I remember the first time as if it were yesterday. I was sitting at my desk in Grand Junction, CO. It was sometime in 1984 and I'd been with ITT Financial Services for a little over a year, working as a consumer loan officer. I was hired straight out of college in January, 1983, spending 10 months as a manager trainee in Great Falls, MT. before being promoted to my first manager position in Craig, CO. By 1984, the economy had gotten really bad on the " western slope " , as it's known in Colorado, due to the collapse of oil production and the after-effects of the nation-wide recession. By then, ITT had closed the Craig office, transferred all the accounts, including me, to the Grand Junction office, the epicenter of the oil shale economy that had been nearly destroyed. As manager, I was in charge of the 2nd largest location in the entire state of CO., with only Englewood, CO. being larger. My office's loan delinquency was nearly 20%, charge-offs were approaching 10%, our loan customers were being laid off left and right, unemployment had run out for some, and my patience was wearing thin. Needless to say, I was stressed to the max.
My regional manager from Minnesota was making her rounds around the state during that time and was in my office that particular day, and boy was it " one of those days. " My staff and I had been busy all morning making collection calls, people we talked with were mad at us, I was pissed because of it, and so was my regional manager. That's when she sat right across my desk and " lit up. " I remember asking her, "What is it about those things that make you smoke them?" I'll never forget what she said, "They help me relax." BAM. I said, "Give me that, I want to see for myself!" The rest, as they say, is history.
As I sit here typing today, over 26 years later after that day, I remember what my sisters said when they found out I smoked. They couldn't believe it, after all, I was the one who used to snatch those butts out of their mouths when one of them lit up and instantly crushing it. And here I was guilty of the very thing I so despised at one time! I mean seriously, here was a guy who was very athletic in high school, playing football and basketball and, had I not tore up my knee my senior year, would have gone on to play Division II football for Northern Arizona University since they'd offered me a scholarship.
For years, I never gave this nasty habit a second thought. In fact, it's become literally a part of my life, an extension of my daily activities. It's really quite sad when I think about it. But now, nearly 2 ½ years after giving up alcohol completely, and I mean complete, not even a drop, I'm about to make a similar decision with cigarettes. Frankly, this decision is long overdue.
At this point, you may be wondering. Why now? Why haven't I done this before? Everyone knows it's bad for your health, why have you taken so long? Frankly, I've never given it really serious thought until just the past few months. Oh sure, when I moved to SoCal this past March, I had every intention of quitting, knowing (or at least deluding myself into thinking) that a change of scenery and environment would be a huge plus. In fact, shortly after I arrived here in March I did make an attempt at quitting, even getting a prescription for Chantix, the latest and greatest cure for this nasty habit. Alas, Chantix didn't "take", in fact I hate that stuff, the side effects are a drag (no pun intended!) And perhaps I just wasn't mentally prepared for that drastic of a change, especially since I'd already made a HUGE one in coming here to begin with!
The obvious reason of course, is for my own good. I'd rather die from natural causes than something self-inflicted like booze or cigs. There are other reasons, but one stands out the most. To preserve and perpetuate the beautiful relationship I've developed over the past few months with the woman I love. Allow me to emphasize this though, irrespective of where this relationship is headed, I know that this is something I have to do for my health, first and foremost.
So, after reflecting on a course of action and after visiting with the counselor yesterday, the one I met this past July, I'm going to take the same "steps" with this addiction as I did with alcohol. One day at a time. Like alcohol, it comes down to a choice. Unlike that addiction though, where I put myself in a corner in which the only way out to freedom was abstinence, the goal here is somewhat different. In this case, abstinence means more than just freedom. This one, I'm attacking more than just because I HAVE to, though obviously that wasn't the only reason, my life was at stake, too. It's because I WANT to. Either way, "change" of any kind, especially big ones we make in our lives like the one I'm facing, comes with no guarantees. I have to keep in mind always that although my goal is set, expecting it to happen without fail is a recipe for disappointment. Still, I remain steadfast, strong, and positive. And for you readers, those who know me well, when I set my mind on something, I go all in and I play for keeps. Nothing in life worth striving for, including our health, our families, and the people we love the most, deserve any less.