Monday, January 25, 2010

Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em

I thought I’d give politics a rest this week.

I’m sick of the health care mess and there doesn’t seem to be any point in talking about the General Assembly until they start getting serious about what they are going to cut to make the budget balance.

So I thought I’d talk about something more personal.

Over the last several weeks I’ve been trying to quit smoking.

That’s sort of a big deal for me. I’ve smoked for nearly 40 years, since I was 12 years old. This is the first time I’ve ever tried to quit.

Well, voluntarily tired to quit. They didn’t let us smoke for the first week of basic training in the Air Force. When they finally said “Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em,” I inhaled the first in one long drag.

I’m not really trying to quit because of the health benefits. It’s not like I haven’t known about those for the last 30 years. It’s not like my daughter, now a sophomore in college hasn’t routinely been nagging me to stop smoking since she was in kindergarten.

There are really two factors that are moving me toward quitting.

First both my wife, Mary, and my Gazette colleague Cortney Langley – who’s been my smoking buddy for the last two years -- have recently quit. Mary’s been more successful than Cortney.

I’ve known lots of smokers who’ve tried to quit. I knew it was hard. I have a friend who’s been “quitting smoking” for the past ten years. He still smokes.

So, doubting that either could really quit, I brashly told Mary and Cortney that, if they both quit I would.

They did (sort of). So I’m trying.

I don’t think I would have tried if not for the advent of anti-smoking drugs. I hate those commercials that push prescription drugs directly to the public, so I won’t mention the name. I’m taking the same drug Mary took. She said for her, it made quitting easy.

I can’t say it’s made it easy for me, but I can see how it can work. It makes cigarettes taste bad and blocks the nicotine hit that you normally get from cigarettes. All that’s left is habit.

But habit can be a hard thing to break. Typically when I’m stuck on a story and need to think of what to write next I go out and smoke a cigarette. Friday, I found myself doing that several times, before I realized I didn’t have a cigarette. Panic time. Eventually, I broke down and went and bought a pack.

I don’t feel too guilty. I’m down from two packs a day to two or three cigarettes a day. I think this is going to work. No one could be more surprised than I am.

The reason I’ve never tried to quit before is that, unlike a lot of people who smoke, I really liked it. What really convinced me that quitting would be a good idea and why I’m committed to keep trying now is that I’m tired of being a pariah.

I’ve been standing outside in the cold at work for the last 20 years to smoke. I could deal with that. But I’m already tired, after only two months, of getting up from my table at the restaurant to go smoke a cigarette.

I’m tired of being made to feel like a low-life drug addict. Even if my nicotine addiction does qualify me for the title.

And I’m sure the climate for smokers isn’t gong to get any more welcoming. Some cities and states are considering regulating outside smoking.

So, if I quit smoking, I figure I’ll have one less thing to be aggravated about.

Which, judging by how grumpy I’ve been since I’ve started trying to quit, doesn’t mean I won’t be aggravated anyway.

I’m beginning to think that I’ve been self-medicating for 40 years to make myself barely acceptable in polite society. It could be that my real personality isn’t all that nice.

However my co-workers assure me that I wasn’t really nice even when I was smoking.

When I noted that the anti-smoking drug sort of eliminated the filter between what I thought and what I said, police reporter Amanda Kerr inferred that I’d never had one nayway..

“I really haven’t noticed much of a difference,” she said.

It’s nice to have a support system.

Hopefully, I’ll totally wean myself off the smokes over the next two weeks. Hopefully, that won’t involve me gaining 200 pounds from biting peoples’ heads off.

And, hey, I guess being permanently grumpy is sort of a professional advantage in my business anyway.

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