So, here’s the thing. I’m 43 years old. I’ve been setting New Years’ Resolutions for about 20+ years at this point. I have successfully achieved a grand total of zero resolutions over the years. It’s easy to know this because each year I basically set the same ones; quit smoking, quit drinking, lose weight, earn more money.
Normally the time line goes as follows:
- January 1st – wake up hungover as all get-out. Hack up half my body weight in cigarette generated mucus. Take three panadol and drink a litre of water. Swear ‘this year’ I’ll clean up my act by; quitting smoking, losing weight, quitting drinking and getting a better paying job. Pass out in a heap and wake up when the hangover has gone away.
- January 2nd – patches on, My Quit Buddy app downloaded, shower, shave, clean room. Watch a movie, begin eating to combat the nicotine withdrawals.
- January 3rd – replace nicotine patch, check in on My Quit Buddy App, jump to social media and make grand announcements about being nicotine and alcohol-free, shovel more food in my face.
- January 4th – wake up. Have a shower, decide I’m putting on weight. Go for a walk. Start to feel the pressure of having not had a cigarette. Start envisioning myself at 60, miserable from no cigarettes or alcohol. Feel sorry for myself, because smoking and drinking are all I have and without them, I have no ‘crutches’ to lean on in life. Go to bed with a headache and a hacking cough.
- January 5th – Have a shower, decide weight is gargantuan and I now look disgustingly obese. Pull off the patch and see the raised red welt on my skin, skin torn in places from the glue on the patches. Get out of the shower, get dressed, go to bottle shop up the road, buy wine, and cigarettes. Hate myself for being weak while sipping the wine and lighting up the first cigarette but acknowledge – if only to myself – that I’ll be smoking and drinking for another year. Decide I’m a failure. Wait a month or two before casually posting a picture of a glass of wine or a cigarette in sight to distance myself from the failed New Years’ resolution.
The above is pretty much an annual experience, particularly over the last decade or so. The past 10 years have been the hardest of my life. So many dreams bit the dust over the past decade, so many opportunities I passed by, my eyes tightly closed, unwilling to take the associated risks. Friendships ended, jobs imploded. The years from 2007 to the end of 2016 were the years the depression took control, and frankly, it made me it’s bitch.
At the end of 2016, I made a commitment to myself to make some changes to my world. Not because it would make people happier, but because it would make me happier. I set “challenges”, not resolutions nor goals and I made them ones that if I pulled them off would forever alter my own perception of my life.
So much of my life has been hamstrung by “I can’t,” or “It will take too long.” I’ve never given myself permission to make a mistake, to fail. I have to be perfect. 100% straight out of the gate. If it doesn’t turn out that way, I add it to the pile of failure I have in the back of my mind and no matter if – or when – I try to do it again, I ‘know’ I will just fail again. I have to. It’s how it was in the past and if I can’t trust myself to know how things are going to turn out, who can I trust?
On December 27, 2016, I set two challenges. The first was to live for 365 days alcohol-free. No ifs ,no buts, and definitely no chicken nuts. I didn’t set it to start on January 1st, 2017 but on December 27th. I wanted to wake up with no hangover and no nicotine in my body. Most of what I read about quitting smoking was that most of the toxins are out of your body in 3 to 5 days so the 27th meant I would wake up on January 1st fairly clean.
As the days have rolled by since then I have not had a cigarette, nor a glass of alcohol. Although lets be honest, if I was drinking alcohol by the glass and not the cask or bottle it wouldn’t be a problem. I have had exactly one craving for a cigarette in almost 32 days and that was when I was outside and the neighbour started smoking.
I used to be able to put them away but 3 in a row was my limit. She can sit outside talking on the phone for hours and never be without a cigarette clamped between her teeth. I never realised how pervasive the smell of cigarette smoke could be until the last time I quit smoking.
I have had exactly one craving for wine in those same almost 32 days. I was sitting on the bed watching a movie and decided that I needed a drink. Like the cigarette craving it lasted less than a minute and my body was given a glass of water instead of a bottle of wine.
