Two New Years

He didn’t like the way I did our first Christmas. Candlelight dinner at the table instead of in front of the TV where he was watching A Christmas Story; presents he’d said he didn’t want (although he needed that comforter and looked really good in the black cotton loungewear I’d bought him). Mea culpa, I thought, so I asked him to plan something for our first New Year’s Eve.

Later I wouldn’t remember how junky his apartment was – the worn thrift shop chairs, his tech equipment on every surface, unpacked boxes, grease all over his stove. I wouldn’t remember how he made us hike, and got us lost, how we tramped through underbrush up and up and up a hill, legs aching, sweating in the December cold, or how many ticks latched onto the dog that had to be carefully removed later.

No, what I would remember was the food he cooked for us first – shrimp and green beans sautéed in fresh garlic and olive oil, layered over jasmine rice. I would remember what I saw when we finally crested that hill – the whole San Fernando Valley lit up before us like a museum tapestry, and the cliff’s edge where we had first-class seats, dangling our feet out over bottomless space. I’d remember the champagne and good cheese, chocolate, and treats for the dog, who laid quietly beside us, while we toasted with real glasses. “To many more years together,” I would remember that he said, as firework art explosions went off below us from east to west and back again, as if agreeing with him.

I wouldn’t remember how his gifts dwarfed mine – time and experiences instead of things.

Instead, I’d remember what it felt like to be on top of the world, and at the top of our game, and yes, what I would remember most was that once he loved me.

* * *

New Year’s Eve 1999. The night before I was going to try to quit smoking. Yes, for maybe the 20th, 30th, who knows maybe even 100th time. But this time I really wanted it to be the last.

My smoking history is embarrassing. I didn’t smoke until college, so first of all who the fuck starts smoking AFTER they’ve made it through high school? Me apparently.

I quit smoking when college ended. And stayed that way for about 10 years. Why did I start again? Because I was going through a bad breakup. It was a stress reducer, and a poor choice. I smoked for quite a few years from there. Eventually I quit again. And started again. And quit again. And started again. I know this doesn’t sound like 20, 30, 100 times. But keep in mind that when I say “quit,” as opposed to “try,” I mean for some years. I’m not detailing the MANY Sunday nights that I threw out my cigarettes and hid my ashtrays, only to dig them out and stop at the liquor store by Monday afternoon. Or bum a smoke at a nightclub by Friday.

So, there I was on New Year’s Eve. I had some friends over, and we were going to “party like it’s 1999” – cuz it was! I planned on smoking that evening and quitting the next morning, as I had done so many times, but this one I was sure would be the last. Because now there had been a new development: I’d begun to have a chronic sore throat. I knew things were not going in a good direction. And so I’d picked New Year’s Eve 1999 as the memorable night that I’d have my last cigarette.

One of my friends was allergic to smoke, so I planned on smoking out on the front porch. It was cold; I figured I’d have 3 or 4 cigarettes before the countdown to midnight. But after the first one, I never went out again. It was too much fun to be with my friends – to laugh and dance, eat hors d’oeuvres and drink champagne, play Prince and watch the big disco ball come down, and hug and kiss – than to stand and shiver alone outside with my cigarette.

Now, New Year’s Eve 1999 was 20 years ago, and I have not smoked since. For once, I listened to my body that night, and after.

68 thoughts on “Two New Years

  1. One funny thing I noticed was how both New Years were two decades apart. So many things change in 20 years. I’m glad you quit smoking!

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  2. I really enjoyed reading this blog post, especially the second part where you talked about New Year’s Eve in 1999. I find it very relatable and funny! The funny thing is, I also only started smoking cigarettes after entering college because I was introduced to it by my roommate. Smoking addiction is hard, and like you, I kept telling myself to quit, and quit, and quit… but I still haven’t gotten to it yet. That’s definitely my New Year’s resolution, though!

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  3. I am glad you were able to quit smoking. It is a huge accomplishment as I am aware of the struggle that one goes through to completely stop. I personally know someone who has an addiction for alcohol and has been trying for years to quit. However, he has not been successful. It does sadden me to know how his addiction and behavior continues to hurt his family. I also fear that in the future he will have health complications due to his severe alcohol abuse. I hope that one day just like you did he will quit and will listen to his body.

    Great Post Professor Hoggan

    – Omar Mercado Soto

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    • Omar, there were times when I didn’t think I would be able to quit. I finally got the nerve when I started to feel a chronic sore throat. I hope something motivates your friend.

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  4. I loved your two new years stories. I’m a bit curious as to why those two new year days stood out to you the most. The blog post was great and I really enjoyed story about the New Years spent with your boyfriend, but I wsh your post was longer! I would have loved to continue reading, I was able to imagine the view twinkling lights of the San Fernando Valley from cliff’s edge. It seemed like the beginning of a good book!

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    • Wow, what an awesome comment! Because I am writing a book, just not about that relationship. The piece about the boyfriend is short because I did it in a writing workshop. And I added the smoking piece because 20 years had gone by, and those were some of my most memorable New Years Eves.

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  5. I loved the part of this story about the ticks on the dog. That took me back to a hiking trip I took with my significant other when we first started dating. More importantly, congrats on the determination and drive to finally quit smoking. I myself had a huge habit for a while when I was younger. I knew I needed to stop. Once my lungs gave off that cough with black tar and phlegm, I knew that was my breaking point. Don’t feel bad about starting in college, stress does that, the main point is you overcame it and stuck your ground 🙂

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  6. I could relate to how experiences with someone are greater than anything a person can buy. I think more people should take this advice. I want to congratulate you on being able to stop smoking. I have seen first hand how hard it is for someone to stop. I hope my relatives can make that realization as well.

