Sunday, May 9, 2010


It was a week ago today that I made a pledge to purge myself of the chemical vices I’ve lately been leaning upon. It used to take three days to smoke a pack of cigarettes and a month to drink 1.75L of whiskey, and caffeine was only for the morning. Then I noticed I was buying a pack of smokes nearly every day (I would bum out nearly half my pack, but still). My monthly bottle of whiskey turned into weekly. I even bought a bottle of NoDoz to keep me energized throughout the day.

I wasn’t particularly feeling it in my body, not on any noticeable level – but last Saturday night’s drunken sleep was interrupted a half dozen times by a thirst only alcohol can cause, and it took nearly half of Sunday to equalize. I started to wonder how much I was depending on my vices to propel me through the day and into the night. Thus concerned, I decided it was time to quit.


At once.

It worked.

No alcohol, no caffeine, no nicotine, and what the hell, no sugar. I wasn’t hardcore about it. I went out with my class plus a couple of friends on Tuesday and had a beer, and I didn’t read ingredient labels to make sure my pasta sauce lacked high-fructose corn syrup. But I didn’t slug down coffee and pills, and I didn’t get blackout drunk from a bottle in my freezer. I didn’t touch (much less inhale) anything that was on fire, and I didn’t stand over my boss’s candy dish watching it magically empty itself while I collected empty wrappers.

It was a strange experience because I barely felt any effect through the week. On Monday and Tuesday I felt myself getting sleepy around noon, but I ate my lunch, powered through, and was over it. I didn’t sleep any better, nor any worse. Mostly I was bored.

I came to wonder whether I had accidentally worked out some magical harmony of uppers and downers that kept my body at its own natural equilibrium. I’m certain I could find no less than a dozen advocates that would tell me what an idiotic notion this is without being able to provide a shred of empirical evidence, but the world in which I choose to live is more interesting than this. I say I created one hell of a chemistry experiment on myself which, in the end, caused nothing to happen. If I had only quit one or two of my vices, I would have felt the disharmonious effect. But I didn’t. So I didn’t. So there.

Quitting cigarettes was hardest. My hands like to be busy, and there’s nothing else to do when I walk; it just so happens the distance from the train stop to the door of The Theatre School is exactly one cigarette. So I rejuvenated my love for Stevie Ray Vaughan and began a practice of air guitar which I began to carry out with a level of exuberance usually reserved for my living room.

Today I decided Level One of the new paradigm was complete. I proved to myself I could stay away entirely, but I still missed it occasionally. I missed the taste of morning coffee. I missed a smoke to wind down before bed. I missed entertaining myself by stumbling around, music blaring through the headphones, and waking up the next morning to discover I had, in my drunken stupor, viciously and savagely cleaned my entire apartment.

So today I hit Level Two – the level of control. I had my Special Sunday Coffee with breakfast, and will probably go back to enjoying a bit in the mornings, but I’m done with the pills. I had a smoke earlier today to break the monotony, and I’ll have another before bed, but I won’t suck one down every time I find myself with five minutes and nothing to do. And my drinking will be reserved for my Sunday Night Cook fests.

I have no illusions as to whether these things are harmful. I’m sure I could escape death indefinitely if I did none of them, but I’m also going to get back to exercise. It’s been since December that I put my body through the rigors of regular cardiovascular punishment (and I’ve not put on any of the weight I lost in the last year, so I must have learned a thing or three about portion control). Tomorrow begins a regimen of thrice weekly running/cycling and an equal amount of weightlifting. It’s been nearly a year since I started getting back into shape, and I’ve done well – but I still have a long road ahead of me.