Quittable 2013 : a Pinoy’s random thoughts on smoking

[Note : Not proud of it but it’s the proper thing to say : I sincerely apologize to both Ms Didith Tayawa-Figuracion (publisher) and Ms Meia Lopez (editor) for letting them down the latest issue of the Wellington Pinoy newsmagazine Kabayan, I offer no excuses and humbly ask for forgiveness.  Hope that in time you can forgive me.  It’s been a great week for the anakis:  Panganay‘s hard work as a world-class Wellington film extra has paid off so well that one or even more of his scenes might actually end up (one as a villager, another as an orc) in part 2 of The Hobbit trilogy (premiering in 2 weeks!), Ganda‘s dream of rebooting her aborted tertiary studies has been given hope by the University of Victoria here, and Bunso is fast becoming one of the more accomplished baristas on Wellington’s Golden Mile!  Our fatherly heart is understandably bursting with pride, thanks in advance for the kudos!  By the by, I do a blog like this once a year on the anniversary of my quitsmoking date, and inasmuch as one of my anakis is a smoker, if this can reach that particular offspring, this post will have been well worth the effort, woohoohoo!  Thanks to Nathan P and the Curtis family for the Bryan Curtis video above! ]

More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined… Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. – US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

IS ANYONE still not familiar with the saying Do as I say, not as I do?  Well, anyone who has kids, younger siblings and younger relatives especially in the Philippines will know that this particular bit of wisdom rings so true with regard to one of the greatest health and social evils known to Man, tobacco smoking.

If I received fifty centavos for everytime I heard my folks and elders saying masama ang manigarilyo, huwag tutunan magbisyo (smoking is bad, don’t start a vice), I would have probably retired before 40 and sipping pinacoladas by now.  But because life must be lived through stupidity as well as wisdom, it wouldn’t surprise you too much to know that the more my parents sought to prevent me from trying things, the more I wanted to try them.  Go figure.

But if you were a 7 or 8 year old like me (then) and looked around you, wouldn’t you have done the same?  Dad himself was then a chain smoker, unable to perform his daily functions without a smoke (2+ packs) and both starting and ending the day with a ciggie.  My two older brothers, who were naturally my first role models, were stealing smokes in the backyard and sticks from Dad’s packs in their early teens.  It seemed that for all the opprobrium attached to smoking and blowing that smoke in people’s faces, it was, behind everyone’s backs, the cool thing to do.  All the cool people were doing it, you could see it on ads and on TV, and the “bad boys” and “naughty girls”, don’t you deny it, were doing it!  So for me, while the angel on my right shoulder kept tsk tsking whenever I stared at smokers, the horny dude with a pitchfork on my left just snickered mwahahaha Noel, it’s just a matter of time before you start puffing away.

And light up I did, after high school at around 18 although the first crowd I hung out with in college were exclusive school geeks like me and never even tried smoking.  Unfortunately the next crowd all lit up before and after classes, and even tolerant professors allowed smoking in class.  So it quickly became a way of life for me, in permissive, bohemian Diliman, where even cannabis smoking wasn’t that unusual, as long as you knew where to smoke it, and believe me, in campus, there were lots of places to suck on those funny cigarets.

Even Dad’s short bout with a lung infection mid 1970s didn’t deter me, or my two elder brothers who were already moderate to heavy smokers.  All-too-expectedly, since I was young, fit and healthy, it necessarily followed that I’m bulletproof, and nothing, not even all the health and mortality statistics, my hacking cough, black sputum-congested throat in the morning and that repulsive dragon breath would make me stop, for another 24 years.  By then Dad made a complete turnaround, became a strict anti-tobacco reformist, much to our chagrin.  Everything even remotely connected to smoking, ashtrays, the slightest smell or hint of tobacco smoke, was all but banished, for good reason, from our household.

After I got married, when the stress of family, work and sedentary living creeped in, smoking became an inevitable crutch and my one reliable friend.  All the rationalizations were there : I need it to deal with all the stressors in life; I don’t have any other vices; can’t I have just one outlet for my hard work?  and all other nonsense that ultimately wilted against the fact that I had burned out struggling alveoli and was slowly strangling the remaining healthy lung cells I had.

