GIVING UP, NOT IN – Marilyn Armstrong

I almost quit any number of times. I didn’t smoke a lot. Less than a pack a day and eventually I got it down to five or six a day and sometimes less. The problem with cigarettes is that one day, for no special reason, you realize you smoked an entire pack. You just sort of forgot you had quit.

In my long and checkered professional career, I had many bosses. One of them had, in a former life, been addicted to heroin. It wasn’t a secret. We all knew because he told us. I had the feeling he was proud of having kicked drugs and was now the owner of a software development company. I asked him how he did it, how he got free of his addiction.

“You know,” he said, “It really wasn’t as hard as you might think. Mostly, I had to get away from the people, from other junkies, and the world of drugs. After I stopped hanging out with those people, getting off drugs was relatively easy. It’s the culture that pulls you in even more than the drugs.”

“I wish,” he continued, a touch of wistfulness in his voice, “It was as easy to kick cigarettes. When you hang out with junkies, you know it’s illegal. You sneak around. You are careful. But cigarettes? No problem. They’re legal. Grab a buddy and go for a smoke. It’s a social thing.

“You don’t hear heroin addicts saying to each other ‘Hey, anyone want to go out back and shoot up?’ but you can stop by another smoker’s desk and say … ‘Hey, want to go have a butt?’

“I’ve had a much harder time quitting smoking than I had quitting heroin. Much harder,” he said and reached for the pack of cigarettes in his pocket. He did soon thereafter, quit. He decided having kicked narcotics, he could kick cigarettes too. So he did.

I was a smoker myself, then. I had been trying to quit for years. I’d quit, then I’d be somewhere where other smokers worked. I’d get sucked into it. It wasn’t the physical addiction that lured me. I understood how bad it was for my health, disastrous to my budget and getting more costly each day. It made my clothing and hair smell like a dirty ashtray. It was the social connection that got me. Hanging out with other smokers. The rhythm of smoking. I’d write, then take a break, grab a smoke. It was part of my process.

I was never as heavy a smoker other people I knew. I lit many more cigarettes than I smoked. But I enjoyed smoking. I liked the smell of fresh tobacco. I liked standing outside on a crisp night, watching my smoke curl up and away into the sky.

I did a lot of my thinking on cigarette breaks. When I was writing, if I was stuck, I’d have a smoke. By the time I was halfway through it, I’d know what I was going to do and how I would do it.

Smoking-Burning-CigaretteIt took me years of quitting, backsliding, and quitting again before it finally “stuck.” Years before the smell of tobacco brought back memories without triggering a desire to smoke.

I am sure today, after more than ten years if I were to smoke one cigarette, I’d be a smoker. Again. It’s not unlike being an alcoholic. One drink and you’re a drunk again.

It’s not because I’m physically addicted. After all these years of not smoking, I’m obviously not addicted to nicotine, if I ever was. Yet on some level, I will always be addicted to cigarettes.

It would probably be easier to quit now since most offices are smoke-free. That being said, it’s not that I don’t want a cigarette. I just don’t smoke.

MY SUNDAY HOMILY – RICH PASCHALL

A sermon on smoking and other pastimes by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

From time to time I think about this topic, but rarely come to the lectern to speak about it. If you have been attending Sunday services here at the House of SERENDIPITY, you may recall I spoke about Betty, a friend and co-author of a play (Liberation).

Emphysema robbed her of her breath. She was a chain smoker throughout the years I knew her. I also recalled the time I received a text message from a cousin to advise me that the husband of one of our many cousins had passed away of throat cancer and various complications resulting from chemotherapy. He was 52 and had been a heavy smoker. I am saddened by the people who die so young.  Years ago, I would tell people that my parents gave up smoking.  My mother had a stroke and my father died of lung cancer.

cig and ashtray-1When you mention these things to smokers you may get one of the following excuses: “What difference does it make?  You have to die of something.”

Under this sort of thinking you might was well jump in front of a fast-moving train or jump off the Willis (aka Sears) Tower. Of course we are all going to die of something, someday. That does not mean we should try hard to cut this life short. I don’t even care if you think there is another life out there for you. Why would you willingly give up a sure thing — on a bet?

2.  “It will never happen to me.” I never thought I would have nerve damage in my foot and have difficulty moving about. I never thought someone in an 18-wheeler would  run me off the road and total my car, with me in it. I never thought the rich would wish to deny healthcare to the poor. You never know, so why take chances?

3.  “My uncle smoked a pack a day and nothing ever happened to him.” OK, some people win the Lotto too, but I would not count on that as passing down through the family. My father’s older brother smoked as much and perhaps more than my father ever did and he outlived my dad by a lot. Perhaps it was because he smoked a different brand. Perhaps it was because he had a better diet. Perhaps it was just dumb luck.

