I was once addicted to smoking. I knew it was wrong. But it seemed to provide the comfort I wanted. It took a heart attack to get me to quit the habit. Not my heart attack but my father’s. He got one for the both of us. Well, in a cruel sense it was karma because let’s face it, it was him that made me think smoking was cool in the first place.
“Do you smoke?” the doctor asked my dad after he was wheeled out of the ER where he was shot with a clot buster.
“I used to but I quit,” he replied.
“How long back did you quit?”
To his credit he did really quit. I guess the fear of losing your life is the biggest motivator there is. For me letting go was a lot harder. I had heard the first few days were tough but once you got over the hump it got easier. After a month I was still waiting for the hump and getting extremely irritable in the bargain.
It was around that time that Meg Whitman, running for Governor of California, was embroiled in an illegal immigrant scandal. Jose, my monthly house cleaner told me a couple of his friends are illegal immigrants. He told me how they left all their possessions behind when they crossed the border. They carried a few belongings that they couldn’t bear to leave behind but most of these too had to be dropped in the middle of nowhere lest they looked like obvious illegal immigrants. So much for letting go of a destructive habit. These folks were letting go of their whole past lives.
For the first few days after I quit I was preoccupied taking care of my dad. Withdrawal didn’t hit home till I returned home. The first few days I spent a lot of time watching TV like a zombie. I am so glad there is a ban on cigarette ads on TV. Otherwise I am sure I would have crumbled. After this initial period of self loathing I decided I had to replace my nicotine addiction with something worthwhile . I went through a flurry of after work activities like cooking and working out before finally settling on learning to play a musical instrument. I settled on a saxophone. Hey, Clinton made it look sexy, ok?
I had to drive half an hour to the closest store that carried any saxophones. I bought an alto saxophone. After a few days of watching all kinds of instructional videos online I was still making strange sounds and I was acutely conscious of the looks my neighbors started giving me. I decided to enroll in a class.
Let me go on record that learning to play a sax is as unglamorous as it sounds. At least my Es and Fs sound distinct now.
I hope Jose’s friends occasionally get to connect with family they left behind.
I play my sax once in a while, mostly to entertain dinner guests with my rendition of The Star Spangled Banner, but it is more of a novelty showpiece at this time.
I wonder if I am truly over my addiction. Often I am tempted. Just once won’t make a difference, will it?