***               ***               ***                ***                ***

It wasn’t any epiphany that allowed me to confront and slay my tobacco smoking, fire-breathing dragon in 2007, despite the fact that  I was a wheezing, overweight and pasty-faced Pinoy attempting to stay in New Zealand.

It was rather a combination of several reasons that made me to decide to just stop cold turkey : the $11 to $12 cost per 20-pack of cigs was something I could ill afford; my sister-in-law wasn’t saying it out loud, but she didn’t approve of smoking in their house, where I was staying until I could rent a flat of my own; and at 42, I thought that the time was right to stop smoking, after nearly a quarter century of playing Russian roulette with my lungs.

Literally, however, you need just one reason to quit smoking : to continue living, and continue living a healthy life, at that.

Because of Divine Assistance, exercise that helped keep the withdrawal jitters away, and the cold realization that an early death would prevent me from seeing my children grow up with families of their own, I have kept away from, and have in fact been tobacco free for the last six years, the sixth anniversary falling last 17th November.

I would be less than completely truthful if I didn’t admit to you, kabayan and friends, that I’m not completely free from smoking, mentally that is.  Not a day goes by without me thinking of smoking.  Every time I see a person or persons smoke, I imagine smoking myself, especially after a full meal, when imbibing alcohol, and all those other activities you associate with smoking.

The reason for this is that there is a cocktail of powerful drugs released in every hit of tobacco smoke that goes directly into your bloodstream from your lungs and straight into your brain.  These drugs cause your brain to produce dopamine, which is closely associated with the body’s pleasureable feelings and sensations.  There is no denying it : six years after quitting, I still can’t deny that smoking gave me pleasure.  It’s just the health and social costs that has made me stop.  THAT’s how powerful smoking is.

There is no magic formula to quitting smoking.  The two pieces of advice from this lucky quitter : seek professional help if you can’t stop cold turkey, and better to not start at all.  It’s that simple.

Please spare a thought to quitting today.  Too many people have died, or are now dying from smoking for you not to.

Thanks for reading!

anniversary thoughts of a former pinoy smoker

[ NoteThis is for my maternal grandfather Jose, Tito Val (Bautista), Tito Fonso (Yang), Tito PD, Uncle Jess Imperial, and everyone else in my family who is/was smoking.  Thanks for reading everyone! ]

THE 17TH of the month, it will have been exactly five years since I quit smoking.  I’m not usually a stickler for dates but this particular one sticks out in my mind as it was one of the few things I did that was unequivocally smart (after 24 years of silliness), and something that probably saved my life, and preserved the quality of such life for the remainder.

I would be less than honest if I didn’t tell you that I still light up every now and then, elaboration below.  But on the whole it has been smoke-free and tobacco-free for this Pinoy for probably 99.9% of the last 60 months, coincidentally also spent as an accidental migrant.

So I don’t sound like a puritanical, hypocritical turncoat who’s seen the light, and preaching to the choir, let me start first by stating the frankly obvious : given the millions and millions of smokers who’ve been smoking throughout their adult lives until their last, gasping breath, there must be some benefits, addle-brained as it sounds (the medical evidence to the contrary is overwhelming).

This is not arguing for argument’s sake, or standing as devil’s advocate in a debating tournament.  Long after quitting, I still think there are benefits to smoking.

Needless to say, but I’m as usual saying it, is this is all my penny-for-your-thoughts opinion, which isn’t worth much, but I have an hour before I need to get ready for my afternoon shift :

The first, most obvious benefit to smokers is the pleasure and physiological effects that tobacco provides.  Speeds you up, slows you down, it all depends on the smoker.  Administered as a direct hit to the brain and bloodstream, several thousand chemicals are introduced to the body, and among many things smoking claims to clear up your thinking, makes you more alert, helps you relax, and helps you get rid of the “feeling of fullness” after a heavy meal.

Relatedly, smoking helps you engage in conversation, helps you focus in whatever work you do, and helps you get into the routine, if you have gotten used to smoking in your daily life.

The second benefit of smoking is that it’s a sociability tool, mainly for smoothing over any awkwardness in introducing yourself and acquainting yourself with strangers.  Essentially, if you smoke, and I smoke, we can do something together, even if we’re strangers who happen to be killing ourselves (no overt sarcasm intended).  Because smokers meet and converge in smoking areas, share cigarettes, light each other’s cancer sticks, friendships are easily struck and nurtured, no big surprise.  The real surprise is why can’t we do this in church, the gym, or even on the train commuting to and from work?  Because smoking is a social activity, and misery loves company.  Nothing more, nothing less.

