Thursday, January 31, 2013

Just Quit

"Quitting is the easiest thing to do." - Robert Kiyosaki

"One day I promised God that if he would give me my voice back I would never smoke again.  I got three octaves back after quitting." - Mariah Carey

We live in such a sloppy world, full as it is of sloppy linguistics.  Take our own very special English language, for example, and from it consider a single four-letter word: quit.  In the quote above by Kiyosaki (of Rich Dad, Poor Dad fame), the word is used to transmit a mental image of something bad.  Sure, it's easy, but it's bad, right?  Quitting--bah.  You should never quit.  Quitters never win.  Winners never quit.  Right?

Then the quote by Carey takes the same word, with the same base meaning, and turns it into an accomplishment for which we smile and cheer.  You quit!  Yay!  Good for you!  It wasn't easy, was it?  You quit, so you win!

So which is it, hmm?

I know, I know, context is key.  In this example it's pretty easy to distinguish context, but there are plenty of cases otherwise.  Take, for example, the word just.  That little four-letter jewel of confusion can mean all sorts of things.  "Our laws are just." "Just what?" "Just just."

I was engaged in a discussion a couple of nights ago with a friend (and of course, all my friend's friends) on that most unreliable of communication media, Facebook.  Now, I don't mean unreliable as in it doesn't work; Facebook is always up--which is part of the problem, I think.  Rather, Facebook makes it nigh impossible to ascertain context regarding word usage.

Frankly, I don't know how we manage to communicate on Facebook at all.

Oh, look, another cute kitty picture.

My good friend is quitting smoking.  Yes, that's the good quit.  It's the hard one.  I know, first-hand, as I am addicted to tobacco also.  I never really smoked, though.  I tried once or twice, but sucking all the nicotine through that dang filter got annoying.  Instead, I used to put that li'l pinch raht thar 'tween mah cheek 'n gums.  Practically mainlining nicotine, it is.  Blam!  And besides, it made me look so dashing, what with those sexy white rings in my back pocket and such.

I quit, though.  Three times, I quit.  The first time was for about nine months, but I got stressed out at work and, not knowing any better, quit quitting.  The second time wasn't for nearly that long.  The third time has lasted 16 years.  So far.  Yes, it gets much easier, but no, you're never done.  The addiction never goes away.  I still have problems walking through smoke clouds outside of buildings, though these days it's more likely to make me gag than want one.

We had to end an evening out quite early the other night; there's a nightclub with a dance floor close by, and Heide talked me into taking her for a spin about the hardwood.  What we didn't know was that they allowed smoking inside the bar.  At first it was fairly empty inside with plenty of open tables, so we were able to move away from the gag inducement.  As the place filled up, though, I realized it just wasn't going to work.

Ah, well.

Anyway, back to the topic--yeah, I have some experience with quitting, as did several others involved in the discussion, and so we were pleasantly smothering our mutual friend with suggestions and ideas on how to go about it successfully and with as little pain as possible.

Then somebody said "just quit."  *sigh*

Never, ever tell a smoker to "just quit."  Yes, I know, having walked that road already, what you mean when you say it, and you're right.  But to the smoker, it doesn't mean what you think it means.

It boils down to that word just.  In this case it refers to something that's simple, not complex.  "Just add two plus three," for example, but not "just triple-integrate the exponential function over Hilbert space"--not, that is, unless you're a real-life Sheldon Cooper.  "Just remove the oil drain plug, wait for the oil to drain out, and then put the plug back in," but not "just pull the engine, replace all the seals and gaskets, and reinstall it and re-time it."  Got it?

Quitting smoking is, at its most fundamental level, something that's just doable.  There are many methods and tricks: cold turkey, regular gum, nicotine gum, patches, sunflower seeds, straws/toothpicks, grapefruit, juice, and now even little electronic tubes of joy.  All of them work for somebody, but I don't think any of them work for everybody.  That said, they all have one thing in common: your hand. You control your hand--well, for the most part.  The cigarettes can't get to your mouth without your hand's help, period.  Therefore, if you want to quit smoking, just don't ever raise another cigarette to your mouth.  Trick it, change the chemistry of it, fill it up with gum, whatever, but don't put a cigarette there.  It's just that simple.

Simmer down.  I said simple, not easy.

Have you ever screamed at a trash can solely because it contained the last bit of nicotine you'd owned before you threw it away?  I have.  For a while after you stop providing your brain with the happy drug, it can do some pretty strange stuff.  Add to that, smokers are often fairly riddled with an internal anger-inducing guilt.  Nobody wants to be beholden to little tubes of crushed tobacco, after all.  Nobody ever plans to be.  We all say "I can quit anytime I want" right up till we realize that we can't.  And then there's always that loved one who detests our habit, our weakness, and lets us know it.  It's enough to make you really really angry--at the loved one, or at the addiction, but more likely at yourself.

And all that rage is there, simmering, waiting for somebody to voice the phrase "just quit."

Quitting smoking isn't easy.  In fact, I still count it the single hardest thing I've ever accomplished.  That's the problem with the word just; it also usually means easy.  It's used that way quite a bit, in fact.  "How'd you get the computer to work?" "Oh, I just rebooted it." "How'd you get such beautiful table place settings?" "Oh, I learned it from Martha Stewart, and she took this stick, this twine, and a little olive oil--extra virgin, of course--and then she just whipped these up."

But simple and easy aren't synonyms.  Sure, they share some common ground, but what is simple isn't always easy.  Take, for example, the cessation of smoking. 

So, yeah--even if you're a grizzled veteran of the quitting wars, as am I, never ever say "just quit" to a smoker.  You'll awaken the beast.  You may end up smoking, yourself, only not from your mouth.




  1. Ha! You wouldn't believe how much money I owe the cuss jar for every time someone has said "just quit" to me. Inside I know they say it from the goodness of their hearts but it doesn't stop me from wanting to ummmm... well, you know what I mean. (grin)

    1. Indeed, I do know what you mean, Cricket! Have a great day, and pay up to the cuss jar or else the karma bunnies will attack you.

  2. For me the thing that made the difference was that I made a decision that I was going to quit for me not for my other half, not for any one or thing else... just for me. The only person that has to live with me and my habits 24/7 is me. I had to make the same decision when it came time to changing my eating and exercise habits. Once I made that decision, quitting smoking, working out, eating healthy was all simple and easy. Are there moments when I want to backslide on my decision? Sure but I don't let it happen. I made a decision and I am sticking with it.

  3. Loved the post Stephen. I too have done the quitting multiple times and when I hear "just quit" - well quite frankly I want to put that person in my freezer.