Happy new year, y’all. I hope that 2018 treated you decently and that 2019 treats you even better.
There are many traditions associated with the arrival of a new year, most of which involve food. The one I observed for most of my life involved black eyed peas, collard greens, and cornbread. Last year I had to make a slight compromise, substituting Hoppin’ John for straight black eyed peas. What can I tell you? It was the only restaurant open in Beaufort, and it was a dive.
One tradition that I no longer engage in is the practice of making New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve made plenty of them over the decades, but I’ve only ever kept one. One year, I made a resolution to dispense with low-to-medium quality booze, and to drink only top-shelf Scotch whisky. Not only was I able to keep that resolution that year, but I kept it for many years thereafter. All the other resolutions fell by the wayside.
Most of the significant changes I’ve made were not as a result of a New Year’s Resolution. I did not wake up one January 1 and say, “Hey, this would be a good year to get married. I think I’ll make that a resolution.” No, it happened in a completely different way.
The same holds true for giving up the tobacco habit. I have known since before I picked up the evil weed in high school that smoking was not good for one’s health. That, of course, is the problem with highly addictive substances. You know they are bad for you, yet for some reason, you try them. After that, you get hooked. And I was hooked on tobacco. I came up with all sorts of justifications. I reasoned that most people have addictions of one sort or another, and the tobacco addiction was cheaper than heroin. (I’m not really sure that is true any longer.) How bad can the product be, given that it is still legal to sell in stores? On and on came the justifications, but in the back of my mind, I knew that one day I would have to give it up.
I tried several times to quit smoking. My most successful attempt lasted nearly 14 hours. I was well and truly hooked.
Several years ago I planned a trip to Australia. After combing through the airline schedules, I decided the best thing to do would be to fly to San Francisco, overnight with my daughter Katie, and then leave for Sydney from San Francisco. Under the best of circumstances, that would require me to go 19 hours without a smoke. With a little bad weather and other delays (for example, customs and immigration control), I could find myself without tobacco for 24 hours.
There was no way I could go that long without a smoke, knowing that one was waiting for me at the end of the flight. That old 747 would be putting down on some tropical island, the police or military would board the plane and haul me off for tampering with (i.e., destroying) the smoke detector in the lavatory. I would to this very day be languishing in some tropical paradise, making license plates, or picking up coconuts, or serving some other kind of punishment.
No, in order to make that trip, I had to quit for good. And I knew just how to do it.
In the summer of 2006, Chemical and Engineering News (a weekly publication of the American Chemical Society) ran a special report on methodologies for treating addictions of various types. I flipped over to the nicotine addiction report. It was dismal. Of all the treatments, the most successful had a one-year success rate of 20%. Although 20% is not a great success rate, it was the best option available, and I took it. And thus I chose Chantix, a smoking cessation product from Pfizer Labs.
My doctor was ecstatic, and told me that if I was serious about quitting smoking, I should take Chantix for three or four months. I agreed. That is, I agreed until I filled the prescription, and learned that my so-called health insurance would not cover any of the price of the medication. And a month’s prescription for Chantix was not exactly pocket change.
I started on Chantix about three weeks before the trip, and then had to make a decision. I would run out of the first month’s supply while in Australia. Thus, before taking the trip, I would have to decide whether to get the second month’s supply, or take a chance that I could make it after only one month on the drug. I took a chance, didn’t refill the prescription, ran out while in Australia, and never smoked again.
In retrospect, I believe the important element was the real desire to quit smoking, a desire I did not have in the past. I probably could have quit without Chantix, given that my mind was in the right place.
So, I do not make resolutions for the new year. This is not to say that I don’t have goals to achieve. One goal is to be a bit more regular in posting these blogs. I’m not making any promises nor taking any vows, but I will make an honest effort.
I hope you enjoyed your black eyed peas, collard greens, and cornbread!