I thought there would be a third benefit of smoking, but I was wrong.  That’s it.

Now, on the other side of the scale :

Lung cancer and related diseases from smoking is the second most prevalent preventable cause of death in the world, or is among the top three at least.  The graphic in the video above says 4 million die from smoking related causes every year, but it’s at least two years old.  ( I just looked, it’s five million now.)  For someone as smart, practical and common-sensical as you, it beggars belief that you’re still smoking. 😉

There are so many negative social consequences that one must live with if he/she persists in smoking, among them being shunned and ostracized (and sent to smoking areas), being thought of as being inconsiderate, especially if they are parents, “dragon breath”, work interruption caused by cigarette breaks, and so on.  This is a list that keeps giving, and so I better stop here.

And there are many many others, reasons to stop I mean, but since I’m a scaredy cat, I need to ask you Precious Reader : what if you don’t die from  cancer, complications or emphysema soon after diagnosis?  Below is not a very watchable video (yet again), but it’s quite convincing :

Sorry to use such a graphic video, but it’s better than a video of an actual person sick with COPD and emphysema.  The voice-over with the video is effective, too.

***        ***         ***         ***         ***

That’s it.  That’s my take on smoking.  I can’t say I’m completely free of tobacco addiction (’cause I still think about smoking, especially when I see you smoking), but pardon me for bragging when I say that I’m getting there.

And I would love your company. 🙂

the last great pinoy addiction

our favorite food-trippers and their best friends… thanks to archiefans.com for the pic!

[ Please note that “great” in the following context refers to magnitude and extent of influence in my life, and not to other potentially positive attributes, as the word is often expected to project.  Condolences to the family of Sec Jesse Robredo and the Pinoy community of believers in public sector reform, congrats to Pres. Noynoy on his outstanding choice of Prof Ma Lourdes Sereno for Chief Justice of the Phil. Supreme Court, and awesome kudos to the NZ All-Blacks for their clinical dissection of the Wallabies last night to retain the Bledisloe Cup for a 10th straight year, sorry to my former news ed Mr Raul Zamuco, woohoohoo! ]

BECAUSE THE excuse of a busted bike gave me free rides from SuperBisor all week last week, I had more than the usual moments with my lonesome after exercise, and before chores and time with esposa hermosa.  I had in fact an epiphany while looking at my pathetic self in the mirror, realizing the following : (1) it was less than three years before I would hit the half-century mark, a milestone that just a few years ago I thought was positively ancient; (2) instead of shedding off unsightly balikbayan poundage since returning to the grind July, I had actually ADDED to it, and was now around 10 kilos above my normal fighting weight (which you don’t need to know by the way, just believe my shameful admission); and (3) my promise to myself to consume either oatmeal or cereal every morning, avoid the decadent Breakfast-Value-Meal-like breakfasts that gave me so much more cholesterol, transfat and lipid-rich slush in my plumbing had remained just that, a(n unfulfilled) promise.

Guess how I celebrated discovering this nugget of self-discovery?  I uncovered a tub of ice cream I hid in the furthest corner of the freezer, half a liter bottle of Regular Sprite (not diet or Sprite Zero) that nobody wanted, heated up one-plus servings of gooey lasagna that was part of my baon the next few days, microwaved leftovers of the last two days (rice, igado, kaldereta etc), brought out banana slices, apple slices and macadamia-corn-flakes cereal that I missed for breakfast (the only healthy part of this orgy) and demolished, ate it all.  Everything on the enumeration just gone by.

It’s no excuse, but my blood sugar was low, just missed both lunch and breakfast as I had to accommodate an overdue run around the block, I wanted to reward myself for the run, but I only realized the cringe-inducing and disgusting nature of my deed, as usual, after the last grain, crumb and drop had rolled down my throat.  Sa huli ang pagsisisi.

You’ve probably guessed that I’ve been guilty of these acts throughout most of my life.  I’m not only a binge eater, I pig out on midnight snacks.  I eat way too much sweets, I love salty chichirya, all the junk food that a person like me is supposed to avoid, and my only excuse is I deserve a little break every now and then.

