I wish a very happy and prosperous new year to all of my readers as well as all those that you care about. Most of all, I sincerely thank you for taking your precious time to read my blog. My New Year’s resolution is to write posts that will instill a strong sense of Umoja (Unity) into each one of us. I humbly hope that I am able to write something that will cause you to go, “Hmmm.”
I do not delude myself into believing that you will agree with all of my assessments nor my perspective on what I see as the problems afflicting Black African Americans. I only hope that my posts will cause you to stop and look at our race and strive towards contributing something positive to our ascension back into our rightful position as the sons and daughters of the sons and daughters who were princes and princesses to our ancestors who built the great pyramids.
My niece Cynthia asked, “Uncle Jerry why do you call us Black African Americans?” I told her I use this phrase to distinguish us from the other African races. I informed her that there are White African Americans, Hispanic African Americans, as well as Asian African Americans, because it is all about where your ancestors were born.
Every race of people on this planet originated from the continent of Africa, which makes us all direct descendants of Black Africans. (As in all of my posts, underlined words are links.) Therefore, Black African Americans are the direct descendants from the first man and woman that ever walked this planet and every other race on this planet originated from us.
If we Black African Americans do not embrace positive change, like the dinosaurs, we too will become extinct. Remember, change is very hard, yet, it is a prerequisite for growth. In order to give up a habit, it is necessary that we replace it with a new and more compelling habit. The key to change is to do it one-step at a time.
Before we can replace one habit with another habit, we must understand that everything in life is connected and if we were to change any one thing, we will change everything. All habits also consist of a sequential order and once we disrupt that order, everything following it will change. In other words, habits are just like links in a chain and the habit is only as strong as the weakest link.
For instance, when I decided to quit smoking cigarettes for the last time, over 30 years ago, I first had to identify all of the links that was associated with my smoking cigarettes. Once I did that, I easily gave up my 18-year addiction to cigarettes.
Please do not misunderstand me, prior to the last time I quit, I had quit smoking cigarettes hundreds of times, yet, I would resume smoking within a matter of days. The last time I quit, I was paying $.85 cents per pack and I just started opening a second pack per day.
In case some of you might be interested in my process, I will share it with you. For those of you who have other habits you wish to change, just substitute cigarettes with your particular habit. If you need assistance, just reach out to me and I will do what I can.
Before I begin, I must foreworn you that I am often accused of being too simplistic and rightly so. When it comes to change, I perceive some people as making it too complicated.
The last time I quit smoking cigarettes over 30 years ago, I first developed a compelling reason to want to quit. I had just begun working in a penitentiary for the first time and I had a young Black African American male in my office. I was counseling him on his drug addiction, as I was blowing tobacco smoke in his face.
As I was admonishing him for his drug use, which resulted in his incarceration, he looked at me with the innocence of youth and said, “Mr. Smith you are using a drug now.” For a very brief moment, I was speechless because his words had the force of a very hard punch to my stomach. He had knocked my breath out.
Once I regained my composure, by utilizing my Master’s degree education on myself, I said, “Yeah, but my drug is legal and it will not cause me to go to prison.” Wasn’t that a very profound response? (Lol) I thought so, and I immediately changed the subject to one that did not cause me any guilt. However, his words continued reverberating in my mine, “Mr. Smith you are using a drug now.”
I lived fifty miles from the penitentiary I worked in, which was usually an hour drive. The drive home that day seemed much longer. I smoked nearly a half pack of cigarettes during this drive because each time I lit one, I heard his words, “Mr. Smith you are using a drug now,” so guilt-ridden, I put out the cigarettes after taking only a couple of puffs.
As previously stated, I had quit smoking cigarettes hundreds of times, yet, I now had to do a serious reality check. The reality was that I was, no, I am still a junky and my drug of choice is tobacco. Let me digress a bit and briefly tell you how I started smoking cigarettes in the first place.
Knowing my (your) reason for starting a habit is important because that was the first link in my (your) cigarette addiction. When I was growing up, both of my parents were smokers. Many times my mother would tell me to go into the kitchen and light her cigarette on the (gas) stove, when she did not have matches. Of course, I had to puff it to get it lit. Mother repeatedly admonished my older brother and I that she had better not catch us smoking before our sixteenth birthday.
Needless to say, I could not wait until I was sixteen, so like all of my peers, we would chip in the $.35 and purchase a pack of cigarettes. Of course, I could never take the pack home because my mother was constantly searching my clothes and room. She was not looking for anything in particular, just looking.
Anyway, on my sixteenth birthday, I walked into the house with a cigarette hanging from my lips. As my mother was about to slap it out of my mouth, I quickly said, “I’m sixteen today and you said I could smoke once I turned sixteen.” Those words saved the day and mother wished me a happy birthday and said nothing else about my smoking.
Fortunately for me, I always wanted to be different from my peers, so being a fan of Clint Eastwood’s “Spaghetti Westerns,” I began smoking short-stubby cigarillos, which only lasted for a few weeks. After that, an older White American male mentor of mine introduced me to “Hav-A-Tampa” cigars, which I began smoking until I went into the Navy at 18 years old.
During the thirteen weeks of boot camp, we would have “smoke and coke breaks,” where we were allowed to smoke them if we had them. These breaks were never long enough for me to smoke an entire cigar, and I burned my leg once when I “stubbed it out,” and put it in my sock, so I stopped smoking during these breaks.
