When I turned fifty years old I quit smoking tobacco. We were on a charter flight from somewhere in the Caribbean and I found I was having trouble getting my breath. I blamed the problem partly on the dry, thin air peculiar to airline travel but mostly on my egregious cigarette smoking. I resolved to quit right then and there and I have never smoked another cigarette to this day.
Prior to my 65th birthday I decided it was an occasion to quit drinking alcohol, which I did. Once again I haven’t had a drop since then to this day. Admittedly I had lately had some sage advice from a Dutch Uncle but clearly I was already poised to make the change. Considering I am only now approaching my 67th birthday, that is not a terribly long time to have maintained sobriety but I have no interest in spoiling the record. Nor, more importantly, do I have any further appetite for the stuff. I am too well aware of the cost of drinking as far as it affects my already limited intellectual capacity ever to want to renew the indulgence.
Frankly I’ve never considered my sobriety an accomplishment; if anything, it was nothing more than the evaporation of an appetite. This qualifies as a small compliment at best. Nonetheless most of my friends appear to marvel at the tact as though it were some kind of feat even though I am quick to urge upon them that I can easily bear the deprivation. No doubt part of my so-called success in this endeavour arises (as usual) from the serendipitous events of my life at the time. I had sold my office building, I had negotiated a prospective sale of my law practice and my retirement was within sight. I am also quite certain that my advancement to official old age had something to do with it, rather removing the customary buoyancy from erstwhile youthful frivolity and marking what should normally be a time of serious philosophy in life. Given these ample and relieving conditions it is no wonder I was prepared to launch into a new style of living, specifically one which didn’t include the anaesthetizing effect of the preprandial cocktail.
I won’t of course be so churlish as to assert that the historic pleasure of the frozen martini was completely lost on me. Every so often – more so months ago than now – I found myself salivating at the thought of an evening martini with an improving book in front of a blazing fireplace. The image of that happy intemperance had considerable foundation in fact. When for example I still had my little French bulldog Monroe, we two had an early evening routine which revolved around that very ceremony. In spite of its compelling features I retained enough level-headedness to acknowledge that the ritual, like so many other things in my past, was but a happy memory and that attempting to relive it was destined to fail one way or the other. Thankfully these instances of mesmerizing recollection percolated but infrequently. Now they are entirely a thing of the past with no more appeal than any other milestone in my life. I have instead opted for a new posture which pleases me very much. Certainly I still get angry enough at the world at times to wish I could quickly and briefly eliminate the anxiety but I have learned there are other preferable alternatives to address an annoyance.
It no doubt helped to sustain my sobriety that we also sold our house and moved into a new apartment, one which pleases us very much. I can’t think that there was much else we could have done to leave our old habits and customs in the past. My retirement was also considerably accelerated so once again my former life-style changed radically. I mention these facts primarily because I have never been known to be one who is particularly efficient when maintaining a course of action which seemingly lacks immediate rewards and gratification. By contrast I am normally one who is quick to embrace anything which rationalizes all that is epitomized by the Carpe Diem adage. There lingered however that refrain I had adopted on my 65th birthday; namely, “You only turn sixty-five once!” Why that date was so significant I cannot honestly say but it rang true to me for whatever reason and I have never been seriously tempted to defeat its rarity.
It would amount to boredom to relate how I now view the world differently. The change has naturally been incremental and therefore almost unnoticeable. But there has indeed been a change. For one thing, I never begin the day muttering an expletive, something which once was characteristic. My personal talents, whatever they may be and however developed or not they are, no longer suffer self-imposed diminution. In general terms I am now prepared to accept the limits of my compass and rejoice in what I have sans alcohol. Being a person of a binary nature that I am, I hasten to add that booze was something I “enjoyed” to excess; accordingly my prescription (if indeed this is one) doesn’t apply to many people.