Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Crisis of Faith

First, I'll start with a typically weak excuse:  It's been a rough year.  It's been a rough two years.

OK, pathetic.  Really, no excuse when I compare with how rough it could be.

I "volunteer" at a local business that is putting in a new bar in my neighborhood.  The place serves around a dozen beers on draft, none of which I have ever seen advertised during the Super Bowl.  The food is excellent, and the owners have a knack for picking out some of the most personable staff it has ever been my pleasure to work with/for.  Finally, it is within walking distance of my house.

In short, an aweseome project to devote some of my spare time towards.  I won't even get in to the owners of the establishment, who are two of the coolest people around.

Anyway, I fixed a computer glitch the other day, and I wanted to stop by and check on it later that night.  I'm walking up to the door, when I see one of the server's around the back.  I wandered over and found him and a co-worker smoking.


I really like the guy.  He's young, smart, seems like a decent guy.  Always pitching in, never complaining, perfect "laid back" guy that you'd hang out with.  Honestly, he seemed smarter than a smoker.  

I know!  I've got a long way to go to overcome my preconceptions.  At least I know I have them, and I try to keep them in check.

So I started my bitching and moaning about his smoking.  It wasn't a real bitch and moan session.  It was more of a "Man, I can't believe you're doing that", and my complaining that I've seen too many people get nailed by smoking.

The two of them tossed it back at me (They don't know what I did for a "real living", before taking up the college student lifestyle).  I just talked about the handful of friends and acquaintances that had died in the last couple of years.  These were people their age who clearly died to young, and clearly not from a car wreck or bizarre drive-by shooting.  Could I say the cigarettes killed them?  No, but I could say that each one smoked.

I wound up BS'ing with them for a little bit longer before heading in to check the computers and talking to the owner.  I walked home without paying it a second thought.

This is the moment that chills me, and I'll get to it in a bit.

Two days later I'm back at the restaurant (I'm a computer guy, but I'll be the first to claim that I'm not a computer expert), and my friend starts his shift.  He pulls me aside and drops a bomb on me.

He's quit smoking.  Cold turkey.  Done.

Ordinarily, this would be enough to make me tear up.  He goes on to tell me that I really struck him the other night.  My coming over, and telling him how I honestly feel made him reconsider exactly what he was doing. 
His words "I just needed someone else to give a shit to show me that this is worth it."


OK, I tried real hard not to visibly tear up.  I don't know how well I succeeded.

I've got a fair number of friends and family who smoke or have smoked.  I've seen all of them try to give up with varying levels of success.  Universally I've seen that it's a trial to do it.  The habit is not hard to kick.

I've heard people compare it to heroin or crack-cocaine addicition.  I'm not sure how valid that is, but I can tell you why cigarettes can be harder:

Social acceptance

This hits on so many levels.
First, a smoker has their "Gang", their friends that go out to the corner of the building and smoke.  You see them, they're the social outcasts now, who have formed their own rebel enclave.  They have secret meeting times, even special "gang signs" to indicate when to head out to the "Butt Hut".  The get together just to smoke.  Not what I would call a great support group.  Certainly not a group that is going to help you kick the habit.

Second, you can smoke in public.  On the street, at the bar, on your porch, in the majority of places you can light up.  No one is going to see you smoking and call the cops.  The next couple of fill-ups at the gas station, see how many people are smoking.  Easier, look for tossed out cigarette butts.  I'm going to bet that people don't carry them around just to toss them on the ground at the gas station.

Third, you can buy them anywhere.  With all the jokes about the invasion of Starbucks across the country (yeah, another addiction, but it's different) you'd think someone would notice that you can buy cigarettes almost anywhere.  Hell, in some places it's easier to find cigarettes for sale than a public bathroom, water fountain or pay phone.

I guess if smoking were as anti-social as heroin or crack-cocaine use, it might be easier to kick.  I don't know.  

I do know that if my buddy calls me at 2am, needing a gum fix, I'll be there.  If he can kick it, he can help someone else do the same.

So the reason that this chilled me so much:
I had almost gotten to the point of not caring.  I'd delivered my canned speech so many times that it was almost stale.  A year ago I would have walked away from the encounter bothered that this guy was engaged in such a self-destructive behavior (to call it anything less is just candy-coating it).   It took him listening, reacting, and feeding it back to me to realize where I was.

I'm really thankful that he grabbed it with such enthusiasm and vigor.  Even more so that he decided to turn around and share it back with me.  He may have saved my enthusiasm.

Speak your mind, share your thoughts.  You never know when it may change someone's life.  You never know when it may make living your life that much more rewarding.

A special shout-out to my best friend, who did quit smoking, has staying off, and vocally advocating others to quit.  I don't always agree with his methodology, but I'm really happy about his success.

1 comment:

Mike said...

It took a long time for me to quit, but I am now at the point where, like you, I cannot even conceive of putting a cigarette anywhere near my mouth. And, at the risk of you tearing up again, you know very well how much you had to do with that. More than you'll admit, I'll tell you that. You should share this blog post with our mutual returning amigo from down South. You never know... it might have an impact this time.