THERE THEY are, my friends and companions over the past two-and-a-half decades, winking at me seductively. Today I am trying to say goodbye, a decision that has been creeping up on me very gradually, gaining a tentative foothold, without managing to add conviction to desire. Breaking longstanding habits is always difficult, but some require a particularly powerful effort to shake off.
The first attempt proved to be an unqualified failure, temptation as strong as ever, easily manipulating my malleable spirit, too weak to resist. From here onwards, every day will be Groundhog Day, one endless sequence of ‘Waterloos’. I will wake up and try again, and again. After all, Rome was not built in a day either, I whisper to myself encouragingly.
In truth, the mind is willing, the body and heart are not. Cravings, loneliness, thought association and memories are mighty monsters, enemies not to be dismissed lightly. But I am, I think, determined to continue the fight.
Another morning – how many more will there be? Old scriptures, prophecies, harbingers of doom – is fate finally taking its course, rendering my endeavour futile in its purpose?
Islam is on a direct collision course with Christianity, cartoons outrage the masses, our leaders are forcing a hand that should be treated with the utmost care. Iran is not Iraq, we are looking at a far more dangerous beast, potentially the end. Instability and chaos beckon, and I … I worry about my personal demons – rhyme or reason, I’m not so sure.
Need I concern myself with tomorrow? Time will tell. For now, global considerations will not deflect me from my quest – I must triumph in the face of adversity, no matter that the world is crumbling before my eyes. Excuses will no longer serve.
The nights are particularly testing. Alcohol is a double-edged sword, a seductress in her own right, fostering carefree abandonment, followed by abject paralysis at dawn. It is a vicious circle offering little room for manoeuvre. And yet, I will escape from its vice-like grip.
The weekend and getting past coffee may herald a first step forward, that’s if I had some left. Coffee has become expensive, hasn’t it? The decent brands, anyway. This sorry state of affairs could turn out to be a blessing in disguise – no pick-me-up, no throw-me-backs, I say; just got to go on believing in the theory now. If this doesn’t work, I will seek professional help in the form of an acclaimed book, the spectacular sales of which have made at least its author a happy person. But not yet – I have a new ally who is young, beautiful and bursting with vitality. I feel my resolve strengthening once more. Into the breach, my friends! When I leave the house, my vice will stay behind – I WILL survive.
Things are looking up. I have been immune for over four hours, free of cravings, before auto-suggestion sets in. The calendar tells me its Wednesday, over a week has passed since my crusade began. My personal deadline is next Tuesday; I intend to be free very soon. Tomorrow I will go without altogether, despite a pressing social engagement in the evening. Testing times indeed! “I miss you,” I say, and no one answers. All the more reason to persevere, to prove to myself what I have always known – I am ultimately capable of being alone.
‘That’ Tuesday has arrived, a special day because I intend it to be the first day of the rest of my life – a St. Valentine’s Day massacre in reverse, if you like. Last night, at 11pm, I finally wrapped my head around the idea that I was shortly going to slip the leash, escape slavery and emerge a free and healthier human being – someone no longer addicted to the brainwashing effects of some very subtle global conspiracy. I am hopeful and optimistic – OK, it’s only 9am, and this is to be my first entirely ‘clean’ day, but we shall see …
6.30pm … Resisted an almost supernatural urge to hide away and succumb, twice.
Once, when my supposed source of happiness informed me that her ex is very much back in the picture (Happy Valentine’s Day to you too) and, the second time, for no other reason than briefly allowing myself to forget what I am trying to achieve. I am trying to become a more relaxed, confident, less dependant, healthy me. Someone who is no longer so incredibly stupid as to pay through the nose to slowly poison myself until I die, without deriving any sort of real enjoyment from doing it other than delusional self-deception.
Don’t misunderstand, I really have nothing against the idea of killing myself prematurely, but I want to at least be able to justify such a course of action by being able to say: “Hey, in the greater scheme of things, the trade-off was worthwhile” or “I enjoyed the ride, it was great!” Now, if you are a smoker and not in the company of your little friend already, light a cigarette. Have a good, good taste, smell what that cigarette smells like. If your answer is anything other than horrible, you are lying to yourself. Think back to your opinions about cigarettes prior to becoming a smoker, imagine the feelings and perceptions of those who we are with who do not smoke. After almost 25 years of unrepentant abuse, self-justification and sheer stupidity, I am preparing to face a better life – approximately 250,000 white little tobacco sticks after my first one on Corfu in Greece and roughly 20,000 euros the poorer.
Incredible really, like awaking from a bad dream. Having now thought all this through, I cannot possibly continue as before – I might as well shoot myself straight away. And even if I should fail for some reason now, I will try and try again. As I am writing these lines, the British government has just passed the motion to ban smoking in all public places by an overwhelming majority. Such hypocrisy is not for me. Had there not been cigarettes readily available, I would never have started puffing them. Cigarettes kill. Cigarettes generate huge amounts of revenue in tax. Therein lies the dichotomy. Greed and stupidity rule the world and pull us, the individuals, with them – until we open our eyes and make the conscious decision to swim against the flow, to believe in ourselves, to live.
P.S. I’ll keep you informed how the fight with my personal demons is coming along. As in Goethe’s Faust, I am that power which is constantly seeking out evil, only to end up doing good. As this is going to print, a slight relapse has once again demonstrated that I am only human – but, and this is a big BUT, I feel I have crossed a major bridge. My deliberations have had the effect that I no longer feel the compulsion to smoke. I am the master, no longer the slave. My next attempt at a complete cure is predestined to be crowned with success!
by SKIP BANDELE