Sunday, 12 February 2012

Whitney Houston & Giving Up Smoking


Along with Cybill Shepherd, Whitney Houston was one of my first celebrity crushes. Being that I was around aged eleven when she first captured my heart, it was a pure thing; it was a time of innocence, when all the girls at school were ugly, smelled and had germs, but Whitney shone like an angel of fragrant loveliness, with her soulful vocals and starburst smile. And, my, she looked great in jeans!

“Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you misery in luxury.”Henry’s Cat

Right now, there can only be speculation as to Whitney’s cause of death, but it seems a fair assumption that it was related, in some way, to her sadness in life – whether it was a direct overdose of drugs or cardiac arrest of a weakened heart, caused by years of substance abuse… perhaps even suicide…

She was an amazing talent, with a voice that seemed like a gift from the heavens. It’s not a euphemism when I say that she had an incredible pair of lungs. She had such power of expression, which so easily captured the hearts of those who listened to her, to the point that people would choose her music for their own funerals. I want to be cremated to the words: “I wanna feel the heat with somebody.”

Global recognition, fame and fortune to a level that only a tiny minority of artists ever experience – the world was her lobster, but it wasn’t enough. All the material things in her life couldn’t fill the void of unhappiness inside her, and rather than being able to appreciate all her blessings, she hid away from the world behind a veil of narcotics.

With eerie echoes of Amy Winehouse, it’s a reminder that money really does not buy us happiness, and if we were to always measure our satisfaction in life by the things we have, rather than what we are, we’ll always be searching and never finding.

If you’re unhappy with yourself when you’re broke, living in dodgy accommodation,  scratching a living doing a job you hate and drinking at the end of each day to drown your sorrows, then you’re going to be unhappy with yourself even if you won the lottery and changed your surroundings. You’d be miserable in a more comfortable setting, but there’d still be that internal void.

Perhaps you wouldn’t be worrying about the bills, but wealth almost certainly exacerbates the problem of an addictive personality – when people use substances or situations to avoid and escape their reality. In that a boozer can’t buy booze when they have no money, if you find yourself with a seemingly limitless supply of cash, your choice of life-veiling distractions becomes much more exotic.

I’ve been trying to give up smoking for the past couple of years, to varying degrees of success, though I’ve inevitably failed and tried to justify it to myself in some way, with excuses that it wasn’t the right time or that I was under pressure. It’s a foolish, smelly, unsociable, expensive and ridiculously damaging habit, but I still find myself giving it an alibi and keeping it in my list of undesirable foibles.

When I read about Whitney Houston’s death, my gut instinct was that it was a heart-attack, and whether that is correct or not, I felt sadness that the damage she did to herself in the past had conspired to relieve her of her life at such a tragically early age, and 48 is far too young.

It reinforced the absurdity that I’m making choices, now, by smoking, that will have an impact on my health, in future. There could come a day when the doctor breaks the bad news and says, “Well, if you’d given up when you were 37 instead of 40, maybe this wouldn’t be happening.”

I want to eat good food, drink water, exercise regularly, walk mountains, breathe clean air and be happy, both in myself and in the company of people who choose to be around me.

I’ve fallen in love with a woman who makes me feel blessed, like she’s a gift from the Universe, and although I can’t foretell the future, I know I want to be around her for a long time to come and to squeeze as much from this life as we can, together. I want to be holding her hand in my 70s, reflecting on a life of goodness, kindness, laughter and peace… not buried to the tune of ‘I Will Always Love You’ in my late 40s, with those at my funeral lamenting what I could have done, if only I’d taken care of myself better.

Most importantly, perhaps, I love myself, now. I spent so many years seeing myself from quite the opposite perspective, but now I’m almost always happy and content with my lot in life. I feel I’m a good man with a great deal to give, whereas just two years ago, I felt like I was worthless to the world and best cut away from it.

Although there have been many areas of improvement in my life, smoking isn’t compatible with a total sense of self-love and I need to stop that, today. I’m not going to make any more excuses to myself.

