt a pang of empathy for them, knowing all too well the demon driving them and the self-disappointment in yielding to it once again. Rain, snow, cold, blazing heat – it mattered not – out they went to scratch that itch.

I am so glad to be done with it; I used to dream of a time when my actions would not be driven by nicotine craving and never believed that the day would come. There is some measure of freedom from quitting, some sense of pride, but still some sense of shame that I let it happen to myself for so long. And of course, the health side of the equation. You simply can’t smoke for almost 50 years and not have it affect your health; it may well be the reason I am on high blood pressure medication. So far (knock on wood) the BP is the only impact of which I am aware. And I pray it stays that way; I worry about heart damage and lung damage but happily so far neither has manifested any issues.

It is difficult for me to imagine someone more addicted than was I; perhaps there are others, but I can tell you that I was really bad. And we are now coming up on 7years without a cigarette; no slips, no sneaks – done and done. And if I could do it, so can you. Whether that mean cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, or whatever – YOU can take control of your life again and defeat the demon. It is not easy and it is not quick; it is a minute by minute, day in and day out battle for a very long time until you walk out the other side addiction free. But it can be done. As long as you want to end it, as long as you want to be free of it, you can. But you have to want to; if you are doing it because your wife or brother or mother is telling you that you need to quit, you will likely not succeed; you have to quit because YOU want to quit.

And this concept is not limited to a quitting bad habit, quite the contrary – you can apply the same effort and reap the same rewards to anything you wish to change about yourself: weight loss, better fitness, education are all examples of changes you can make in yourself for the good.  They all require commitment and of course that starts with wanting to make the change. The power is within you dear reader – the depth of resolve of the human spirit is incredible. I hope you find the resolve to change something in your life and I wish you great success in doing it.

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