Ponder this:

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Moderation and the lack thereof

Remember the revelation, several years ago, that a daily glass or two of red wine was good for one's heart? I took that as great news, although at the time I was not a great lover of red wine. Hell, if it was good for me, I'd drink it! My problem arose from my belief that if a little of the stuff was good for me, a lot must be better! And down that road I went, skipping like a drunk munchkin toward Oz. I drank red wine when available, and I drank other alcoholic beverages at [frequent and lengthy] other times. Hence my membership in the club to which no one aspires to belong. I don't drink alcohol anymore.
But still I don't know moderation.
I don't have the moderation gene. I don't know how people eat one slice of pizza, or one cookie, or smoke one cigarette after dinner. If I like something, I want it, I want a lot of it, and I want it until it is no more. 

On Thursday someone gave me two chocolate truffles, brand name Moser Roth. I had never heard of the brand, but I knew they would be good. Each truffle was wrapped in cafe au lait-colored heavy tissue paper with a sophisticatedly discreet quarter-inch-square foil sticker. Packaging has so much to do with one's enjoyment of some things. As a courtesy to my donor, I unwrapped one and popped it into my mouth. It . . . bloomed gradually, spreading over my tongue in cocoa-y flavor and light yet rich texture.

I put aside the second little package to enjoy later, knowing that its life would be measured in minutes. And it was. And it was just as delectable as the first. If I had had two pounds of the things, they would have been gone, and I would have been ill in, oh, say . . . a half hour. 

I have smoked cigarettes off and [mostly] on for the better part of forty years. No one but a complete fool [or an addict] would think that would be anything but a Very Bad Idea. I stopped for ten years. One day, I thought, "It's a beautiful day. I'd love to have a cigarette." And I bought a pack and smoked for four more years. Stopped again for four years, chewed nicotine gum the entire four years. The dental hygienist loved me. All that gum chewing kept my teeth nice and clean. One balmy early summer evening four or five years ago, I decided that smoking a single cigarette would be a nice way to spend a few minutes with Husband on the patio. And I was off again. I liked it, and if one of an evening was . . . nice . . . then two or three would just prolong the pleasure. Thus spake the addict. 
Now I am taking Chantix and it is working. I smoked, and did not enjoy, the last cigarette on the twelfth of August. Chantix, you see, takes away all the pleasure part of smoking and leaves a person with the bad taste, the stink, the awareness of the toxic gases' immediate effects on one's digestive and other systems. Not only did I not want to smoke, but other previously irresistible items lost their gleamy, glistening, glowing attraction. Ice cream, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, salty things . . . their reedy, wheedling little voices no longer called to me. 
"I want to take this stuff for the rest of my life!" I thought.
If it's good, I want it all and I want it forever.
The idea is that one takes this medication for a few months while one builds other habits to replace the after-dinner cigarette, the morning-coffee-and-cigarette cigarette, etc. And then one stops taking the medication.
I can only wonder, idly at the moment, what substance will click, like a coin dropping in a vending machine, into the empty space left by the absent Chantix.
The phrase, "Moderation in all things," is common extrapolation of Aristotle's Doctrine of the Mean (as presented in his Nicomachean Ethics). His ethic works around finding the mean, or middle ground, between excess and deficiency. 
It should be noted that Aristotle's ethic is often misundertood by its summary: moderation in all things. It is frequently reasoned by those unfamiliar with context that the common phrase means that a person should approach all things (whether healthy or unhealthy) with moderation; therefore, reasoning that a moderate amount of a bad thing can be indulged is not uncommon to find. This is an inaccurate representation of the perspective summarized in the popular phrase.    ~Blue Letter Bible



The Cranky Crone, she lives alone! said...

June I feel exactly the same, someone told me smoking rolling tobacco was much healthier so now I smoke roll-ups, my addict brain just heard the healthier word.
Please keep us posted as to how this chantix works out for you, very interesting that it seems to work on other levels too!
Good luck, with it I wonder if they have it in the Uk.........mmm need a rolly if im writing on the computer.

Tom said...

As one who struggled to get off cigarettes for years, I wish you all the best! I've been "clean" for about ten years. If I had one now, I'd probably go back to it -- but I could no more imagine smoking a cigarette today than I could jumping off a bridge.

Pauline said...

What a great post! I didn't know whether or not to laugh while sympathizing (and empathizing) until I got to the end when I just had to hoot. That wonderful summation - "Oh."

Nature abhors a vacuum. Can't wait to hear what takes Chantix's place. I never smoked but i am addicted to carbohydrates and sugar - just as dangerous to one's health!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

I wish you well. I stopped smoking in 1992 and over the next three years gained 50 pounds and descended into clinical depression, but wouldn't go back to that habit for anything, now. For years, I would lean into other folks' smoke, but at last it all stinks. Hang in there!

Rubye Jack said...

I don't know moderation either I'm afraid. If one is good, more is better. Those people who can eat just one--there is something wrong with them.

Friko said...

What you don't realise is that you 'are crying out for help'.

That's what I'm doing when I go to the nearest town where they have a shop that sells German chocolate: Moser Roth. I went yesterday and bought twelve bars of chocolate in one go.

The excuse is that I don't go very often and therefore need to lay in some stocks.

I've been off cigarettes for a very long time after smoking for 20 years, a packet a day. My daughter told me that I stink, I was coughing and couldn't breathe half the time.