The only problem is now and then is too often, a little break has become too regular for me, and I simply can’t continue to eat with too much sugar and too much salt in my daily diet.  As it is, there’s already a proliferation of sodium and sugar in an average of six meals of the male Pinoy, daily rice intake itself is already the molecular equivalent of half a dozen teaspoons of sugar, with the only difference being that you can’t pig out on sugar cubes.  The way I’ve been brought up, the media and information culture I grew up in, and my predisposition to certain foods will almost surely consign me to hypertension, Type B diabetes, cardiovascular illness and a host of other related conditions before I reach the last two decades of my life expectancy.  And there’s no other way to put it : it has a lot to with my sugar and salt addiction.

thanks to donenrique.blogspot for the pic !

I won’t mention the deleterious effects of the said chemicals C12H22O11 and NaCl, because you all know it, it’s just that the intelligent part of our brain shuts down when confronted with gorgeous pastries, glistening french fries, caramel frapuccino, and colorful kakanin.  For thousands of years, the scarcity of food and our unending struggle with the elements has taught our bodies to evolve fat-retaining properties and sugar-containing systems, a self-defense mechanism gifted to us by God and nature.  Because of the plenitude of food afforded by science and the industrial revolution, we don’t need to keep extra food in our bodies anymore.  We don’t even need to hibernate anymore.  But because eating is always pleasurable, because we are by nature lazy and hate to exercise, and because the instinct of food business is to make us continuously addicted to its ever-changing products, fourteen percent (14%) of the world is now obese, one in three Americans are grossly fat, and one in five New Zealanders are unacceptably overweight.

self-explanatory. thanks to ehow.com!

Now, being addicted to both sugar and sweet isn’t too bad for me; it is one of the few addictions that are socially acceptable in the modern world.  Even being obese is not so bad if you can bear the stares and snickers behind your back, witness the stats on fatness the previous sentence.  The only snag in the stitchwork in my personal case is that I’m on the brink of senior hood, when middle-age spread (or bilbil that won’t go away) takes a herculean effort to counteract, when the occupational hazards of eating everything in front of you ( I am to please ) begin to show up in the form of various diseases and when the cheques your body wrote during the wildness of your decadent youth are coming back to haunt you for encashment, with interest.

The bottom line is that like many of you similarly placed, the urgency of common sense and self-preservation has coerced me into giving up most of my addictions.  Tobacco was the easiest habit to pick up but the hardest to break.  Alcohol made for good conversation, but through the years you just realized that throwing up too often wasn’t that hard to give up.  And funny cigarets altered a lot of your ways of thinking but didn’t do you too many favors being perceived as a normal person, so that wasn’t too hard.

It’s eating and eating food that’s bad for you (but which tastes so good) that is the addiction nurtured by a lifetime of bad habits, and therefore takes the remaining portion of your life to undo and change.  That’s why, beyond all common sense, after eating food that could have fed three people, I’m looking forward to Chinese takeaway dinner  with the obligatory MSG, secondhand cooking oil and food coloring all around.

Thanks for reading !

hiding ciggies out of sight, out of mind, for good : note to Phil lawmakers

this an example of an Australian cigarette showcase, the NZ counterpart will show even less.

IT’S NOT enough that all sorts of media exposure, advertising generation and public affairs sponsorship is to be curtailed forever.  It’s also not nearly enough that the scariest, most graphic and direst COPD, emphysema, cancer and tobacco-related warnings are posted on the cartons and cardboard containers.

On top of very stringent retail selling, underage / minors prohibitions and the basic prohibition against smoking in public places, confined places, public transport, buildings libraries and almost every place you can imagine, stores of all kinds may no longer display tobacco products in plain sight.

I chose to keep that last sentence by itself, for emphasis and clarity.  Imagine you, a shopkeeper, selling ciggies but not allowed to showcase them like any product or commodity.

Yes, I use the word commodity because, poison cigs may be, but they still provide a so-called “benefit” or pleasure that is desired by human beings.  For cigarette smoke, as many of its inhalers know, produce in the body certain reactions that are difficult to replicate in nature.  A certain “rush” or shiver that only extreme physical and/or emotional stimuli generate.  A temporary calmness that paves that way for thought and focus.  Or a kick-start to the circulation after a heavy meal.

