Mike Hagan: I’m celebrating and salivating
Last Saturday marked a very important date in the history of Hagan. That was the day I ticked off four months on the calendar since I last smoked a cigarette.That’s more than twice as long as I’ve ever gone smokeless a third of a year. That doesn’t sound like much, considering that I smoked for 26 years, but for me it’s a major accomplishment. And it feels like it’s been at least 26 years since I smoked that last cigarette. I’ve attempted to quit probably 100 times over the years. Most attempts have lasted only a few days before I became a complete basket case and was usually encouraged by friends and family to once again take up the nasty habit.I’m not sure what’s made the difference this time, because it certainly hasn’t been any easier. It’s a constant battle against anxiety, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Every time I toss a cold one back at a local watering hole I find myself gazing longingly at a smoker, fighting the little voice that tells me I can handle smoking one cigarette.Maybe that’s why I’ve hung in there simple experience. I know, for a fact, that if I were to take one puff it would all be over. I loathe all the people I know who can smoke when they’re socializing, or just have a cigarette now and then when they’re having a bad day. I couldn’t begin my days without two or three cigarettes. In fact, I couldn’t accomplish anything without having a cigarette. Driving to the store meant one smoke on the way there and one on the way back. Every meal meant having to smoke a cigarette. Every phone call meant having to smoke a cigarette. It got to the point where it truly felt like I was spending more time smoking than not smoking.That realization may be what’s kept me going. Maybe it’s turning 39 last September and swearing that there was no way I was going to turn 40 with a cigarette in my hand. Maybe it was growing tired of letting my daughter down every time I told her I was going to quit, and then fell off the wagon. Maybe it was being able to only make about four turns on the hill before having to stop and catch my breath. Maybe it was paying the bills one night and realizing how much money I was wasting trying to kill myself.Maybe it’s that there are so many damn reasons not to smoke and very few reasons to smoke. I don’t really know. I do know that it’s extremely difficult, and I do know I still have a long way to go. Four months isn’t much when you’re talking about the rest of your life. And there’s still no guarantee I’m going to make it.However, I am feeling pretty confident. My biggest worry is the nicotine gum that I am now addicted to, a new habit I can’t seem to break. I fear that when I finally stop chewing the gum, the allure of puffing on a cigarette will become too much. Ahh, isn’t addiction a beautiful thing? I feel like a rambling madman.For now, I have to keep telling myself that nicotine is not a particularly harmful drug, that it’s all the crap in cigarettes that will kill me and keep me from ever getting to know my grandchildren. That if I end up with an expensive nicotine gum habit for the rest of my life, at least it will be a longer and healthier life.For now, I have to realize just what I’ve accomplished four months, a third of a year without a cigarette. And I must focus on knocking off fourteeners this summer like they were anthills, and skiing top to bottom next year without having to stop and gasp for breath.And I should probably also pledge to never write another column about smoking, because right now I’m chewing on a piece of Nicorette so hard that it’s giving me a headache.[Mike Hagan is editor in chief of The Aspen Times. His column appears every other Tuesday]
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My first step onto the natural lake ice is tentative as I launch off on a thin, stainless-steel blade. Will the ice support me? Will I go plummeting through into a hypothermic bath?