Black boogers. Cat’s butt breath. Phlegm filled coughs. Overall brain deadness.
Yet every morning I would spark up a lip burning debate with my good friend the cancer stick.
I would smoke two to enhance my coffee buzz, a few to loosen the bowels, and a dozen to write a blog post.
Everyday for over 10 years I got closer and closer to becoming an 85 year old sea captain.
That is until one fateful day in the spring of 2015.
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was at a small pub by the name of Gringos Locos at my port of call in Panajachel, Guatemala. That night I induced enough beer and cigarettes to kill a sea lion. Not one of those baby ones, but one of those big blubbery great white shark lunch ones.
When morning came, I found burns on me legs, bruises on me ribs, and for a good 5 minutes hadn’t the foggiest where I was. With each wheeze my lungs cried out and my liver cringed. I had never felt sicker. I had also never felt more lucky to be alive. It reminded me of that time we were caught in a typhoon…
1) I Decided To Choose Life
I couldn’t be a veteran sea captain walking on his last pegged legs any longer. I finally understood that if I was going to lay strong foundations for a successful life, I needed to revive the health and brain power of my 20 year old self.
I knew I had to quit smoking and embrace life again.
2) I Was Afraid
However, the first few days were brutal. The cigarette monster that now inhabited some place in-between my lungs and stomach needed food and so I fed it. I threw dorritos, gummies, and popcorn at it. I slept as long as could hoping to ignore it. I did everything I could to dissipate the monster but nothing seemed to work.
So I punched the air, I punched the ground and I even punched myself. Eventually I uncovered the source of my anger.
Without tobacco’s artificial highs and prolonged lows, I had forgotten who I really was and I was afraid to find out.
3) I Quit Everything
I was so afraid that I quickly ended up substituting cigarettes with beers. I drank beer everyday, attempting to recreate the emotional haze that tobacco had provided for so many years. But after two weeks and an aching liver, I knew that beer would not be a sustainable substitute.
If I was serious about quitting smoking, then there was no choice but to get rid of tobacco, alcohol and every bad addiction like it.
4) I Found Myself Again
So I quit everything I knew fed my depression and emotional fog, and recalled all those things that would surely make me happy. I started running along mountain ridges, swimming in Lake Atitlan and exploring Maya villages. I began eating lots of papayas, chia seeds and healthy foods. I got addicted to everything that made me high when I was a kid. Natural highs.
After 3 weeks, I remembered who I really was again. I wasn’t a depressed old man whose only happiness lie at the bottom of a bottle or at the end of a cigarette.
I was in my 20’s, eager to satiate my curiosity of the world, to meet new people, to push my body up volcanoes, to live life and be happy.
6 Months Later
I’ll admit that I’ve fallen from the top of the mast more than a few times now. But when I do, I hoist myself back up. And each time I do, I can see land clearer and more brightly than before.
Because ultimately I’ve made up my mind.
I’ve chosen now over later and life over death.
Like Lao Tzu the founder of Taoism so wisely proclaimed, “Only the fool succumbs to addiction”…And I ain’t no fool no more Mr. Tzu!