4.  “I’m going to quit. I just can’t do it right now.” I think I have heard this one the most. So when is the time going to come? Will it happen after you have lung cancer, throat cancer, or whatever? Do you remember Roger Ebert? Do you know what happened to him? He had part of his jaw removed.  He had to give up his popular television show. He had to wear a mask in public. He lost his voice. While you are waiting for the right time to quit, you can end up like that.

5. “I can quit anytime I want.” Really? Then why don’t you? No one is fooled. No one believes you. You don’t want to quit or you can’t quit. Either way, you should get help, buddy. I am as serious as a heart attack. Maybe not the heart attack you might have, but serious anyway. If you don’t give it up, then you are addicted or you don’t want to quit. If you are addicted, get help. Your friends and family will support you. If they won’t, avoid them. If you don’t want to quit, you are not living in the real world and watching the cancer statistics. Google “smoking deaths” or something like that and tell us what you get.

6.  “Everyone has some sort of vice.” I am not sure about that, but yes, a lot of people drink too much, do too many recreational drugs, have too much casual sex or something that may kill them. Is that a reason to do something that might kill you?

Since it is Sunday, I confess that I have not been an angel on earth. As I get older, however, I am more aware of the stupid stuff that can do me harm and try to avoid it if I can. What about you? This may be the last Sunday I am going to preach on this topic, although I will not promise that.

Anyway, if you did not get the point this time, go to church next Sunday and pray for guidance. Seriously.

THE LUSH, THE PLUSH, AND THE FALLING DOWN DRUNK

We watch a lot of old movies. We also have been following a CBC series called “The Murdoch Mysteries” which is a co-production with the BBC. In it and in almost all those old movies we love, everyone has a drink in his or her hand all the time. No matter what happens, from murder to emotional crisis, to epic human tragedy, to it simply being noon on a Thursday, the fix is simple. Drink. Have one. Have two. Just drink up, ladies and gents.

Freshen your glass?

It’s a testament to the change in attitude to “social” drinking that at least on media outlets, being a lush is no longer considered hilarious. The glories of drunkenness are no longer celebrated with quite the enthusiasm as in days of yore.

drinks table dinner

I’m not convinced this means anyone anywhere drinks less than they always have. They just drink less on television — and maybe, in the movies. Out in that surreal “real” world, I’m pretty sure everyone is still knocking them back with the same enthusiasm alcohol has always engendered. Some people really can stop any time they want. Many can’t.

If “sober” is a dirty word in your life and nobody understands how badly you need another drink right now? Maybe your bar tab exceeds half a month’s pay and the only people you know have their own “designated” seats at the bar or pub? If the number of empty bottles in your trash is getting embarrassing? If the word “lush” feel uncomfortably personal, maybe you’d like to lower your expenses by reducing how much you drink?

Consider dropping by the Alcoholics Anonymous® website. It’s free. This is a quiet, worthwhile organization which can help you.

You don’t have to go it alone. 

LUSH | THE DAILY POST

ON BEING A QUITTER

Originally written for The Happy Quitter, March 7, 2015.

ON BEING A QUITTER


In my long and checkered professional career, I had many bosses. One of them had, in a former life, been addicted to heroin. It wasn’t a secret. We all knew because he told us. I had the feeling he was proud of having kicked drugs and was now the owner of a software development company. I asked him how he did it, how he got free of his addiction.

“You know,” he said, “It really wasn’t as hard as you might think. Mostly, I had to get away from the people, from other junkies, and the whole world of drugs. After I stopped hanging out with those people, getting off drugs was pretty easy. It’s the culture that pulls you in, not so much the drugs.”

“I wish,” he continued, a touch of wistfulness in his voice, “It was as easy to kick cigarettes. When you hang out with junkies, you know it’s illegal. You sneak around. You are careful. But cigarettes? No problem. They’re legal. Grab a buddy and go for a smoke. It’s a social thing.

“You don’t hear heroin addicts saying to each other ‘Hey, anyone want to go out and shoot up?’ but you can stop by another smoker’s desk and say … ‘Hey, want to go have a butt?’

“I’ve had a much harder time quitting smoking than I had quitting heroin. Much harder,” he said, and reached for the pack of cigarettes in his pocket.

I was a smoker myself, then. I had been trying to quit off and on for years. I’d quit, then I’d be somewhere – usually an office – where other smokers worked. I’d get sucked into it. It wasn’t the physical addiction which lured me back to a habit I understood was harmful to my health, disastrous to my budget (and getting more costly each day). And made my clothing and hair stink of stale smoke. It was the social connection that got me. Hanging out with other smokers. The rhythm of smoking. I’d write, then take a break, grab a smoke. It was part of my process.

I was never as heavy a smoker other people I knew. I lit many more cigarettes, than I smoked. But I enjoyed smoking. I liked the smell of fresh tobacco. I liked standing outside on a crisp night, watching my smoke curl up and away into the sky.

