Why the Cigars Must Go (and Why it Pisses Me Off)

by Bill Brenner on April 16, 2010

The author needs many coaches to keep clean and sane. Sometimes it sucks.

Mood music for this post: “Sludge Factory” by Alice in Chains:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ej39l_aqkLc&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

Like anyone in recovery, I rely on several coaches to keep me from falling back into the sludge pit.

The OA sponsor keeps me on the path of abstinence (OA-speak for not eating compulsively; like an AA sponsor who helps you stay sober). I have to call her every morning at 6:15 a.m. and tell her exactly what I plan to eat that day. Deviating from the food plan I give her is considered breaking abstinence.

The OA meetings are like AA meetings. You discuss the 12 Steps and how they apply to you. You share your story, and so on. These groups stick together. We keep each other on the sane path.

Then there’s the OCD coach: my therapist. At my craziest I had to see him each week. Then I got better and it was every other week. Now it’s once a month.

In one way or another, they are all interventionists. They see me about to slip and they step in and get in my face.

I often want to punch them in the face. Addicts absolutely hate having the truth forced on them. It’s very inconvenient.

I got a taste of that today in the therapist’s office.

One of the first things we do is go through a checklist of my addictive behaviors and how I’m doing at each one.

Abstinent from binge eating. Check.

Sober from alcohol. Check.

OCD under control. Check.

Then I do something I didn’t plan on doing. It just slipped out. I told him that I’ve only recently come to see what a game of whack-a-mole addictive behavior is, how you put one thing down and find yourself turning to something else.

“And what would those other things be,” he asks with that smart-ass twinkle in his eye.

“Caffeine and cigars,” I say, figuring it’s no big deal. My coffee dependency is well known by all at this point, and there are no health or mental reasons to stop. Hell, I even felt comfortable walking into his office with a Red Bull in my hand.

But screw the caffeine. He heard the word cigar and exploded.

“How often do you smoke?” he bellowed the question.

“How many?”

“Does your family know?”

“How much do cigars cost?”

Then he threw the biggest reason for his disdain in my face: His father got cancer and died from that very habit.

I shrugged it off. After all, addicts know that the thing they are doing could eventually kill them. That’s part of the attraction, even, given the depressive streak we tend to have.

But he persisted.

“There are healthy addictions and unhealthy addictions,” he said. Coffee and exercise can be healthy addictions, he noted. Cigars are not healthy.

I tell him that coffee and exercise absolutely will kill you if done to the extreme long enough.

And back and forth we went.

Here’s the thing, though. I know the cigars are bad. I let it slip out because I’m having that mental war in my head over what to do about it.

See, I know I have to put ’em down.

There.

I said it.

I don’t know when I’m putting them down, but I’m going to, because I know cigars could soon become as much of an obsession as the food and wine was.

The coffee I can live with.

But with the cigars, I’m playing chicken with God. And God never loses at that game.

So now that I’ve come out with it, I invite you all to be interventionists and get in my face if you see me with a cigar — lit or unlit.

I only ask that you give me a one-week grace period.

Expecting me to go cold turkey right now is a bit much to ask.

Ha! The words of an addict in denial come out again.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ann April 16, 2010 at 5:55 am

Can I give you shit now or next week? I WILL hound you…

Olivia April 17, 2010 at 3:52 pm

As an always trying to quit smoker, I hear you. Talking about quitting is the first and big step in actually quitting. Good luck!

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: