I know from experience that New Year’s resolutions are easy to make. I also know they’re easy to break. I can only think of one that I made and kept.
On January 1, 1975, a mere eleven years after the Surgeon General announced that smoking was bad for your health, I resolved to kick the habit. I haven’t had a single puff from that day to this, 43 years and counting. It is one of my proudest achievements.
Here’s how I did it. First, I got rid of all the ash trays. Then I bought a big jug, which I put next to the bed, and stocked the refrigerator with grapefruit juice. And oh, yes, I threw away all the cigarettes.
Back then they cost 50 cents a pack, double from when I started as a teenager. That first night, I put 50 cents in the jug, marking one day without nicotine and that amount not spent. The next day was a struggle, but I made it through and before going to bed dropped another four bits into the jug.
And so it went.
Meanwhile, I drank a lot of grapefruit juice. I don’t know where I got that idea, but somehow I thought it would help me ward off the craving, and I think it did.
I remember that first month of misery. My head hurt, I didn’t know what to do with the two right-hand fingers that held the cigarettes, and I was out of sorts, probably downright mean.
The second month was worse. The novelty of being “clean” was over. Now it was daily misery, simply putting one foot in front of the other and trying to think of something other than smoking until the end of the day when I could perform my nightly ritual with the bedside jug. Contrary to what I had expected, I didn’t feel any better, if anything worse. After all, I liked smoking and missed doing it.
But I began to see the benefits. I liked the fact that I was no longer blowing smoke in people’s faces, and it turns out that smoking isn’t good for your taste buds. I rediscovered what food tastes like, which compensated for no longer having that wonderful after-dinner moment when you light up and take a deep drag.
After three months, I began to think that this time, which was hardly my first attempt, I just might make it. But I knew danger lay ahead, and I needed to stay on my guard. So I stuck to my routine, the juice and the quarters. Things started to improve.The headaches went away, and I wasn’t so crabby.
I don’t know how long it took before I went a full hour without wanting to smoke. After six months I decided to try for a year, and after a year my goal was to double it. Then one morning I woke up and realized I had forgotten to feed the jug. I smiled to myself, seeing this as a milestone of sorts. Maybe I could quit doing that too, along with overcoming my grapefruit juice addiction.
Like an alcoholic who no longer drinks, I am a smoker who no longer smokes. And I know I never will.
I’ve been thinking about this year’s resolution, which involves neither juice nor jug. I’m not saying what it is, but I’ll let you know how it works out.