This shot from 1989 was taken at one of the first parties I hosted in my first apartment. What appealed to me about the picture was everything in the background: the cassette deck/turntable, the little TV, the VCR, the record albums, the video tape collection. To me it was a time capsule in a snapshot, displaying a treasure trove of my prized possessions at the time (for a 24 year old in his first apartment), but also an interesting case study in 1980’s memorabilia.
Yet my Facebook peeps seemed to zero in on one thing in particular: the cigarette in my mouth.
“You smoked?” several asked. Yes, my friends, I was a smoker!
At that time, I was what you might call a social smoker. I smoked at parties, in bars, at concerts. I also remember a few smoke-filled evenings in my man-cave at my Mom’s house, preparing university papers until all hours of the morning, as I alluded to in my post The Writer All-Nighter.
I was also a little bit of an oddity in the fact that I rarely smoked when I was stressed, I smoked more when I was happy, content, among friends and doing fun things in a social context.
I remember cancelled classes and the irony of going out for a smoke, while enjoying the fresh air and sunshine of a nice day. I also remember hanging out with a couple of friends until 3:00 am drinking blackcurrant tea, eating chocolate chip pound cake, smoking and sharing philosophies of life. I also remember the ritual of hanging out with a group of friends from the arts community, smoking, drinking coffee and discussing our hopes and dreams in our respective disciplines.
But being a light smoker didn’t make it right. Knowing what I know now, if I could turn back time would I drop the cigarettes? Of course I would.
However, when I started my professional career, smoking bans in the workplace were just coming into force. As my career was ramping up, the partying part of my life was slowing down. The cigarette smoking followed that gradual decline.
For me, it wasn’t a hard “cold turkey” style of quitting. It was simply a case of not buying them anymore and not asking friends for the occasional cigarette.
After being away from cigarettes for several years, I do remember that the last 2 cigarettes I had were on December 31, 1999, on the New Year’s Eve of “Y2K”. There was such a media frenzy over what would happen when the clock struck midnight and the speculation that the world’s computers would malfunction over dates coded with just two digits for the year… what would happen when we rolled over to 2000? What a mountain out of a molehill that was. Anyway, since there was an anecdotal chance we were all going to die anyway, I had two cigarettes that night. My last two.
I still crave it occasionally, but I doubt I will ever give in. Having seen my father and grandfather die of lung issues, I have interpreted that as a sign that I am probably not genetically gifted to withstand the risks of smoking. That keeps me on the straight and narrow path.
What was probably most jarring to the friends on Facebook is the contrast between that André from 1989, to today’s André who lives a visibly healthy lifestyle. I have been running (on-and-off) for 8 years, and ran my first half-marathon in 2014. Before that, I cycled for many years. Being gluten-free for 10 years, I have steered away from most prepared foods and junk foods or else risk getting sick. Around the office, people see me every day with home-made lunches from scratch, and snacking on little containers of yogurt, pieces of fruit, hard boiled eggs and colourful bags of fresh veggies.
If this is the way people know me and see me now, then I must be doing something right if a picture of me with a cigarette in my mouth is that incompatible in the minds of my friends. There you go, my secret identity from the 1980’s has been revealed!
I am not looking to be promoted to sainthood for clean living. I am no stranger when it comes to decadent gluten-free desserts and I still have a weakness when it comes to potato chips. Life is meant for enjoying its offerings, but keeping things in balance and in moderation.
But overall I know that being a non-smoker, I feel much better and statistically, I have a better chance of living a longer life.
If by being a non-smoker it gives me more time to write the multitude of stories floating around in my head, then it is definitely worth it!
Did you enjoy this post? If you did, please know that there are plenty more where that came from! If you haven’t already, you can check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.net. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.
Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,