Regardless of the perceived benefits, the long-term destruction and social evil brought about by ciggies has created a long line of anti-tobacco legislation in NZ, and this latest law disallowing shopkeepers fromn displaying them only the latest.

Some experts say it will further deter current and potential smokers from being stimulated by the visual aid of the cigarettes and the encouragement of choosing between colorful brands, much like candies in a glass showcase.

Other say it won’t do much for the great majority who are already addicted and already know what to buy and how much the same cost.

My best example would have to be my own when I smoked.  I knew the brand I liked and the best substitute in case the first wasn’t available, the minimum and maximum price of such brand/s, and what my preferences look like.

Now the force of memory and knowing exactly what you like will have be important if one wants to continue smoking.  No sign or even a shadow of any tobacco product, no information as to brand, price or availability can be discerned anywhere, and retail establishments face stiff fines should this policy be violated.

Whatever you feel about this and other anti-tobacco policies, you can’t deny the symbolic effect of what it means.  Imagine entering a grocery store in your country, finding no trace of cigarettes or similar products anywhere, not being allowed to ask about brands price or any kind of information.  You have to know exactly what you want, know how much it costs and short of robbing the store at gunpoint, you won’t be given what you want unless you are an adult and are fully aware of what you are buying.

One can only commend New Zealand for the political will with which it makes known its anti-tobacco and pro-health policy in favor of its present and future generations.

Thanks for reading and onward to a tobacco-free NZ by 2025!

the muscle memory of post-tobacco addiction

A smoking room at the airport in Perth, Australia. Do you think this idea is something Pinoys will like?

WOULD YOU like an explanation of the title before I go any further?  Here it is.  Muscle memory by popular definition is the “second nature” acquired by your muscles from movements and activities you perform regularly, over long periods of time.  Examples are your leg muscles acclimatizing themselves to the long grind of distance running, your biceps, triceps and latissimus dorsi muscles getting used to your lifting deadweights, etc.  Sometimes the use of the term muscle memory is extended to both athletic and non-athletic activities, because so much of our daily lives is governed by routine.Despite the fact that I’ve given up tobacco smoking for almost five years now, it’s mildly unnerving to know that just the sight of people smoking triggers an almost primal urge in me to light up myself, even though I live with the conviction that I’ve conquered said addiction albeit after almost a quarter of a century.  I won’t mislead you and say it was a breeze, for I’ve hurdled and stumbled on quite a few bumps in the road on the way to freedom from cancer sticks, but on the other hand I won’t squash even the faintest hopes for addiction recovery, and tell you it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  It wasn’t, and if you can get through the first week, you’re probably three-fourths of the way home.

But I digress.  Today I just want to focus on the little slivers and morsels that remind me of the Way of Life that is tobacco smoking, and how indirectly they might help you to find out who’s a smoker, or is still smoking even when he or she says the smoking’s stopped :

These are the nice ways of showing that you are aware that someone has been smoking 🙂

Aroma, odor and scent.  Trust me, no one can smell out a smoker better than someone who no longer smokes.  This is first because the ex-smoker has developed an aversion to the aroma of tobacco smoke, which unfortunately stays behind on the personal effects, clothing and dwellings of the ex-smoker’s friends who still smoke.  Secondly, the olfactory skills of ex-smokers, which for so long have been desensitized to the daily exposure to tobacoo smoke, have slowly but surely begun to return.  The rejuvenation and restoration of nose power awakens the challenge in the ex-smoker to sniff out whatever sensory challenge is out there, and among the edgiest challenges is to find out who’s been smoking the most among wretched still-smoking friends.  I’ll never forget the words of a confirmed quitter : passive smoke never sticks enough to your shirt, car, and especially not on your breath to stay with you the rest of the dayWhen an ex-smoker says he/she smells of passive smoke, odds are it’s smoker’s smoke, duh.

Smoking, like misery, loves company, so this cat will have to do.

Misery loves company, smoker’s haunts, and endless breaks.  No value judgment here, but in the name of satisfying a nicotine fit, you’d be surprised to what lengths a smoker will go.  After smoking has caught you in its tender embrace, it becomes your Number One Priority to light up every time you feel like it, every half hour of the day, every day of the week, and every week of the year.  Because of this, productivity, work ethic, and finally common sense all bow to the mighty ciggy.  So that after the mid-morning break, there’s the pre-lunch cigaret break, then lunchbreak gets extended by a quarter-hour for a post-meal smoke, 3.00 merienda is quickly followed by a post-merienda trip to the sidewalk vendor, and just before bundy time, why not break for a yosi among friends?