There’s no better place to dwell than in your inner peace. You can carry it everywhere with you, to whatever location or situation, and even when you’re shaken out of that calm centre, at times, you can quickly roll back to it. I want to live there, naturally, rather than feel I have to have something extra to guide me there.

If we take away all the veils – in the sense of narcotics, alcohol, nicotine, obsessive thinking and all the other distractions and addictions we can choose in this western world of relative luxury – we expose ourselves to ourselves… but – and irregardless of wealth or status - can we live with ourselves?

Perhaps that’s one of the greatest challenges we have, as a species… to love completely and without condition; ourselves and others. Imagine the change in this world if we could all achieve that same state of bliss? We could have that today, if we so wished.

Safe journey, Whitney.

35 comments:

  1. I used to smoke too. It was disgusting, and no matter what I did, I always came back to it, until finally, I got myself a personal trainer. I got in shape at the time, right around when my world was falling apart, and did, and I literally didn't leave my house (actually) my parents' house for approximately 6 months, just on occasion I dared to. I gave up on everything, including life at the time. Failed relationship, work place from hell, moving home with Ma and Pa, and feeling completely devoid of emotion except pure, utter hell. Now I am happy to say, my life is not perfect. It's good. It could be better in some ways, but I got over the fear that I had to be without my addictions, bad relationships and being the office push over 2 of them. I still work on me, and I still make mistakes, and I am grateful for them all. What once was a hell for me, is now a faded memory of a girl who chose to see the world through a lens of self-deprecating thoughts and actions.

    Going to the trainer, I felt empowered, but then, instead of blooming into myself, I cowered and ran away, and now I am about to do it all again, but this time, I know I am going to get through it all. I no longer smoke, but I still have yet to find a job that works for me, that I can be proud of, so I turn to my writing, which has always given me joy, and my family, whom I love so much. I know you can quit smoking too, you just need the right motivation, but it won't fall into your lap, you have to go out and start to make your life, or life will make something of you, like poor Whitney. An example of what not to do... and me too I guess. I have my second chance, and I am taking it. Will you take yours?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I certainly will!

      That's an inspiring story. I'm so pleased things are better for you. Good is good - certainly better than crap. :-)

      Delete
  2. Wonderful piece Les..thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  3. The first two weeks I went cold turkey and gave up smoking (after 40 years of smoke-filled bliss) I was so miserable I thought death would be better than how I felt. So even though I never did drugs I can relate to Whitney and everybody else who has ever had an addiction. Nicotine is a tough friend to say goodbye to and like every other drug it's a friend that will eventually become an enemy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's hard going, but I'll get there!

      Delete
  4. really enjoyed the post...excellent and some good points

    ReplyDelete
  5. Les, one thing to keep in mind as you fight your dragon: your body will crave the addictive substance you're denying it. Addiction is a physical reality and although a positive belief that you can beat nicotine (or any other habit-forming substance) is necessary, withdrawal is still going to put you through the ringer. I know. I was a smoker, too. I'm sure your lovely girlfriend will help you to say no when the craving gets too bad; just forewarn her that you may be a little cranky at times. Good luck and best wishes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Suzanne! It's been tough, and the girlfriend is no longer my girlfriend - guess I picked the wrong time to give up smoking? I'll get there! :-)

      Delete
  6. I wish you nothing but love and light Les! As I am sitting here in the comfort of my home, I too chose to quit smoking about 7 months ago and I am currently giving up my intoxification by food as well! It is hard to give up all crutches we have adopted and I am so happy Whitney's death has inspired you to choose living! I reposted to my twitter and FB pages!
    BTW I tried an all natural herbal product to help me quit and it worked for me, it is called NicRx. Good Luck Les, your a champion and can do this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Joanne! Still smoking, sadly, but the change will come very soon. Thanks for the advice and encouragement! :-)

      Delete
  7. Nice tribute Les. Whitney Houston was an amazing talent - a beautiful woman, and it's truly sad she died at such an early age.

