Thursday, 19 December 2013

It's That Time of Year Again

We're hurtling towards 'Change your calendar or look cheap' day. Or January 1st depending on your mood.  It's that time of year where enforced jollity and gluttony will give way to guilt and an empty wallet.  That's when it's time to make silly promises to yourself: a month of no drinking, cutting down chocolate, going vegetarian, other half hearted 'resolutions.'  Maybe even the doozy, the Big Kahuna: detox.  The trouble is it won't really be a detox.  You'll replace a couple of lattes with green tea and an extra glass of water, you'll carry on eating bread but you might have a salad with a few added goji berries or whatever else is fashionable.  True detox is painful and disgusting, the body likes its little addictions to sugar and caffeine and will punish you for depriving it of a fix.  Headaches and bad breath are the least of your worries and you'll still pop the ibuprofen to keep aches at bay, defeating the object.

So there we go, a couple of weeks without a Dairy Milk before you cave in and gorge on unseasonably early Creme Eggs (don't worry, they'll be on special offer) maybe 'just one' glass of wine, perhaps you'll give yourself a night off from spin class and the treadmill 'just this once'.  Whatever it is there will always be something chipping away at the good intention. Maybe you'll dig your heels in and go for the ultimate in New Year's Resolutions and give up smoking.

I'm a smoker, not an ex-smoker.  I'm a smoker.  On hiatus, I don't think you can ever be an 'ex-smoker.'  My relationship with nicotine has lasted half my life yet this break came abruptly.  I didn't resolve to give up.  I just stopped smoking.  OK, so there was a hangover that lasted three days and fully earned its 'epic' tag but that's just circumstance.  As my body revolted against imbibing I couldn't face having a cigarette, my stomach couldn't face that kickstart and it occurred to my fogged mind that I had no craving for the deathstick.  In fact I hadn't knowingly thought about a cigarette let alone having a smoke.  So that was that, no need to go to the corner shop, no need to wonder who nicked my lighter, no need to have emergency matches.  No need to say 'keep an eye on me pint, I'm going for a faaaaag.'

Giving up helps you live longer, or does it just seem like longer? Was that George Bernard Shaw? If Jed Bartlet doesn't know, how the bloody Hell should I?  What I do know is that I don't really miss it.  I do miss not being able to get into a pair of 28" jeans.  I don't miss the stone and a half I've put on as I graze the sweetie jar a little too much.  Almost constant gum chewing accompanies the now perpetual cold I endure but I can smell and taste more.  Sometimes a blessing as fruit is rediscovered; sometimes a curse as August journeys on the Northern Line take their toll.  I do miss the feeling of  a billion black stars exploding in my bloodstream, the chemical warmth flooding my body, the kohl supernova as nicotine infused blood reaches the heart.  I  do miss the pleasant lightheadedness of the morning's pre-breakfast B&H unravelling the muscles and feeding the receptors created in my brain.  I miss watching the blueish white smoke curl and crawl into frosty air, wisping towards leafless trees.  I associate smoking almost exclusively with winter.  Despite this, I wonder if I ever actually enjoyed smoking or if it was just a habit.  There would be that first cigarette in 24 hours that would floor you, raising the blood pressure and greening the gills.  I don't miss the lonely walk to the smoking area.  I don't miss the disapproving looks outside the hospital or the shopping centre.  I don't miss the cigarettes annoying ability to fill your eyes with stinging smoke.  The smell of cigarettes is horrible, the yellow fingers are repulsive, the price of a twenty deck is forbidding and yet they still appeal.

I stopped smoking without patches, without e-cigarettes or even gum.  I bought nicotine gum 'just in case.'  The stuff is vile.  It's flavour is what I imagine an ashtray would taste like and it attacks the gums like a feverish jalapeno begging to be spat out.  There have been lapses, drunken of course, as I've let myself have two and half fagerettes in just shy of a year.  Pretty good seeing that I went through upward of 30 a day way back when.  You can add another 20 deck to that if it was a long night out and about.

So don't bother with resolutions.  It'll just be another wasted gym membership.  Just do what you want.  If that means you stop drinking or deepthroating Mars bars then stop.  Get help if you need to but don't do it because you ought; do it because you want to. It'll never work otherwise.