And smokers enjoy a conspiratorial fraternity that keeps everyone else out and swears each of its members to cooperation and secrecy.  When one smoker smokes, chances are he or she will ask a co-smoker or two to tag along.  And if there are deserted, rarely-visited areas of a building, even if that entire building is supposed to be a no-smoking area, those half-hidden places will evolve into smokers’ haunts forever.  This is why, outside all-night call centers on Emerald Ave on Ortigas Center, you see groups of smokers everyday of the workweek, inside and outside the building.  Each building is like one giant chimney that never stops spewing smoke, it would be hilariously funny if it weren’t so dangerous to the health.

There’s always an excuse to smoke.  When I was a smoker, I smoked after a heavy meal, when I needed some heavy-duty thinking, when I was happy, when I was depressed, when I just finished doing the nasty, or just about every waking activity between getting up and going to bed.  Pretty soon, you don’t need an excuse anymore, because it’s part of your daily routine, and before long, it becomes part of your system.  You can’t conceive of a life without smoking, and it takes a life-changing event to consider quitting, like a near-hit with terminal illness or death.

I didn’t have a near-hit, but I saw enough close calls to say, enough is enough.  I still get the urges and never finish a day of my life without once thinking of smoking, but I know where I would’ve ended up if I hadn’t quit when I did.  It’s never too late to stop smoking, and now is as good a time as any.  As the TelstraClear ad says, now’s good.

Thanks for reading !

Feeding my (Pinoy) addiction

[Note : The video above has little to do with our topic today, save perhaps for the 1980s movie clips of movies I grew up watching.  It’s also one of the funniest and creative videos I’ve seen!  Advance happy birthdays to a cherished 6-Eer, Ms Jocelyn Chan, and my awesomely great bro, Mr Tim Bautista !  Woo-hoo! ]

SPONTANEOUS blogging is sometimes unnerving.  Once you post, you can’t go back and do a second take, or decide you weren’t really that comfy talking about yesterday’s lonely battles, lost causes and unrequited loves as much as you were that night you downed five shots of rum-and-coke, with MagicSing, old friends and compatriots on the first night of a long weekend.

If you’ve read the correct blend of blogs here and there on this dysfunctional site, you’ll know that I’ve led a more-or-less colorful life, and not much to show for it except love handles, missing teeth and kids who would go tsk-tsk-tsk not again Papa at me regularly if they (1) weren’t more understanding, (2) weren’t preoccupied with thier own dramas or (3) didn’t know that their Tita H (esposa hermosa to me) is around to rein me in and brew my favorite poisons to keep me sedated and agreeable. (woo-hoo!)

For posterity’s sake, it occurred to me that I’m obligated to scrawl with my blood on the book of life the late (and present) addictions of my life, as I remember them and as they come back to me during the painful process of remembering ( hopefully without primal scream or talk therapy 🙂 ) and incidentally laughing at the wasting excess of youth :

Chocolate bars, especially nutty, almondy and nougaty ones,& all other sweet things.  Like many kids growing up postwar and to middle-class folk, I grew up exposed to the taste of chocolate, both the imported kind and the poor imitations (let’s admit it, Serg’s and Goya didn’t distinguish themselves trying to be Hershey Milk Chocolate  and Nestle Crunch taste-a-likes).  We are all born as a soupy (but intelligent) mix of enzymes, tissues and acid-base compounds trying to compete for proteins and sugars, and we have a built-in desire for sustenance.  But our elders, instead of seeing through our base desires for anything fattening and obesity-inducing, sometimes found it amusing for little blobs like us begging for more and more sweets until we reached a diabetic stupor that would be a signature of our pre-teens and sedentary childhood.