    As for your smoking - I know you can quit. Suck on something else to satisfy that craving you have. Lollipops, toothpicks, or even your thumb...much healthier. You can do it - I believe in you.

    eden
    xoxox

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is. Incredible voice. :-(

      Still not quite there with the smoking, but I'll do it. Thank you for your faith! :-)

      xoxox

      Delete
  8. Beautiful and thought provoking post Les. Thank you
    RIP Whitney Houston

    ReplyDelete
  9. Nice blend, Les. Your homage to Whitney was touching and appreciated. It can be sad when people we admire to go off on a seemingly misdirected path.

    Who knows? I sure don’t. As Will Rogers put it so aptly and applicably fro my travels, “It was a long road getting here and not all of it was paved.”

    As for nicotine …. Parting ways with it was the hardest thing I ever did. It has been over 26 years and I still remember the gory details. Another, more positive, memory is part of the technique used. It was suggested that I accept the problem as both a physical and psychological addiction; and clearly separate the two. For some reason, that helped. Maybe, it was a divide and conquer thing; not sure.

    Another thing I faced when I quit was that I saw cigarettes as the last overt practice perpetuating self destructive behavior. Not to say it instantaneously moved out of my head, but meditation has assuaged that condition, for the most part.

    As we say in this neighborhood, I mean village – chohk dee “good luck”!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hehe, thank you! Still haven't conquered it, yet, but I appreciate the wise advice and the tips! :-)

      Delete
  10. Tears of sadness for the Loss of one our great Talents..I was a teen myself when I first realized how awesome Whitney was and I try now to remember her that way..what hurts me is that some are still critical are even worse joking about her life..She isnt just a STAR she was a human being with problems and No one is perfect.I Try to go by Judge not unless your ready to be Judged..I think everyone should Remember her Love ones and try to show Commpassion..Thank you Les for always being a really sweet guy.Your work continues to be Awesome.Your twitter Friend Linda Gayle aka LindajojoMom

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Linda - and you're right... we're all here, imperfect and trying to get along. The critics are always going to find something to criticise, though. More fool them.

      Delete
  11. Such truth here. I work around singer/songwriter/performers and they all say if that had it all to do over gain, they would have never smoked or abused drugs. It takes a toll on your voice, but more importantly as a person who went through my own personal tragedy of losing a daughter, don't mix Xanax and other drugs with alcohol. I began taking it to sleep, but then you become used to the levels and increase. If your a drinker then it causes the affects to wear off after a while, then you increase or add other drugs.

    Once I read most drugs are only meant to be a temporary factor in order to gain ones health back, I stopped taking them, cut back on alcohol (being a chef is hard when you do parties and such as I do), and began taking my mental and physical health back. I have never been 'addicted' to such drugs and a life like Whitney had, but I am pretty sure when I have moments of grief and such, wanting to drown my sorrows and temptation of parties- I can see what addiction can do to you. I pray for her family. Maybe her daughter will step back and rethink her own path.

    Thanks Les, for this wonderful tribute and encouragement.

    Elizabeth

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gosh, Elizabeth - so sorry to hear about your daughter, but wise advice, there. Medication and alcohol is never a good mix. I think alcohol is probably the most destructive drugs on the planet.

      Thank you for reading and cheers for the comment! :-)

      Delete
  12. Hi Les. I quit for the second time about 30 years ago. I was a program called smoke Enders. It took 30 days to complete and was based on a slow reduction of the amount of cigarettes each day. And a retraining of habits. Like smoking before a meal and not having one until two hours after. It also was a change in type - if you smoke menthol switch to regular or vice versa. Also you had to smoke with the opposite hand. And you couldn't smoke until two or three hours after you woke. The third week was the worst because you were on the lowest level of nicotine cigarettes available and it was the greatest withdrawal period. I would recommend a proven group because misery truly does love company. Best of luck. And the greatest thing I found was no more lower back pain which was really lung pain. And yes, you are an addict for life. You cannot smoke even one cigarette after you quit. Not one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cheers, Taylor! Interesting technique. I'll have to look into it. I get lower back pain occasionally, too - though not sure if it's smoking related. We'll see! :-)

