Making-and breaking-New Year's resolutions is a grand ol' American tradition. We make all sorts of glorious promises to our families, and ourselves, of the wondrous things we'll accomplish in the New Year, or of the bad habits we'll drop from our repertoire of behavior patterns. Yeah, right!
Typically, by the time the first live coverage of the Rose Parade, or maybe one of the many bowl games, has ended, most of those well-intended resolutions have already ended up in the dumpster, along with trash bags filled with ribbons and shredded and torn gift wrapping paper.
I'm certainly as guilty as nearly anyone on the face of this planet is when it comes to making, and promptly breaking, New Year's resolutions. If I'd kept a list of my broken resolutions from years past, I could easily fill this entire page. Honestly, in recent years, I haven't even bothered with that hoary tradition.
Well, this year I made one New Year's resolution, and it's one that I intend to keep! I QUIT!
Smoking, that is. Well, to be entirely truthful about it, I'm trying to quit. Maybe when a couple of years have gone by I'll feel that I can legitimately, positively, say that I have (with an emphasis on the past tense) quit smoking. For now I'll stick with a more realistic "I'm in the process of quitting," or, "I'm trying to quit."
I started smoking in high school. Back then, it was a cool thing to do. Smoking made you think that you looked more grown up. Smokers weren't ostracized, and they weren't forbidden from indulging in public places. There were even smoking sections on airplanes!
I never turned into a really hardcore smoker; no multi-pack a day habit. But, I'd still go through most of a pack per day. There were periods where I eased away from the cigarettes in favor of cigars and/or pipes (I have a collection of at least two dozen very nice, top-quality meerschaums, a couple of which are worth several thousand bucks each). I truly enjoyed puffing away on a good cigar once in a while. For me, smoking a pipe was a relaxing, contemplative thing to do; kicking back with a good book, a snifter of cognac, a glass of good single malt scotch; or some well-aged cabernet or Merlot; was a marvelous way to spend an hour or two when alone. Ultimately, I'd always end up back with the cigarettes.
As middle age has caught up with me, I've become more and more aware of a shortness of breathe when exercising. I'd really notice it when I'd get away for a few days of camping and hiking in my favorite place, Sequoia National Park. Gasping and wheezing takes some of the fun out of backcountry treks.
Then there was that occasional but persistent little tickle in the back of my throat. Hell, a smoker's cough is a smoker's cough.
Deep inside, I've known that I should quit. I've known that for years. I've known that smoking was hazardous to my health, and hazardous to the health of anyone around me. I wouldn't smoke in the house, wouldn't smoke in a car when my son or a girlfriend was with me-and still wouldn't admit to myself that I had a problem. Denial (no, not de river in Egypt) is a marvelous thing. You lie to yourself, you know you're lying to yourself, and you keep on doing it.
Some of the BS excuses I've fed myself, reasons not to quit, have been ludicrous: I'm getting overweight already, and people gain weight when they quit smoking, so I can't quit smoking right now. Hey, self! Ya ever heard of exercising on a regular basis? Or laying off of some of the junk food? (Nah, that's too logical; it makes sense). Or, I've already lit one up today, I'll try to stop tomorrow...or next week...or one of these days. Meanwhile, I'd keep on stinking up my car, screwing around with my health, and throwing away $50-70 a month on my stupid habit.