91 – April 1
“He has spent his life best who has enjoyed it most. God will take care that we do not enjoy it any more than is good for us.”—Samuel Butler
I was in the middle of a hand of poker, when the woman tapped me on the shoulder. “Your friend isn’t feeling well,” she said. “She’s sitting in the women’s room and wants to see you.”
Concerned, I got up immediately and rushed to the women’s room. Shelley looked awful. She was pale and sagging in the chair. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “I don’t know,” she replied. “I have a burning sensation across my chest.” “Okay,” I said, “Let’s go.”
I gathered up Shelley’s belongings and my own, cashed out our chips at the casino cage, and redeemed the car from valet parking. “Do you think it’s heartburn?” I asked as we drove towards home. “I don’t know,” she said, “But I took some antacid tablets.” “Is it helping?” I wanted to know. “No.” There was finality in that reply. I looked at her closely at the next stop light. “Do you want to go to the emergency hospital?” was my next fateful question. “Yes.”
You can bet I drove as fast as the traffic would allow and we screeched into the UCLA emergency room parking. The nurse sat Shelley down, took her pulse, then turned to the nurse behind her and said, “Get a bed ready!” They hooked Shelley up to many machines and we watched the lines and numbers go wildly up and down for the next few hours. Then they sent me home.
Shelley had an angiogram on Monday and open-heart surgery on Wednesday. Triple bypass. The next week, a mutual friend of ours named Kathy died of lung cancer. Kathy was a smoker. So was Shelley. So was I.
Sometimes the messages God sends us are so clear, so powerful, we cannot miss them. I heard this one. And my answer back was, “No, it doesn’t have to be me before I get it. Thank you. I quit.”
I was a smoker for thirty years. I quit cold turkey. And you know what? It was easy.
Protect your health and your body—you can’t make money without it. Is there something in your life that it’s time for you to quit? Or are you waiting for God to send you an email?
“I love myself and treasure my health.”
Oh, yeah, let me give you a tip: Never write a book righteously bragging about something you’ve done that you could undo…
True Confessions: After I quit for about 3-4 years and gained 25 pounds, I said, “Yowza, that’s enough. Think I’ll smoke a little again!” Thought I might lose a little weight…that didn’t happen. But I resolved that I wasn’t going to smoke very much. So for the next several years, I had a cigarette now and again, usually when I played poker. It was a nice break and I enjoyed it.
I rather enjoyed that it’s just so un-PC, too. People were often horrified, really. I tried to keep it a secret from all my health-nut friends, alternative medicine practitioners, and liberals of all stripes. People do get so self-righteous about it all – I can’t tell you how many nice people frowned and got all huffy and told me I should quit. One fitness instructor was going to take my workshop, but saw me have a cigarette on a break at a conference and said he had lost all respect for me and so wasn’t going to enroll. I just smile sweetly when people have responses like that. Like you have no vices? Sorry this one was so visible, but there you go. As Terry Cole-Whittaker said, “What you think of me is none of my business.”
However, I think it’s really fortunate that California made it illegal to smoke indoors – that really helped me when I quit, and it kept me from smoking more than a cigarette or two now and then. Especially when it was cold or raining! I admit to having enjoyed my trips to Vegas where a person can still smoke indoors. But all the poker rooms there are smoke-free zones now, and that’s a good thing, too.
So maybe you have a little vice or bad habit that you know is bad for you but you indulge yourself. I think that’s part of what makes people interesting. Just keep things in moderation and you’ll probably be fine. Know the risks and balance them against the rewards. Then enjoy yourself!
What’s your secret sin?
Update 4-1-15: I quit smoking. Again. December 10, 2014–so it’s now been 7 years and 4 months. I had been dieting, lost 20 lbs and had a new focus on health. And suddenly, although I had felt that the limited amount of smoking I did wasn’t harming me, all of a sudden it seemed to me it was.
So. I. Stopped.
The big test was when I went to Las Vegas the next month with my poker buddies. I reaaallly wanted a cigarette when I played slots, but I just toughed it out and ate some cashews instead. Replacement therapy.
I don’t know if there’s a 12-step program for quitting smoking, but I’m sort of following that program: I don’t have to decide to quit for life–I just decide that today, I won’t have a cigarette.
Note: the time I most want to have one is when I see a “quit smoking” ad on TV. Don’t remind me!! Kicks in my “rebel against authority” persona.
Time to eat cashews.