Addiction is back in fashion, celebs are giving up, or failing to give up, or attending incredibly expensive clinics to publicise the problems of giving up almost everything. But non celebs, aka homo sapiens, also have problems.
I smoked, at an industrial level, for years. About nine years ago I stopped. I am still waiting for the withdrawal symptom. And I was admitting to my doctor to sixty a day.
I got some praise for giving up smoking and compliments on my willpower, which I pointed out were undeserved as a stopping distance of one minute for sixty to zero, was just a matter of deciding to leave a larger gap before the next fag. It was not a problem, I don't preach, I just stopped, and am quite prepared to tell anyone how to stop. But Cassandra like, I no longer expect to be believed. And I don't want payment. Instead I intend to sue ASH for all the cigarettes I bought, deluded into believing I was addicted to the evil weed.
I used to consume serious quantities of alcohol. Most years went by without a single dry day. I might admit to a drink problem but I wasn't an alcoholic. I stopped. The beers were still in the fridge, I just wans't drinking them. That was about fifteen months ago.
I suppose I operated at a steady level of 4 pints a night, unless I decided to drink, ie 4 pints was normal, like a morning cup of tea.
Stopping drinking impressed almost nobody, but then most of the people I know drink, and I was challenging a lot of their assumptions. I wasn't going the Lordy, Lordy, saved sinner, AA route, I just stopped. I still go to pubs, I attend parties, but I don't drink. I don't preach or criticise, but suddenly all the character traits that could be blamed on alcohol, can't. I am me, for better or worse.
And then a year ago with Obama, I tried to give up whips. And I am winning. I am, to coin a phrase, beating the habit. And I am fighting every inch of the way. It is incredibly difficult, as a regular, habitual whip user to give it up. Not only does it feel natural, but whip use gives clear and obvious satisfaction. The pony moves forward or sideways or backwards.
If cigarettes are the answer, what was the question? Tricky.
If Alcohol is the answer, what was the question? Ditto.
If a whip was the answer, what was the question. How do I make my pony speed up, move over, jump or whatever.
And it works. Check it out, you don't need to be a horseman, hit anyone with a whip and they will speed up, move over or jump. Then they will probably clock you one or call the call the Police.
Give up whips, and even worse, say you are giving up whips and you are a serious pariah. So you not only have to fight the twitches when you know that just a quick hit would solve all your problems, but when you don't hit, and say you don't, the horsey world will lay into you big time.
What is the question that cigarettes answer? How can I belong, be part of the group, be accepted? It is a simple portable bribe. You can't offer ten pee to someone at a party to talk to you, but you can offer a cigarette. Steinbeck's "In Dubious Battle" sums up smoking as the old agitator tells his protege he had better learn to smoke to make contacts. If you want to join the group hanging round outside the entrance, you need a fag to belong.
Alcohol is the same. We have a society based on shared mind altering drug use, and if you don't join the rituals, you aren't one of us.
By giving up tobacco and alcohol I had finally accepted that I don't belong, but I hadn't joined another group, AA or ASH, where giving up was the entrance fee.
I got Obama, a smallish rescue pony and failed child's mount, just as Barack Obama was being inaugurated. I "trained" him using only one rule, no whips, and while not smoking and not drinking may make you feel a bit of an outsider, just try going the whip free route. One thing it has done is made me reassess the response to me giving up the demon drink and filthy fags.
Cigarettes are generally accepted as addictive, therefore those who continue are helpless slaves to the addiction, and can't be blamed. They are therefore, prepared to praise the occasional escapee, and wish they had the will power, expensive clinic, charismatic guru, etc to make giving up possible. But nobody who drinks is a helpless slave to the stuff, they enjoy the taste, have earned the right to relax, it's only an extension of their arm, oh sorry that's whips isn't it. Because drinkers aren't addicts, could stop at any time, don't need the stuff etc, they can't praise me for stopping, because they could any day of the week. Only one of my friends has admitted he couldn't, and I thought he was one of my more restrained drinking buddies.
But whips, give those up and the muckheap is going to hit the windfarm. It's an extension of your arm, well, so interestingly, is a cigarette, and to a degree, so is a drink. It's what your right arm's for. Lets raise our glasses, cigarettes and whips.
Well I won't raise any of them so where does that leave me. Well out on the edge. It is perfectly possible to belong without booze fags and whips, you just have to choose a different method of joining, but booze and fags were the easy ones, no training, no qualifications, a classic no brainer.
I didn't choose whips, they were just part of my background, ponies, hunting, fishing, shooting, flogging, booze and fags. The ponies weren't compulsory, but if you had a pony, you got a whip, like you have a rod for fish and gun for pheasants.
The flogging was obligatory if you went to that sort of school in that era, and although the school at which I received all my beatings, was basically a good school, staffed by good people, its problems stemmed from the attitude, spare the rod and spoil the child. They gave up beating shortly after left, and the same group of people still send their children away. They just have to do the hitting themselves these days.
But despite reaching the age at which criticising modernity is the norm, I don't think the kids have got any worse because the head master can't take a flexible bamboo cane to their pyjama clad backsides.
This page is tailing off indecisively, but that is where I am with whips. I know giving up is right, but I still get the twitches. I have given up three very visible signs of belonging, three signalling extensions of the arm, cigarettes, glasses and whips, and to be honest, it gets lonely out here on the fringes. And I am scared of asking people to join me because I know just how nasty groups can be when you reject them and their symbols.
But if anyone wants to talk privately, feel free. firstname.lastname@example.org and 07510 736518 normally get me.
edited 6/1/15 to correct typos and give correct email and phone number.