This is the year. It’s finally going to stick.
You walk into the kitchen. Your spouse sits at the table, drinking coffee. Steam rises from the cup. “Hey… can we talk?” you ask nervously. “Sure. What’s up?” she replies. “Look. I know I’ve tried in the past. I know I’ve come up empty. But I’m determined to make it work. And I want your support,” you say. “Ugh… not this again,” she says, throwing her hands up.
“This time is different. It’s going to stick! It has to. And I want you to hold me accountable,” you say. She says, “I… I can’t go through that again. Last time… watching you struggle… it’s too much. Don’t put me through that.” You say, “I know… and I’m sorry for the pain it’s caused you… caused us… but just because it’s tough doesn’t mean it’s not worth pursuing… so what do you say? Can I count on you?” She says nothing for a long time. Then she sighs. A big sigh. She says, “Fine. But I’m going to be tough on you. If you say you’re going to do this, I’m going to see to it that you do.” You smile and assure her that’s exactly what you want.
You capitalize on the excitement. You head to the store. “What can I get you?” the cashier asks. “Give me your largest carton of cigarettes.” This is the year you finally start smoking.
“Did you smoke your pack today?” your spouse asks, coming through the door. “What, we don’t say ‘hello’ anymore?” you reply. “That’s not answering my question,” she says. “No. I didn’t smoke the whole pack yet, but-” she cuts you off before you have a chance to finish. “Go smoke right now! You wanted me to hold you accountable. I’m holding you accountable. Stop exercising and go smoke. That’s an order,” she says.
“But I’m right in the middle of a workout! I’ve had a long day and just want to sweat a little before-” she cuts you off again. She says, “Do you want this or not? Because you said this time would be different, but so far all I’ve seen you do is eat vegetables and do push-ups. Where’s the commitment? I thought you said this time would be it! Were you lying when you said that?” You reply, “No, I wasn’t lying. It’s just that… getting addicted is a lot harder than I thought it would be…” She replies, “That’s not my problem. You need to figure it out or stop wasting my time.”
You say, “Ya… ya, you’re right. You’re right. I’m going to go smoke right now.” You towel off. You grab your pack, half-full still, and head to the couch. Sacrifice isn’t supposed to be easy.
The Habit Develops
Wake up, smoke. Eat breakfast, smoke. Drive to the office, smoke. It’s not always enjoyable, but you’re learning to get the reps in. And for the most part, it’s working. Coworkers comment that you smell smoky. Neighbors complain that they have to close their windows. You smile to yourself. Your hard work is paying off. You’re finally starting to consider yourself a smoker.
Your spouse catches you doing sit-ups. You tell her that everyone needs a cheat day. She understands and lets it slide. That was a couple weeks ago. You haven’t stopped smoking since. You’re grateful for her. She’s the perfect accountability partner. Each morning she looks at your recent charges, confirming when you last bought a carton. Each evening she checks that your pack for that day is empty.
You both know you could simply throw the cigarettes out. But you both know you wouldn’t do that.
“Thank you,” you say to her. “For what?” she replies. “For this…” You sweep your hand across the room. Over the landscape of filled ashtrays and empty cartons. “I couldn’t have done this without your help,” you say. “I know it’s still early days. And I know I still have a long way to go before this thing sticks. But I just wanted to say, however premature it may be, thank you. For everything.” She smiles.
You cough more than you used to. Most days you wake up and instinctively reach for a cigarette. Your voice even sounds different… scratchier… Things are really coming together.
“Do you smoke?” your doctor asks. She’s asked you that before. Ashamed, you’d always reply, “No, I don’t smoke.” You hated that question. You hated what it assumed of you. But now? Now you can’t wait. In fact, you’ve been looking forward to it. “Do you smoke?” she asks again, unsure if you heard her the first time. You snap out of it.
“Oh, umm… yes, actually. Yes, I smoke,” you say. “I’m a smoker.” You look at her, grinning. I’m a smoker. Three words you never thought you’d be able to say. And now, now they flow out of you as if you’d said them a thousand times before. “Ok. Well just to let you know, you may receive a notice from your insurance. They might increase your rates,” she says. You look at her confused. “What? Why? What’s wrong with smoking?” The doctor stares at you. She too has a look of confusion on her face, but for a different reason.
I like to think that I’m funny. Sometimes I am. Sometimes I’m not. This story was the basis of a joke I came up with. A friend asks, “Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?” to which I respond, “Yes, I really want to make smoking more of a priority this year.” I don’t smoke, but I thought it was clever anyway. The joke then got extrapolated out as I riffed with a friend recently. From there, this article was born.
I pass no judgments on what you do. If you want to smoke, go for it. If you don’t want to smoke, go for it. I’m just one man that talks about goal setting a lot.
And in the world of goal setting, you don’t often see someone put in the effort to damage their health. Normally it’s the opposite. Someone wants to exercise more, eat better, start reading. You rarely see someone aspire to drink more. But, in reality, the same tactics would apply. State what your goal is, make time for it in your life, find someone to hold you accountable (if needed), put in the work. The question you need to consider is: If all goes well, if you achieve your goal, will your life be better for it?