I did a lot of my thinking on cigarette breaks. When I was writing, if I was stuck, I’d have a smoke. By the time I was halfway through it, I’d know what I was going to do and how I would do it.

Smoking-Burning-CigaretteIt took me years of quitting, backsliding, and quitting again before it finally “stuck.” Years before the smell of tobacco brought back memories without triggering an unbearable desire to smoke.

I am sure today, after eight? nine? years? If I were to smoke one cigarette, I’d be a smoker again. Instantly. It’s not because I’m physically addicted. After all these years of not smoking, I’m obviously not addicted to nicotine, if I ever was. Yet on some level, I will always be addicted to cigarettes.

It’s not that I don’t want a cigarette. I just don’t smoke.

HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY AND WELCOME TO OUR TOWN

It’s St. Patrick’s Day. If we still lived in Boston, there would be a lot of celebrating going on. Not the parade … they cancelled it this year because of all the snow. But every bar or pub, every fast food joint, would be serving something green. Bagel bakeries would be offering green bagels. Silly green hats would adorn the heads of many people who should know better.

Not around here. Nothing happening here. Nope, not a single thing. It’s just another chilly day in March.

Garry In Cong

Last night, late. We’re watching CSI. It’s late even for us (and we are not “early to bed, early to rise” people) because I’m backing up my photographic library to a new external hard drive. I didn’t expect it to take that long. I also didn’t realize I had 100,000 photographs. Okay, 99,487. Close enough.

72-Uxbridge-Snow-Roads_029

The show is a rerun. Newer ones aren’t great, but some of the original ones from the first seven years are pretty good. Before they swapped out most of the cast. Gary Dourdan was still playing Warrick Brown, a CSI Level 2 who has a gambling addiction.

72-Whitinsville-Downtown-Snow-Roads_028

I commented that if you have a gambling addiction, Las Vegas might not be your best choice of places to live. I then paused, and said “You know, I think the hardest addiction to deal with is food. You can not drink and that’s a healthy choice. You can not smoke and your body will thank you. You can avoid illegal and most legal drugs too. You’d be in better condition as a result. But food, you gotta eat, so you are going to be confronting the enemy every day, at least two or three times. Up close and personal.”

Benches on the Rumford

Garry started to laugh. “Not if you move here.” By which he meant Our Town.

I laughed too. “You’re right. Eventually, you give up hoping for a good meal and eating becomes something you do because you have to.”

“You can barely find a bar. I mean, how many bars are there in the area? Four? Maybe?”

“Maybe we could advertise Our Town as the cure for sin. Because whatever it is you are addicted to … sex, drugs, food, gambling? Not here. We have churches. Grocery stores.”

“Hairdressers,” I added.

“Fingernail salons,” Garry continued. “We are the cure for evil of all kinds.”

“A little weak on the entertainment front,” I acknowledged.

Tombstones cemetery Uxbridge

I thought about it. No movie theater. No really good restaurants. No casinos, strip clubs. No clubs of any kind. Not even a classy neighborhood bar. We have churches and good, clean, family activities. Beautiful scenery.

You can’t even shop till you drop because there aren’t any stores. It’s not because Walmart drove them away. We don’t have a Walmart. That’s a couple of towns over. Thing is, I don’t think we ever had much in the way of shopping.

75-LibraryGA-NK-5

You couldn’t commit adultery without everyone knowing in a nanosecond. I remember when I had lost a lot of weight. Garry and I went out to grab a hamburger. The next day, Garry got the third degree. “Who was that blond we saw you with? Where’s Marilyn?”

Poor Garry trying to explain that was Marilyn. Just thinner. And her hair is white, not blond.

So if you are struggling with gambling, sex or drug addiction, a lethal love of fine dining, or shopping mania? Come on over to Our Town. We don’t have any of that stuff here.

No kidding. We don’t.

QUITTING

Originally written for The Happy Quitter, published March 7, 2015. Today is my 68th birthday and quitting smoking was the best gift I ever gave myself. Time to talk about it. I’m surprised I’ve never written about it before now.


In my long and checkered professional career, I had many bosses. One of them had, in a former life, been addicted to heroin. It wasn’t a secret. We all knew. I had the feeling he was proud of having kicked drugs and was now the owner of a software development company. I asked him how he did it, how he got free of his addiction.

“You know,” he said, “It really wasn’t as hard as you might think. Mostly, I had to get away from the people, from other junkies and the whole world of drugs. After I stopped hanging out with those people, getting off drugs was pretty easy. It’s the culture that pulls you in, not so much the drugs.”

“I wish,” he continued, a touch of wistfulness in his voice, “it was as easy to kick cigarettes. When you hang out with junkies, you know it’s illegal. You sneak around. You are careful. But cigarettes? No problem. They’re legal. Grab a buddy and go for a smoke. It’s a social thing.