I've never been more glad and proud of any other achievement in my life.

Now then, about that chocolate addiction - would Chantix work?

Barb said...

I like the "Oh" at the end. No excuses, I guess. Meanwhile, pass the chocolate. (Even my DR says it's "good" for me - but do you suppose he means only a little?)

fiftyodd said...

Nah, can't agree with you all. Moderation is my middle name - I find it easy to ration things. I enjoy the feeling of self-control. There are others like me, I assure you. We are the other side of the coin.

fiftyodd said...

Nah, moderation is easy. We moderates are control freaks: we are the other side of the coin. There are many of us, I assure you!

English Rider said...

Some people experience the rule of diminishing returns. The second slice of pie is less pleasurable than the first. It is easy for those people to stop and claim more self control. Those of us who enjoy every crumb of life, with renewed enthusiasm each time our hands travel up to our mouths, know that the playing field is not level to begin with.

Gardn Of Weedn said...

Holy Shit, I sooo know where you are!! I have been clean for 6 years and recently had a conversation with another quiter, where he declared that a terminal illness would be cool, so he could start smoking again!! and I agreed....Dee

June said...

To All: Please note that fiftyodd's moderation does not extend to one response to a blog post. :-p

Hilary said...

Ugh.. I feel for you. I quit smoking nearly 30 years ago when I knew I wanted kids. But it was not easy. Keep on doing what's right for your health. Of all those things.. chocolate sounds the least harmful. Ice water helps with cravings too.. really cold, icy water. Don't hyperhydrate! ;)

Sally Wessely said...

I think many of us can relate to your post. Moderation is a hard thing to learn how to live.

When we were in Germany, we went to a shop famous for its truffles. We bought tins of them to take home to the grandchildren. Later, a friend we were with who had gone to another shop and tried the truffles in that shop told us that the truffles had liqueur in them. That is why they are famous. We took them back to the shop and were told that the ones we purchased did indeed have liqueur in them and would not be appropriate for children. I guess even truffles can have more to them just chocolate.

#1Nana said...

I'm right there with you on this one. I'm not moderate in any area except maybe common sense!

Blipfillypicklepoo said...

Your post reminds me of dr. Seuss's "gertrude mcfuzz". Good luck! ;-)

Linda Myers said...

Nice to meet another friend of Bill in the blogging community!

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

I don't think moderation makes any sense .
You either like something or you don't .If you do like it , you'd like more of it . Lots more of it . Simple !
And even your dental hygienist would think chocolate truffles a better choice than cigarettes . After all , it can't be easy deep cleaning someone's teeth while they're coughind and wheezing .

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

Sorry . "coughind" sounds rather permanent , doesn't it !
Coughing , of course .

Olga said...

My ex-husband once accused me of being exactly like Pat Nixon who apparently once said (with pride), "I never do anything for the fun of it."
He was an addictive personality and I am not. My daughter once compared me to Nancy Reagan with her comment, "My mother--she could always just say no." These are harsh words to level at a life-long Democrat.
Was it Mark Twain who said, "moderation in all things, including moderation?"

Liz Hinds said...

I'm so glad I neither smoke nor drink because like you, I can't do moderation.

Morning Bray Farm said...

If I only checked in more often, which I haven't been doing lately, I'd realize how similar we are, June.

I just remembered (after looking at your 8/16 post) that we share the same wedding anniversary. Coincidence.

Not many things happen in moderation for me either. I love smoking and still think about it frequently. Chantix worked for me too, after everything else didn't. And I mean everything. Fortunately, I'm still able to have the odd cig every few months when I happen to be around people who are smoking. I crave the hell out of it, but then when I smoke it, it tastes and smells just awful. Even now, years later, I make myself remember that Chantix did wonders for me - I don't NEED cigarettes.

I remember being terrified of quitting - it felt like I was losing my best friend. Sad, but true.

Anyway, I'm rambling. There's so much I relate to in this post though. Thank you, June.

Vicki Lane said...

Best of luck staying off the cigarettes! Having taken care of my mother-in-law in her last year before she died of emphysema, I hate to see anyone smoking.

Fran Hill said...

Oh, I can't relate to a WORD of any of this. Not a WORD. *slinks off*

Arnab Majumdar said...

I've seen a lot of people getting addicted to things, letting go of their addictions, and having trouble dealing with it as well. Never once did I think about that along these lines!

I've got a new way to look at life now... :)

Arnab Majumdar on SribbleFest.com

kg said...

WOW, talk about relating. I have smoked for 40 years and sure know it is going to do me in one day.
As to being 'addictive" I seem to fit the word to a T. Besides smoking I ate myself up to 300 lbs. Had gastric bypass surgery in 2002 and got down to 142. BUT, couldn't eat food so found a great substitute - wine. Within a year was in rehab which was the start of 4 long years for me and my family. Been sober 5 yrs now, fighting not to go back to the food addiction but have gained up to 160 and am scared. and thru all this i keep smoking. In rehab the docs call it "cross-addiction", going from one thing to another. What a constant battle it is!

June said...

Every time I hear the word rehab now, I think of Amy Winehouse's song.

Wouldn't it be . . . just nice?, kg, if we'd get addicted to something like cleaning baseboards or flossing or (HAH!) running? Apparently it doesn't work that way. But we're nice people anyway, and perfectly entitled to our space on Earth. :-)