Nestles, Cadbury, Hersheys, all the great brands, oooooh...I knew all the hiding places of my mom, whether it was the Danish biscuits, Snickers bars, sweetened pili nuts from the province or local delights like kakanin and sickly-sweet pastries full of whipped cream and food coloring.  I never discriminated against food, as long as it was sweet and swoon-inducing.  Everytime an indulging aunt allowed me to tag along with her in Quiapo for some window shopping, I would imply in no uncertain terms that the trip would end best with a visit to her favorite halo-halo counter that served it with all the trimmings like sweet munggo, pinipig, sago, nata de coco, coconut strips, crushed ice and milk, topped of course by dirty ice cream.

Years later I would pay for all my sugar addiction, suffering from energy gaps and walking in a daze unless I received my regular fix of sugar, only it would be in the more boring form of sugared coffee, sugared tea, sugared juice and whatever sweets happened to be available.  It would be years and years before I weaned myself from the stuff through green tea, exercise and the universal purgative, tap water.  May I daresay to all budding parents, parents of toddlers and those not yet in the hypnotic orbit of sugar, I can tell you without hyperbole that it is as addictive as sex ( so I’m told 😉 ), tobacco smoking and alcohol.  Mieux vaut prevenir que guerir .

***            ***             ***               ***               ***

this is getting to be a depressing site at the cancer wards; remember it's mostly PREVENTABLE >:(Quit smoking or die trying. Because of a dare and wanting to be cool like my bros (both situations rooted in a combination of immaturity and stupidity) as a teenager, I ended up, 10 years later, a half-pack a day smoker.  I had smoked greater and lesser amounts, but had leveled off to around 10 sticks a day.  It wasn’t too bad, but my lungs were constantly hacking off phlegm, couldn’t run at a decent pace for more than 10 minutes (forget about playing basketball with younger guys), and had diminished senses of taste and smell.  What more did you need, as good reasons, to quit?

Evidently I was hard-headed as granite, as it took quite a few more years, smoking-related deaths among relatives, and my own deteriorating fitness, before I extinguished my last cigarette butt.  I’ve had quite a few relapses since then (November 17 2007), but on the whole God has been good to me, refusing to let me slide back into probably one of the nastiest habits Modern Man has ever devised, tobacco smoking.

***              ***               ***               ***               ***

had enough Duff?Di po ako lashing.  Common knowledge with most sociable adults is a lot of recreational drugs release both endorphins and dopamine, which cloud pain and produces a sense of satisfaction.  Some substances also slow the release of GABAs and glutamate, which regulates the transmission of messages between the brain and nerves, the latter causing us to say and do things we later regret.

What a lot of us may not realize is that alcohol and alcohol drinking does BOTH of these, and therefore rightly deserves the appellation the most dangerous drug, because of the aforementioned, and also because alcohol drinking, at least in small amounts, is socially acceptable; even regular and reckless drinking takes some time before it is acted upon.  I’ve never been an alcoholic or even a drinker dependent on regular alcohol consumption, but it wouldn’t take much for me to hit the bottle for any reason and any occasion.  Especially in the Philippines, drinking particularly among the menfolk is accepted, sometimes even encouraged as a rite of passage, after work, during festive occasions, and any other event.

I was lucky, because I’m not genetically disposed to alcoholism, nobody close to me was particularly fond of alcohol, and I was always ready to throw up after five or six drinks.  It kept me from winning any drinking contests, but it also avoided killing any of my brain cells at an early age, and any time you’ve got your brain intact along with the rest of your body, reasonably healthy and in the prime of your life, you’re in a good place, fingers crossed.

***               ***               ***               ***               ***

A one-time Cheech & Chong fan who DID inhale.  A short period of my life, a college pal smoked funny cigarets at least once a week, and I’m not ashamed to admit sometimes I was right there with him, and of course he shared a few puffs with me.  What I am embarrassed to admit is I think I enjoyed it too much at times, distracted myself from my duties and my obligations.  Thankfully, it remained what it should have been, a part of wasted, misguided youth that our elders overlooked until we became more responsible men.

Some days though I fear irreparable damage may have been done.  Memory, reaction time and lapses in judgment are all gray areas of our mental faculties and who knows if those slices of indiscretion, however momentary in the continuing saga of my life, have affected me permanently?  The nice part is I’ll never know, and that is the beauty of the crapshoot that is Life.

I’m not justifying them, but I did have my addictions at various times in my life, for better or for worse.  It may or may not have affected me permanently, but it helped me to realize that once you fall into a hole, the best person to help you get out ASAP is yourself.  It’s also the best way to avoid falling into a similar hole again.

