Thursday, June 28, 2012

When quitting is good

Initial note: After following a blog for a while, you get kind of wrapped into the community it represents.  Y'all here have seen me several times link to and quote Rachelle Gardner's blog; I've been following it for a long time.  Anyway, she and her family are apparently in the path of the massive wildfire that's raging in Colorado, and I'd appreciate if you'd keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

Funny, in'nit, how social media these days ties us in to locales and people whom we would've just heard about and gone on with our business some years ago? 

And now, back to the regularly scheduled blog topic:

"You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away and know when to run...." - Kenny Rogers

Some things need to be quit. Like, ferinstance, a Texas Hold'em hand containing a two of diamonds and a six of spades. No point even bidding on that. Right? I mean, I haven't played that game in a while, but that's what I recall of it--a lot of hands like that.

Some habits need to be quit also--like, say, smoking. Yeah, there was a time when the arguments for smoking were just like the discussion regarding global climate change is today. I still remember my mother reacting to the "propaganda" I brought home from elementary school by telling me that there was no scientific proof that smoking was dangerous, and that the science that spoke to the subject was suspect, and all that. She insisted all that, in fact, right up to the day she lost her battle with lung cancer.

(Mom, in your honor/memory, I'll concede that nobody ever proved that your cancer was caused by over 40 years of smoking a pack or more of those things we called "cancer sticks" each day)

So yeah, nicotine intake is bad for you. So quit.

I did, in fact. Several times, in fact. Back in '92, ish, I was outraged at the climbing prices of tobacco and quit absolutely, totally, cold turkey.  Boy, was that a rough weekend.  Back in '94 I went without my tobacco product of choice (Copenhagen: "jest a pinch betwayn yer chick an' gum") for nine months, because it got up to something ridiculous per can (I think it was $24 for 10 cans then). Back in '97 I decided I'd had enough of it, especially considering how my new life seemed to be headed in a direction that would have me in front of classes all day long, and so I finally actually stopped. It was tough, indeed--hardest thing I've ever done, truth be told. But I'm still tobacco-free today, 15 years later, and I brag about that probably even more often than I brag about my alma mater.

So what is it that gets us into these bad habits? The alcohol made me do it, of course.


I'm just kidding. I do take credit/blame for my own stupid acts of stupidity. That said, alcohol did actually serve as a gateway drug. See, a funny thing happened one night at the Firstie Club....

Ugh, what a horrible starting line to a story. But it really did happen that way.

At West Point we weren't able to drink until a) we were 21, and b) we were seniors. Once we met both criteria we could head down to the only drinking spot we were allowed on post, which just happened to be named after us. We were seniors, of course, but the official term was First Class Cadets, which we inevitably shortened (as we shortened every significant term we could) to Firsties.

One good thing about the name is that "Firstie Club" sounds an awful lot like "thirsty club" when you're drunk or aspiring to reach that status.

Now, one night a week--can't recall whether it was Wednesday or Thursday, but it doesn't make much difference--was a special night. That one night every single week was referred to in jubilant tones as "International Beer Night." Yum-O! I mean, who doesn't like International Beer? Especially that one with the cute German girl on the bottle, ja?

The funny thing about the title applied to the evening was that the Firstie Club served Beck's, Molson, Corona, etc., every night. Calling one evening "International Beer Night" was more of a gimmick to get us all there, because on International Beer Night they moved the club from the cozy little lounge to the great big entertainment/dining area where they had beer taps and pitchers at their disposal. You see, International Beer Night was that special evening every week when they served domestic beer in pitchers.

Nope, not kidding.

That, by the way, is why we also called International Beer Night by another name: Big Cup Night. And there's more; I and my fellow electrical engineering (another term we quickly shortened to just "juice," in part because it's a lot easier to say than "elecrictrical engerneerning" when you're drunk, but mostly because shortening terms was just something we did) majors would nearly always join together in a joyous tribute to our beloved academic discipline that we appropriately called "F*ck Juice Night."

Yes, there's a tale behind that one too, but I'll not digress that far in this post.

So there we were one night, um, drinking (go figure), when a friend of mine pulled out a can of Copenhagen and put a pinch between...well, you know the line.

It. Looked. So. Cool.

Granted, I was already deep into my second or third big cup, so my judgment was just a skosh impaired. But I asked him how I could be that cool also, and he gave me what was left of that can and showed me how to pinch it.

It made me high...higher than I could get with just beer. It also made me expel a little bit of the beer I'd already consumed, but my hand-eye coordination was so well developed at that point that I caught the rogue beer in a glass and disposed of it in an appropriate receptacle, to the approving cheers of my fellow drunks. Gawd, young men do dumb things when they're intoxicated.

Anyway, that was--as they say--that. For the longest time I hung my body's chemical fate on the "I'm not addicted; I can quit anytime I want" line of mierda.  I didn't see any need to quit until well after I was no longer capable of readily doing so. I didn't actually quit until I wanted to do so more than I wanted nearly anything else on the planet.

So...yeah. Sometimes quitting something is the best thing you can do.  Paradoxically, that's often when it's also the hardest thing to do.


(EDITING note: Yes, I recognize the dangling modifier in the paragraph about the drinking requirements at West Point.  I'm actually leaving it there just this one time, because a) I think it's funny, and b) I don't think anybody would really believe the post was named after us.)

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