The trouble with these weekly Cancer Society and World Health jeremiads you get almost every week, about smoking and drinking killing you dead, is that most people don't enjoy these things the way you do. And they're probably less healthy and downright boring. Dare I eat a peanut?
Now we old-fashioned "degenerate" writers know for sure that it's not necessarily the play but the life that is the thing, the great Hemingwayesque drinking bouts, constructing huge sprawling novels in the smoky pubroom air, lying our asses off, bragging, shouting wild promises to the wind, all that sound and fury meaning nothing, but sound and fury all the same. The unaddicted life is not worth living.
Drinking and smoking lend an element to life that is ordinarily missing, magic and it is for magic that we drink and smoke. Who cares about the dull minutia of paychecks, insurance adjustments, having the Joneses over and all those horrors? Drinking can give everything a nice amber patina. The Joneses, non smokers all, and really dull and horrid, can become fascinating, unique people and you yourself may even become more interesting and magical after a few drinks.
In other words, drinking is great...and what is the point of having a drink if you don't have a cigarette to go with it?
The facts and statistics are there for us. We have heard of the horrors of cirrhosis, of lung cancer, emphysema or worse. It's all there on our cigarette packages.
And yet 33 per cent of us seem to drink and smoke no matter what the statistics, and yet everyday poor women of 34 die of lung and breast cancers, abstainers all, while we blithely puff away and imbibe, most of us reaching at least the good old threescore and ten.
Yes, yes, it's trendy today to be on the forefront of anti-drinking and anti-smoking campaigns, certainly politically correct, but face it, these things have been around for a long time and we pay through the nose for our habits, filling federal and provincial coffers, feeding the cirrhosis and cancer crowd, with our taxes and our excesses. And after all is said and done, most of the money goes to tell us not to drink or smoke, a vicious circle that is mostly propaganda and very little research. Ask Wendy Mesley of the CBC. She has done some hard footslogging on this, herself battling cancer and the cancer societies seem to be doing something else, like telling us not to drink or smoke. And spending big bucks, our bucks, on this.
Straight, tee-totaling non-smokers, smug on their prescription drugs, have no idea of how relaxing it is to have a drink. Yes, yes, there are the runners and the joggers. This author has done these things. He has found out that you can yoga-booty and run all day and still feel tense and unsatisfied immediately afterwards. Nothing is as pleasurable as a smoke and a drink, for in an age of aimless longing, you can at least satisfy your desire for a drink and a cigarette.
Yet all this being said, we bad guys do tend to overdo it. That's when the WHO and Cancer crowd gets close to being right.
Do all these things, but not all the time, not to the point of pathology. All things in moderation, the ancient Greeks used to say (while frankly being the most immoderate of people, especially in their sexual habits).
The trick then, is not to quit drinking and smoking, but to cut down, cut down on all these habits, which, quite frankly, if too much indulged, can, as the Jeremiahs say, lead to the insane asylum and the grave, or worse, like having to quit altogether, which, of course, is anathema. Face it, if we were told tomorrow that we did not have cancer after all, the first thing we would do is light a cigarette and feel relieved. Sure you would. Like any other sane person.
So from someone who has gone the whole nine yards, some advice.
To begin with, don't drink in the afternoon any more. It leads, after the first initial high of the lunch to biliousness and drowsiness, quarrels with one's fellows, job dissatisfaction and all these things we think there are real causes for. Drink in the evening, and then only with meals. It is the late evening that you can a cool Bacardi cocktail to bed with you, perhaps even one or two jiggers more if you drink between eleven and one in the morning. It you've got a good buzz-on at one a.m. chances are you won’t wake up at three in the morning and have your entire day ruined by withdrawal and insomnia. Drink is an aid to sleep, but you have to manage it. Self-medicate?
The same is true for smoking: manage it.
Have no cigarettes at all before breakfast and then smoke your brains out over coffee so as to start your day with some feel-good planning; you are in a comfort zone and you're not panicking over everything all the time as you ordinarily would if you didn't drink or smoke at all. Yeah. Slow it down. Even God had to take a day off, though there is no immediate evidence of human vices, of course.
The trick, again, if you can't quit smoking or drinking (who really wants to after they're hooked onto something in life that that hints to the first edge of the Promised Land) is to cut down. Cut down quite a bit.
Use your drinking and smoking as a reward. After a hard day, have three Scotches in your warm bed, but no more, for then there's trouble, arguments with your spouse and hangovers the next day that scream to God. Scotch is not diet pop. It's not. Oh lord, it's not.
With the smoking, always think of the cigarette as the reward. This one for the Newmarket hockey team, this one for having done a good hour's work, this one for our boys in Afghanistan, this one for, well, because I wanna.
To recapitulate, the WHO and Cancer folk are probably right. It's better, probably, not to drink and smoke at all. But you are hooked. You have trouble feeling like you did at fifteen at fifty. Well, even old Gar Mahood, on my taxpayer's dime (get a job, Gar!), will admit that what we have here are addictions. So drink and smoke. But don't drink and smoke so much.
If you cut down, you are as sensible in managing our habits (addictions?) as you usually are in managing the people around you (at least when you're not hung-over). You will live and prosper and hardly suffer any side effects at all.
But if you persist in your overindulgences, you may have to give up these habits altogether, which, in the mind of this writer at least, is utterly inconceivable.