Thanks for reading !

How Do U Quit When Every1 Else is Doin’ It?

[ NOte from NOel : Sigh, another smoking blog from me, although this one comes after an uncle just passed away after a lifetime of tobacco.  Please forgive my stubbornness, but if you can convince just ONE person to quit today, you will have made a profound change in the lives of two persons at least, the quitter and his loved one/s.  That good deed will last you the rest of your life… lastly, does everyone agree that the dad of this unfortunate Sumatran toddler should be immediately relieved of his parental duties and sent to Libya to fight for Col. Gadaffi asap???  Thanks in advance for reading! ]

A MOST ubiquitous sight when I stroll down Main Ave Friday pm while waiting foresposa hermosa to finish her shift in this small Kiwi town (small by Pinoy standards I mean, it is probably one of the bigger towns in the Wellington region) are the clusters of people taking their ciggie breaks outside the office buildings, the teenagers stealing a smoke down the alleyways (while their folks are maybe doing the very same thing a block away), and finally the minors asking if you can do them a favor and buy a pack of smokes for them at the tobacco shop, which you politely decline.

Although non-smokers are still the slight majority in most societies like NZ‘s and the Philippines, because smokers are so visible and tend to stick together (misery loves company), because they grudgingly follow and/or flout the no-smoking rules as a group, they seem to be one amorphous, cohesive mass of individuals determined to assert their right to smoke and therefore their right to slowly kill themselves.

Not all the anti-smoking TV/radio/newspaper campaigns, health warnings and word-of-mouth horror stories of people dropping dead like flies with butts between their lips will stand up against the peer pressure of beholding all your mates puffing away, with you the lone remaining holdout.

We all know how prevalent tobacco smoking is back home, with all the calendars, street and sidewalk vendors, cheap cigs available, but it’s not that much different here.  Subtle messaging on cinema, solid endorsement by role models and anti-hero figures, slick marketing and product placement on various forms of media, and most of all, street creds, gang mentality and the culture of toughness all embrace extensive tobacco use, both in itself and as a gateway substance to eventual drug use (sorry for the dim view on cig smoking, we are feeling a bit low now because of a personal loss).

If I seem a bit too hyperaware on the who’s where’s and how’s of smoking, it’s probably because I know where to look and what signs my sensors need to pick up.  Back in university during our good old days, authorities looked the other way when it came to smoking, probably because political correctness was not such a barometer of how well to run educational institutions and because many faculty members themselves were notorious smokers.

If your professor was a smoker, you would have to tolerate his smoke along with his lectures, and by all means you were encouraged to light up yourself, as long as the item in question was only tobacco and not some other leafy material.  Toilets were well-loved enclaves of nicotine addicts, male and female alike, and those good boys (and girls) who wished to relieve themselves were advised to keep their visits to the john short and sweet, and strictly business.

These days the taboo associated with smoking is harsh and strident, but the hardened smokers (and their hardened arteries) are given their due space and literally, a wide berth.  They are duly ostracized and shunned by the smoke free crowd, but continue to hold court outside their office buildings, in the eternal twilight of basement stairwells, and know all the takatak (traffic) cigaret vendors on first name basis.  We respect and acknowledge the right of smokers to assert their choice to smoke, their individuality to persist maintaining a nasty habit that impressionable youth should no longer be exposed to, and their universal right to act as irrationally as God allows.

But as everyone else on the planet should be wondering, do these rights supercede other organisms’ right to breathe clean air?

**                **               **               **               **

Pity the clueless smoker, who is largely unaware that the conspiracy of Big Brother, Big Business, ad-hungry Media and macho-conscious Showbiz  will do anything  to suck chain-smoking masses and maintain billion dollar revenues, regardless of the unconscionable poisons tobacco perpetuate and billions more lost in illnesses, deaths and man-hours wasted.

We can always rely on the hard-headedness and tigas ulo of the recidivist smoker, who deep in his heart knows that unless he makes a life-changing and paradigm shifting decision to stop, can never stand up to the slick, chemically aided and continually evolving weapons of tobacco addiction.  But the enlightened thinkers and leaders in society can at least level the playing field by using heavy-handed government policy, under the philosophy that those who have less in common sense should have more in law.

Thanks for reading !