Just to give you a little bit of a heads up in advance, this is not going to be one of my soft, heartfelt stories. There will be no images of unicorns, rainbows, or floating smiley faces conjured up in your heads at any point. This one will be much more of a spontaneous, maniacal rant. I’m sure you will pick up some hints of bitterness, hostility, loathing, and even a little rage. Do not attempt anything you are about to read at home. No animals were harmed in the making of this story.

Alright, now that I’ve hit you with “my own” disclaimers, not to be confused with the ones the magazine levies on my column each week, let’s get started. I’m writing this story for one reason and one reason only. I learned recently in a meeting that the theme of Shorebread Magazine for the month of January is HEALTH AND WELLNESS. My handlers thought it might be cool if I could come up with an article sticking to this theme. I am not a subscriber to, advocate for, nor proponent of “health” or “wellness”. The words themselves imply going to one or both of my two least favorite places: a doctor’s officeor a gym. I shudder at the mere thought of ever stepping foot into either of these chambers of torture and degradation.

I know it’s a bit wreckless for someone my age to live this way, but I’m just not a big fan of doctors. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times in my life I’ve ever been told good news by a doctor. Three of the fingers are occupied by the words: “it’s a girl”. One of the fingers held the words: “it’s a boy”. And the fifth came from a doctor I happened to be dating at the time and it’s not germane to this story in any way. I understand that doctors are a necessary evil, and I will in fact visit one if it’s something I can’t fix myself. For example, compound fractures, cancer, or flesh eating bacteria. Other than that, I pretty much have to have been unconscious upon arrival at the medical facility and transported there by someone else against my will.

It’s no big secret that I’m not much of a gym-goer either. I was at one time, however. To put it in perspective I am going to vividly describe for you the images of the last time I was a regular gym attendee. I pulled up to the bike rack outside of the gym and locked up my candy apple red Schwinn 10-speed. I felt good before I even walked in just based on my work out attire. Everything matched, (or so I thought at the time.) This basically meant that from head to toe I was clad in different variations and shades of the same color. Today’s theme was the area of the spectrum surrounding royal blue. So lock that in and we’ll move on without having to again reference colors. I had on my 4 button, Riddell coaches shorts. I had no under garments on. I’m not sure why. It was kind of a phase that seemed like a good idea at the time. I had my brand new, New Balance high tops on with the colored, two-inch wide laces that just hung from the top eyelet and never actually tied. It took me over an hour to get the laces set just right, and they had to be purchased separately.  I wore matching tube socks that came to just slightly below my kneecaps. I had on my half shirt that read property of the Baltimore Colts. I wore a wristband on each arm, probably too high up to serve a purpose. And finally, my mullet (which rested just a few inches south of my shoulders in the back, while being short in front and spikey on top) was being restrained by a blue bandana.

I, of course, accessorized with my newest purchase that happened to be this awesome new device called a Walk-Man. In it, I was listening to a tape of this new band some girl had turned me on to called Duran Duran. They sounded a little fruity, but no one else could hear what I was listening to, and she was pretty hot, so I went along with it. Mounted high in the corner, above the door was a 12-inch TV being held up by a piece of plywood and a bungee cord. I couldn’t hear it because I was rocking my headphones, but on the TV, Reagan was giving his inaugural address. There was no point in climbing up there to change the channel either because the same program was on all three channels. So those of us who wanted to see it (and those who didn’t) were stuck with it. Even though it had preempted the chronicles of Luke and Laura.

Now to the point to all of this; I think you’ve been patient enough. About a week ago, I made a spontaneous, on the spot, not at all premeditated decision and upon writing this, I had so far stuck to it. I decided that I wanted to be something I hadn’t been in about twenty-eight years: a nonsmoker. Sorry to any fans and readers who thought that I already was a nonsmoker. I hope I didn’t just destroy your image of me with my otherwise squeaky-clean persona and lifestyle. Yes folks, that’s right, as I write this, I’m on the tail end of day six completely smoke free, cold turkey, and with no aids or supplements. So just SHUT UP AND LEAVE ME ALONE!!!

If I’ve run into you in the past week and behaved as if perhaps I hated you, then it’s because I did! Please don’t take my hatred personally or read too much into it. It is temporary. If you are anyone who’s not me, then chances are, I hate you right now. The only thing I’ve hated more this past week than anyone who’s not me is anyone who IS me. I apologize in advance, and I wish I could say I was stronger, but I’d be lying. At least you all can get away from me. I’m stuck with me. I’m not at all in denial about the temporary beast that I’ve become. My wife and kids have been good sports and very supportive. They sent me a postcard from wherever they are. It looks to be somewhere in South America, but I can’t say with certainty.

Now before anyone tries to pat me on the back, let me just explain a few things about how all this went down. I don’t want anyone’s praise, admiration, advice or relating their stories of how they did it. I’m not looking for a support group, a new friend, or any mystical remedies or solutions on how to stick with it. In fact, I don’t particularly want any human contact at all right now unless you are immediate family. I will make an exception for anyone who is holding a plate of cookies and offering them to me. Cookies and I were always casual acquaintances, but just recently we’ve become so much more. I think my wife is beginning to get a little concerned, not so much about my sudden rapid weight gain, but my unnatural fondness for the magical baked goods. I’d like it to be known that I’m not discriminatory at all when it comes to cookies. It really doesn’t matter at all at this point what kind they are, so long as they are at least loosely some variety or derivative of a cookie. In my emotionally weakened state I would not hesitate to fight an entire troop of Girl Scouts for a Radio Flyer wagon full of Tagalongs and Samoas.

I forged my newfound alliance with the yummy round confections around day three of what I hope to be my permanent cigarette-free new life. I only happened upon them because I had run out of cheese. At any given time, I have no less than a half dozen different varieties of cheese in my home. It only took three days of supplementing queso for carcinogens and I had eaten us completely out of all varieties of my dairy delights. I’m not gonna lie, I was secretly in panic mode. I couldn’t let my family know, though. I had to hold it together. I knew that as long as I kept busy and occupied, I’d be alright. So I got into cleaning mode, which is really no different than any other day in my borderline OCD life, only this day I was really focused. Usually, my OCD clashes with my ADD, and man does that make for an entertaining to do list. Just follow me around with a camera on one of those days. And by the way, for what it’s worth, I’m not on any medications at all.

I’m going to cut it off there and explain to you what you are now stuck in the middle of. I did, in fact, without provocation, or premeditation, decide on the morning of January 12, 2013 to, or at least attempt to, quit smoking. At the risk of disappointing some of you, I am in fact speaking of cigarettes. Difficult as it is to believe having read some of my work, that is all I smoke. You’d have to go back at least twenty years to get the really entertaining version of me. The fact that I’m off of my full time job for the month and enjoying the life of stay at home dad, and part-time writer made this seem like either the best possible time to quit, or the absolute worst. It’s too early to tell. I didn’t intend to make a deal of it or even draw attention to it at all, but having a front row seat witnessing my own withdrawal insanities, I realized quickly that this was print worthy.

On day five, I sat down and started writing the chronicles of my first days as a nonsmoker. I guess in some warped way, it was therapeutic because when I got up I had written 13 pages. I certainly can’t dump all of that on you. What can I say; even I can jump on the health and wellness train when I realize how much I have to live for. Thanks for playing along.

Until next week,

Syd Nichols

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