However, whenever the Company Commander needed someone for a special detail, he would say, “Come here Smitty, you’re not doing anything but sitting around.” It did not take my 18-year old impressionable mind long to realize that if I were smoking cigarettes with my shipmates, I would not be singled out to do “special details.”
My shipmates quickly grew tired of my repeatedly begging them for a cigarette, so the next time we went to the Base Exchange (store), instead of buying cigars, I bought cigarettes- Kools of course, at $.17 cents per pack.
Six months later, I had a shipmate “turn me on” to marijuana. Initially, I immediately rebuffed him, telling him I didn’t do drugs. He said, “It is not much different than your smoking cigarettes.” So, I tried it a few times, yet, I did not like it. After all, alcohol was my “drug of choice” because everyone knew a sailor was supposed to drink.
Several years later, I was again, stationed in San Diego, California and all of my peers were smoking both Kools and marijuana cigarettes, so I joined them. At that time, I was paying about $.25 cents for a pack of Kools and $10.00 for an ounce of marijuana.
I always stretched a penny, so it did not take me long to realize that it was cheaper for me to buy my cigarettes by the carton and my marijuana by the kilo (2.2 pounds). I began paying $135.00 for a kilo of marijuana, which lasted my friends and I about two weeks.
Once out of the Navy, I began college and I was introduced to “snorting” powder cocaine, which I never enjoyed, I just did it to “fit in.” However, at the height of my drug use I was using five (5) different drugs daily. I was smoking cigarettes and marijuana; drinking alcohol (beer, wine and liquor), snorting powder cocaine, eating caffeine (chocolate) and the fifth drug was sugar.
After graduating with my Master’s degree, I decided to leave San Diego, California and come home to Augusta, Georgia, where I was born 32 years earlier. Once home, I realized I had to give up most of my drugs, for fear of “getting busted” and embarrassing my family. I had no problem giving up alcohol, cocaine and marijuana. At the time, I did not regard caffeine (chocolate and ice tea), cigarettes or sugar as a drug, so I could proudly say that I no longer “did” drugs.
I developed a persistent cough, which I knew resulted from cigarettes and every time I had a physical and took a chest X Ray, I was on pins and needles, waiting to hear that I had lung cancer-yet, I continued smoking cigarettes after “quitting” numerous times.
When that young inmate told me that I was using a drug, I could no longer lie to myself-I was still a junky and my drug of choice was cigarettes. I immediately decided to use all of my counseling skills on myself to become a non-smoker.
The key to my becoming a non-smoker was simple. All I had to do was not smoke the next cigarette. In order to not smoke the “next” cigarette, I had to interrupt my chain of addiction to cigarettes, which was also simple.
After throwing out my pack of cigarettes (for the hundredth time), I got a pickle jar and put $.85 cents into it, which was the price of a pack of cigarettes. I then vowed that before buying the next pack of cigarettes, I would have to get the money from my pickle jar. Until I was able to get home, I would chew a stick of chewing gum, place a toothpick between my lips and fondle the chewing gum wrapper, all at the same time.
Remember, I had to replace a habit with a new habit, so the Double Mint chewing gum replaced the menthol taste of the cigarette; the toothpick replaced the sensation of having a cigarette between my lips and fondling the gum wrapper with my fingers replaced the sensation of having a cigarette between my fingers. Every day, I was putting a minimum of $.85 cents in my pickle jar instead of using the $.85 cent per day buying a pack of cigarettes.
The hardest part of my quitting smoking was convincing myself that I could past every store without buying cigarettes until I got home to get the money for cigarettes out of my pickle jar, even if I was already in the store buying something else.
As you know, cigarettes were always located at the checkout counters, because the tobacco industry had a vested interest in maintaining our cigarette addiction. Therefore, it is extremely tempting to buy a pack of cigarettes when you are standing there looking at them.
Oops! I left out one crucial step-I gave up all alcohol use, because alcohol is a depressant, which lowers your inhibitions, as all alcohol users know.
Furthermore, every time I was tempted to beg someone for a cigarette, especially if they were smoking my brand, I would immediately remind myself that I was acting like a typical junkie. In the past, as a cigarette junkie, I would approach total strangers and beg for a cigarette, without much shame. Admittedly, I had a little shame, but not enough to prevent my begging strangers.
Now here I sit, over thirty years later and I still have not smoked that “next” cigarette, nor have I had another drink of alcohol (including beer and wine). I still put a minimum of $.85 cents per day in my pickle jar and on Xmas day, I used to wrap all of my change and splurge on myself by taking advantage of the after Xmas sales.
Today, I am only addicted to two drugs – chocolate and sugar, both of which are manageable addictions.
Remember, if anyone can quit smoking cigarettes, you can too. All you need is a strong enough “Why,” and the willingness to extend your chain of addiction just long enough (5 minutes) to talk yourself out of lighting up that “next” cigarette.
If you need further assistance, just reach out to me and I will assist you in any way that I can.
Once I kicked the habit of smoking cigarettes, I felt there was nothing in this world that I could not do. I have three college degrees, I am a licensed Social Worker in two states, I wrote two books and I bought fifteen rental houses, yet, my greatest achievement in life was when I quit smoking cigarettes.
Have a very happy and emotionally prosperous New Year.
HARAMBE, HARAMBE, HARAMBE! (Let us get to work).