It was 05 April 2014. Sitting on a bench, thinking about my life, puffing on a cigar and looking at the ocean. It’s amazing the insight you can see looking through a bellow of smoke. I was depressed. I was lonely. I was tired of living my life in such an unhealthy manner that plummeting off the nearest bridge seemed better than making it to tomorrow. I became overwhelmed and far too anxious- I couldn’t sit still. So I arose from my thinking bench and started walking the streets of Charleston, SC.
As I walked I puffed on my stogie. On that day I needed the relaxing and comforting feeling of that cigar. And as I walked I looked around at all of the happy people, most of them tourists coming to town for the Cooper River Bridge Run. Why were they so damn happy while I was dying inside? Why were they able to enjoy this beautiful day while I couldn’t see the apparent sunshine? While I thought about this, nearly loathing at these people, it hit me- they were doing healthy things and living a healthy lifestyle. While I was sitting at the bottom of a bottle they were out enjoying their hobby, spending time with their loved ones, getting healthier and living life. It was apparent- I had to change.
That day I decided to lay down the bottle and begin to improve my life. I had a major worry though. One of my favorite hobbies and pastimes, smoking cigars, usually went hand in hand with drinking. It’s a hobby I have enjoyed since my early twenties. Thinking the association between cigars and alcohol would be too strong I decided to lay down the cigars as well. Sweet Jesus, hopefully it wasn’t forever. So that week I gave my salutations to my cigar club- with them being fully understanding and one hundred percent supportive. From there I embarked on improving my life.
One of the topics which is rarely talked about, often swept under the rug and sometimes even unacknowledged is that once quitting something, even drinking, there is a void. There is something missing that was once there. Just like how we have often broken up with our crazy ex-lovers only to later desire them back because of the loneliness that sets in and free time on our hands. We start to erase the memories of the bad times and romanticise the good times. Hell, we even romanticise the bad times. And just as this happens with ex-lovers it began to happen with me and my former unhealthy lover- alcohol.
I now had a slight void in my life. Cravings I could feel from my mouth to my brain to the tips of my fingers and far too much time on my hands. You never realize the amount of time you spend drinking until you finally quit. So what was I to do? I was already curbing my cravings by eating sweets and junk food. I needed something that added a bit more enjoyment and a bit more value to my life. I decided on making my way to the gym but swiftly detoured to the cigar shop. Probably not the healthiest choice I have ever made but I was being drawn to the cigar shop like a sailor to a siren. Except instead of a beautiful woman with an angelic voice it was an aging, raspy voiced, man who just happens to look like Robert Duvall’s long lost brother.
At the point in which I had about a month of sobriety under my belt I decided to try what seemed to be a testy and dangerous experiment. I smoked my first cigar since quitting alcohol. The fear of a cigar reminding me of drinking- or even worse making me desire to drink- was residing within me. What if upon the first puff of my cigar I got a sobriety crushing craving? As much confidence as I felt I had in my sobriety in the first few months there are many triggers which can throw a deathly blow to one’s own determination.
So I set the circumstances for which I would smoke my next cigar. I went to my parents’ farm- miles from the nearest convenience store- handed them my keys and prepared my cigar. If I was going to have an alcohol craving I was going to have to walk miles along a lonely backwoods road in order to get my first sip. I sat on their back porch and with a shaky hand I cut my cigar, put it to my mouth, lit it and took my first puff. Hello old friend- it’s great to have you back!
Luckily and thankfully, I never once had a craving. Just the opposite actually. The cigar became one of my best deterrents to cravings. Just a few days later I celebrated my longest bout of sobriety- thirty one days. It may not seem like long to most but that was monumental to me at the time. In fact, thirty one days seemed longer at the time than the point in which I hit six months. As a congratulatory gift a person in my cigar club, who I rarely conversed with at the time, sent me a box of CLE Connecticut’s. Unbeknownst to me at the time- these 25 cigars would play a monumental part in maintaining my sobriety. For those unaware as I was at the time, the second month of sobriety can be nearly worse for the addict because the cravings nearly worsen as they transition from a physical withdrawal to a mental one. That gift, those cigars, were my comforting fallback any time an alcoholic thought was looming. And with the reception of that gift I now had one more person I owed my sobriety to.
So is what I am saying really about cigars? Am I advocating that every alcoholic goes and picks up cigar smoking? Is this my announcement of the Sober Bastard Especial #7 cigar? Of course not, but what I want to get across is that you will NEED something to help curb your cravings. You need something that will fill that void. You need something that you enjoy and something that satisfies you- even if it is a little bit unhealthy. Is cigar smoking a little unhealthy? Sure. But it is far healthier than the alcoholic behavior I was living for so long! So what is your cigar? What is something that can add value to your life and to your behavior? Find that out and these cravings will begin to feel smaller and smaller until soon you are just left with something you thoroughly enjoy.