While I’ve been working on those two challenges I’ve not been putting a large amount of pressure on myself. I’ve put on weight though and that is my next challenge. Not because I want to be hot, or buff or any of that other stuff but because I want to be able to fit into my suit in case I get an interview. Because currently, I can’t. I can’t fit into my jeans either. It was while I was planning how to lose the weight last night I came to understand something that I’ve never fully understood where goals were concerned.
I came to realise exactly what is meant by knowing “why” you want to achieve a goal. Take losing weight for instance. Do I want to be thin or do I want to be healthy because the two are not mutually exclusive? Sure there are some flow effects to your health as you lose weight but simply being skinny isn’t enough to make you healthy.
I’ve known some ridiculously unhealthy skinny people in my life. And surprisingly, some extremely healthy overweight people. So understanding why you’re doing it is a major step to achieving a goal.
Using my recent – minor – success at quitting smoking as an example, before I quit smoking I had a trial run so to speak. I stopped for a couple of weeks. Then I started again. I had plans to catch up with people, that would involve alcohol, that in turn involved cigarettes. I didn’t even blink. I just bought cigarettes and made excuses. When I had my last cigarette on the 27th of December, 2016 I did it, for me. Not to make parents happy, nor to make traveling near me more pleasant for those who don’t appreciate the cologne a smoker wears like a cape. I woke up, my body heaved as I struggled to get my breath and I thought:
‘Is this really all there is? Me, getting older, getting fatter, getting drunker, getting more and more miserable, smoking until I’m being wheeled around with a mask on my face and an oxygen tank strapped to my wheelchair? Is this really what I was born for; to be an example of a failure.”
And surprisingly, I answered back with a resounding ‘No, it’s fucking not.”
That day, the cigarettes and wine went in the bin. I put on a patch and went about a typical January 1st only 5 days earlier. The patches – to be honest – do me no favours. Yes they make it easier to begin with but I’m a hirsute man so to speak. There isn’t a huge amount of hair free skin on my more than ample frame. The patches don’t stick well so they need to be held down by oversized Band-Aids which tears off the skin and hair when I remove them. On top of that, the patches give me heartburn, cause me to be nauseated and give me the worst bloody dreams I’ve ever had.
Instead, I got my copy of Allen Carr’s Easyway to Stop Smoking and I read it again. I threw away the patches and from about day 4 was quitting smoking the old-fashioned way. Cold Turkey. I didn’t have a craving, I didn’t think about cigarettes. I simply stopped. As I look back on it now I realise I made up my mind to succeed at this challenge, just like I did with the no alcohol one. I made up my mind to put a stop to my self-destructive self-hate.
I let go of those anchors and ties that bound me to misery and pain. And I realised something when I was wandering the hallowed halls of Instagram checking out hot guys. I came across a meme, one of those inspirational things, and it really spoke to me. I don’t know if it’s a famous saying or something but it resonated with me and joined my mind somewhere along the way.
I live my life in my past. I always have. At least, I have for as long as I can remember. Walking forward but living in the past. The friends of my past, the laughter of my past. The good times that no longer exist. This meme has done more for me since I stumbled across it than all the talking, all the drinking, all the smoking, all the eating my feels, all the therapy and all the medication combined.
Now I move onto the 3rd Challenge. The “Getting My Body Back”, challenge. It wasn’t a particularly good body to begin with but it’s the only one I have. And I’ve treated it like shit. For now, my ‘reason’ is to fit back into my clothes. Once I’ve achieved that I get to make the decision as to whether my reason for losing weight is to be healthy or to be skinny.
If you struggle with achieving goals – we can all set the buggers – sit down and figure out why you want to achieve. The reality is ‘I can’ isn’t really a motivating factor. I can’t afford a new suit so if I don’t lose weight, I’ll be going to any interviews I get naked. And let’s be honest there’s currently way too much of me to be a pulling a Lady Godiva at any upcoming interviews.
So, to finish up; so far 2017 is going according to plan. I could have eaten a little less if I’m honest but I guess it was time to dust off lose weight in the challenge game. If you know why you want something, it makes the excuses against achieving it a lot easier to ignore.