Old habits are hard to break, especially when they involve drinking and smoking, but change for the better doesn’t always have to mean going cold turkey. See what New Year’s Resolutions Andy Kane has committed to.
I don’t want to flog a dead horse or anything, but apparently 2016 sucked. As 2017 brings about a chance for political change, I intend to make some personal ones. I’m not big on resolutions, but the turn of the year is always a good vantage point to look at where you’ve been, consider where you’re going, and what bad habits to leave behind.
Habits though, take time to break. I’ve done plenty of celebrating during the Christmas break. Several times I’ve found myself awake for two days, still knocking back whatever liquid is left at 7am.
I’m a good drunk, but drinking has never helped me shake loose or feel more like myself. If I didn’t already feel good, alcohol wasn’t going to fix that. For me it’s more like an elixir that infuses my mood more than changing my character – beer makes me horny, cider makes me lairy, whiskey gets me emotional and warm tequila from a plastic shot glass always seems like a good idea but will invariably make me puke. Even after a heavy night’s drinking I never usually feel that //drunk// and so I’ve learned to modify my intake.
Nowadays I usually I drink more slowly, or less overall. I cut out weeknight pints and never drink to get drunk. A couple of shots while I’m getting ready to go out means I’m not ordering more at 1.45am. I don’t even like to mix sex and alcohol so it just makes sense for me to drink less. It’s not like I’m completely sober but cutting down makes a difference, at the very least to my bank account and my mornings, so it’s all for the best, and getting better all the time.
While I found it fairly easy to cut down on drinking, smoking has been trickier and taken longer. As a kid it was the one rule that you would have never expected me to break, but I did. I started like a cliché – dating a smoker, stealing one when he had one so we could sit by the window together. Then we started splitting a pack, and I’d smoke them when he wasn’t around. I just liked the feel of it and suddenly I smoked whenever I wanted to and never saw that guy again. I’d quit, I said, when I finally lost count of how many I’d had.
I dread to think now of how many nights I spent crushed into the smoking area of Dragon in the rain. Or afternoons with coffee when it was still legal to smoke inside. Or on the rooftop as the sun rose that morning after a house party on the canal. Or walking home to Harold’s Cross, hand freezing even with gloves on, sucking on a Benson. Or that time that Australian girl left those brown menthol cigarillos and we smoked them for months until they were gone. All those fucking cigarettes. Man, I’ve smoked so many cigarettes.
After a certain point I just was a smoker. The idea of trying to quit was foreign to me. I’d lost count long ago so I just kept smoking. Then one night I saw this ad in the back of a free gay magazine in an East Village bar that said: “Need to cut down? Quitting not an option?” and it hit me, something I had never thought of before – maybe I can just smoke less?
Again, it’s a process. From straights to rollies, from rollies to other people’s cigarettes (people will hate you for not buying your own, but that build-up of cigarette karma can keep you going for months). Finally I got down to only smoking cigarettes I could steal from my roommate when he was out of the room. I would whip them out of the pack and hide them before he came back. Eventually it just got embarrassing, but better, right? I want to be even better again this year.
Resolutions are about improving ourselves a bit at a time, not quitting because of one slip-up, but sustained positive change in any form. So while I try to cut out those last pesky cigarettes I am also trying to think of what else I can do to refocus my energy for good. This year I want to help my community by being more open about my life and sexuality, to ask questions and speak up about things, especially if they confuse me. I want to be kinder to myself and not second-guess or question my abilities. If I quit smoking, maybe my voice will be a louder for a little longer, more capable of clearing clouds with clarity.
So 2016 blew, but when people say it was the worst year ever they’re making a low-key statement of hope. “The best yet to come!” they say. “Or at least it can’t get much worse!” But even if it does, that’s what hope is about, resolutely resolving to improve the world by improving oneself. So here’s to drinking smarter, smoking less and speaking up. If people can believe the world can do a better job in 2017, then I’ve got to believe that I can too.