      Delete
  13. I quit smoking six years ago, and quit most of my drinking two years ago (I now drink rarely and teetotal when I do.) I'm not living a perfect life, but I am a lot clearer as I live it. One of the hardest things is to give up our vices, but they are crutches for many of us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a wonderful improvement! Clarity over claret! Hehe. :-)

      Delete
  14. HYHUTriangle Twitter14 February 2012 at 01:09

    Beautiful wording Les♥ may God continue blessing you♥ Keep living life to the fullest♥

    ReplyDelete
  15. great post Les. addiction destroys so many and wealth, fame and recognition don't assuage our need for more. so sad.

    as for the cigarettes, keep trying. I wish I had words of wisdom but i kept trying until I stopped. it's been 14 years for me. I know i'm one drag away from being a smoker again, so I don't fantasize about it. but one day at a time, I'm free. thank you god!!!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Congratulations, Louise! 14 years is a good chunk of distance to have between you and this silly habit! I'm going to keep trying - haven't done it, yet, but I'll get there. :-)

      Delete
  16. I heard from a lot of people that the only thing that worked for them was chantix.. I hope I am spelling it right! God Bless Lulu

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've not heard of that, but thanks for the suggestion! :-)

      Delete
  17. Thank You Les for this wonderful blog.

    It's sad that Whitney Houston is no longer with us. The news of her sudden demise came as a big shock, a tremendous loss to the music industry that she once ruled and given wealth and pride with her impeccable powerful voice, great talent and artistry. Having met her once, through a friend of mine, in Atlanta, Georgia I was swept away by her beautiful sweet smile, knack for words, humor and down to earth attitude. She was very friendly, accommodating and totally awesome. It was if we had known each other for a very long time.

    When I learned of her untimely passing, it took a while for me to grasp with reality. It was so surreal.

    But...

    She's gone!
    Suddenly, this line from her song "All At Once" came to mind
    "All at once, I finally took a moment and I'm realizing that you're not coming back..."

    I started counting teardrops and at least a million fell.

    I know, if she wasn't Whitney Houston, if she's just an ordinary person, she'd only end up another statistic and life must go on as usual.

    But it's Whitney Houston... a music icon. Her songs related with everybody. I'm sure at some point in our lives there's this One Moment In Time we asked Didn't We Almost Have It All? wondered Where Do Broken Hearts Go? And wished I Wanna Dance With Somebody, whispered I'm Saving All My Love For You and ended your Valentine's Day card with an unforgettable one liner "I Will Always Love You?" or yours is "The Greatest Love Of All?" I'm sure we did!!!

    Whatever road she took in life after a long stint with the limelight, glamor and success, that choice still made a difference. Only on a different level. And the same choice that probably led to her early departure from the human spotlight.

    I will miss you Whitney! That wonderful meeting, though short, was a blessing (it felt good to be in the presence of greatness) and it left a lasting memory I will forever hold dear in my heart. Listening now to poignant "I will always love you" gives me an utter sense of calm, comfort and peace.

    And In her own words "when I'm racing with destiny, then in that one moment in time, I will be... I will be... I will be...
    FREE!"

    Goodnight whitney!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a beautiful tribute, Giancarlo. She was a huge star and I guess that makes it all the more puzzling - but she was, ultimately, a human being, and we all have our struggles.

      Thanks for writing this! :-)

      Delete
  18. Hi Les, first blog I've read of yours and I'm sure I'll be back for more.

    I can recommend 'Easy ways to stop smoking by Alan Carr' That's not chatty man Alan Carr by the way. I know many people who've stopped having read his books. I stopped a couple of years ago after reading it, but then started again. I was always great at stopping but great at starting again too. This time, the last time, I made the decision to stop the day before New Year's Eve as I wanted 2012 to be a healthy and positive year for me. So in order to have the best chance of stopping I gave up the drink too. That has always been my trigger to starting smoking again. Drink and a fag, they go hand in hand. Nearly 3 months on and I'm still smoke free, and drink free, and so far 2012 has been healthy and positive :)

    I wish you all the best in your desire to stop, to be free. When the time is right I'm sure you'll succeed :)

    ReplyDelete