“You don’t hear heroin addicts saying to each other ‘Hey, anyone want to go out and shoot up?’ but you can stop by another smoker’s desk and say … ‘Hey, want to go have a butt?’

“I’ve had a much harder time quitting smoking than I had quitting heroin. Much harder,” he said, and reached for the pack of cigarettes in his pocket. I was a smoker myself, then. I had been trying to quit off and on for years. I’d quit, then I’d be somewhere – usually an office – where other smokers worked. I’d get sucked into it. It wasn’t the physical addiction which lured me back to a habit I understood was harmful to my health, disastrous to my budget (and getting more costly each day). And made my clothing and hair stink of stale smoke. It was the social connection that got me. Hanging out with other smokers. The rhythm of smoking. I’d write, then take a break, grab a smoke. It was part of my process.

I was never as heavy a smoker other people I knew. I lit many more cigarettes, than I smoked. But I enjoyed smoking. I liked the smell of fresh tobacco. On some level, I still do. I liked standing outside on a crisp night, watching my smoke curl up and away into the sky. I did a lot of my thinking on cigarette breaks. When I was writing, if I was stuck, I’d have a smoke. By the time I was halfway through it, I’d know what I was going to do and how I would do it.

Smoking-Burning-CigaretteIt took me years of quitting, backsliding, and quitting again before it finally “stuck.” Years before the smell of tobacco brought back memories without triggering an unbearable desire to smoke.

I am sure right now … after seven? eight? years since I quit for good that were I to smoke one cigarette, I’d be a smoker again. Instantly. It’s not because I’m physically addicted. After all these years of not smoking, I’m obviously not addicted to nicotine, if I ever was. Yet on some level, I will always be addicted to the habit of smoking.

It’s not that I don’t want a cigarette. I just don’t smoke.

SUNDAY IS FOR PREACHING

A sermon on smoking and other pastimes by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

I was thinking about this recently because of people who passed. A few weeks back I wrote about Betty, a friend and co-author of a play we worked on together (Liberation).  Emphysema robbed her of her breath. She was a chain smoker throughout the years I knew her. Then a few weeks ago I received a text message from a cousin to advise me that the husband of one of our many cousins had passed away of throat cancer and various complications resulting from chemotherapy. He was 52 and had been a heavy smoker. I am saddened by the people who die so young.

cig and ashtray-1When you mention these things to smokers you may get one of the following excuses:  “What difference does it make?  You have to die of something.” Under this sort of thinking you might was well jump in front of a fast-moving train or jump off the Willis (aka Sears) Tower. Yes, of course we are all going to die of something someday, that does not mean we should try hard to cut this life short. I don’t even care if you think there is another life out there for you anyway. Why would you willingly give up a sure thing on a bet?

2.  “It will never happen to me.” I never thought I would have nerve damage in my foot and have difficulty moving about. I never thought someone in an 18 wheeler would  run me off the road and total my car, with me in it. I never thought someone would beat me up and leave me bleeding a lot. I never thought the rich would wish to deny healthcare to the poor. You just never know, why take chances?

3.  “My uncle smoked a pack a day and nothing ever happened to him.” OK, some people win the Lotto too, but I would not count on that as passing down through the family. My father’s older brother smoked as much and perhaps more than my father ever did and he out lived my dad by a lot. Perhaps it was because he smoked a different brand. Perhaps it was because he had a better diet. Perhaps it was just dumb luck.

4.  “I’m going to quit. I just can’t do it right now.” I think I have heard this one the most. So when is the time going to come? Will it happen after you have lung cancer, throat cancer or whatever? Remember what happened to Roger Ebert? He had part of his jaw removed.  He had to give up his popular television show. He had to wear a mask in public. He lost his voice. While you are waiting for the right time to quit, you can end up like that.

5. “I can quit anytime I want.” Really? Then why don’t you? No one is fooled. No one believes you. You don’t want to quit or you can’t quit. Either way, you should get help, buddy. I am as serious as a heart attack. Maybe not the heart attack you might have, but serious anyway. If you don’t give it up, then you are addicted or you don’t want to quit. If you are addicted, get help. Your friends and family will support you. If they won’t, avoid them. If you don’t want to quit, you are not living in the real world and watching the cancer statistics. Google “smoking deaths” or something like that and tell us what you get.

6.  “Everyone has some sort of vice.” I am not sure about that, but yes, a lot of people drink too much, do too many recreational drugs, have too much casual sex or something that may kill them. Is that a reason to do something that might kill you?

Since it is Sunday, I confess that I have not been an angel on earth. As I get older, however, I am more aware of the stupid stuff that can do me harm and try to avoid it if I can. What about you? This is the only Sunday I am going to preach on this topic. If you did not get the point, go to church next Sunday and pray for guidance. Seriously.