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  7. Hi Professor Hoggan,

    I was touched by your amazingly encouraging story! Thanks for sharing your very personal story with us. It is very encouraging, I can share it with someone else who wants to quit smoking!

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  8. I love the 1st part of this writing..It’s written beautifully, and has such a nice flow to it. A delight to read.
    I watched my dad for years try to quit smoking. Finally one day he said “this is it” and he has never picked up another cigarette! Kudos to quitting such a hard habit!

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    • Good for your dad, too! Someone who read this story recently commented that the first part seemed like the start of a book. Hmmmmm…..

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  9. Hi Professor Hogan, I enjoyed reading your story especially because it is very relatable to many people who quit smoking. I experienced something similar when I quit but then I realized that it is truly mind over matter. But the beauty of your article is that you turned something so arduous and mundane into something that is relatable and somewhat amusing for those who went through this as well.

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  10. Wow that amazing how you where able to keep your smoking under control in that one day because you had the respect for your friends and most of all you did it for your own health and body. I also started smoking after turned 18 yrs of age but I had to stop because my first born had developed asthma. Its was hard to do but I did it. I have been reading a lot of your blogs and I’m fascinated love reading them.

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  11. What a nice Christmas story.It must have been hard trying to quit smoking especially since you said it was a stress reliever. I am glad that you were able to party like it was 1999. I have never smoked in my life. Growing up my dad was a smoker and he made me dislike it. I am 23 and have never tried a cigarette. luckily my dad quit after many years. He did it for our first nephew in our family.

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  12. I really enjoyed reading your story! Through all memorable stories comes a couple bumps in the road. As long as what is remembered are the good parts, it was time well spent. I’m glad you stopped smoking, I’m glad you had friends that showed you the greater things in life than smoking.

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  13. What a lovely story, Lynda! Thank you for sharing. I’m glad you quit smoking and listened to your body! It genuinely makes me happy.

    I can somewhat relate to you because my dad is a heavy smoker and I have seen how difficult it has been for him to even try to quit. He started smoking at the age of 15! He is turning 60 in just a few weeks and I have been worried about his health for as long as I became conscious of the harmful effects of smoking in middle school.

    I remember very clearly when he had to undergo surgery for his appendix removal, he was at the hospital for almost a full week. A total of 5 days. Obviously, those 5 days he couldn’t smoke and, those days were probably an eternity for him! First couple of days, he was his normal, grumpy self but when the 3rd day hit, man oh man. A grumpy level that I have never seen in my dad, EVER! I don’t even think he was that angry when I got my nose piercing. And he was pretty angry when I got that.

    That’s when I truly started to understand that his decades long addiction was more complicated than I thought. I have learned to have patience with him and support him through it all. Especially when he relapses.

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    • You’re a very supportive daughter. The fact that your dad keeps trying means something. I too tried for decades before I finally succeeded for good. And later I would look back and think, ‘what took me so long?’ I hope that happens for him.

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  14. Listening to your body is very important, and I’m happy for you to be able to finally quit smoking. I wish I would take that advice in regards to my own life at times- especially for my own health’s sake! But I enjoyed reading your New Year’s reflections, it makes me recollect on how things may be different in my own life 10 years from today.

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    • It is interesting to think about how our life is going to be in the future. One thing I can tell you is that a lot is decided by what you do TODAY!

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  15. I really enjoyed reading your descriptive writing which drew the scenery in my thoughts and imagination. I commend you for having the courage, focus and will to quit smoking. Even more memorable while partying in 1999! Love that song.

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  16. Hello Professor Hoggan!
    20 years!! That’s amazing I am so proud and happy for you! I can’t imagine how hard and challenging this must have been. What a story sounded like a great party an amazing way to end smoking thank you for sharing. I feel as if someone who smokes now and reads this it will help and motivate them to quit and listen to their body as you did.

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  17. You’re very inspirational with yourself quitting your smoking habits. I,for one, don’t smoke, but I know some people that do and it is very hard for them to quit. I can’t be anywhere near smoke due to the putrid smell and my lungs being weak and me having a coughing fit. I did really enjoy the mini part of you and your boyfriend’s story, it was very cute.

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  18. Congratulations on making it 20 years without smoking! I can imagine how hard it is especially trying to quit so many times. I always get lost even if I have my gps on because I think if I look at the directions beforehand I will automatically know where i’m going haha. great story!

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  19. It’s great to see you sharing your experiences from the present and past. I have family members that are facing that same battle of quitting hard habits. It is great to see that you appreciated the time you had with friends, having a good time, rather than stepping away to give in to the temptation of smoking. It is a great lesson for people to as themselves, is it worth it?

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  20. Your Christmas love story was a bittersweet read. It almost comes off as one of those Hallmark Christmas rom-coms (compliment). As for your memorable 1999 New Year’s, what a way to celebrate! Fun, friends, laughing and of course dancing are all the greatest incentives to quit smoking. They’re also great factors to quality of life. Cheers to life!

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  21. Professor Hoggan,
    Congratulations on quitting smoking. The addiction to nicotine is difficult to overcome. While the nicotine can be long gone from the body, the cravings for a cigarette is great. According to Web MD less than 10% of people are able to quit permanently. So, once again, congratulations on quitting tobacco.

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  22. Wow! First of all, congratulations on being 20 years sober from smoking. I know how hard it is to fight that addiction, my dad was smoker ever since he was a kid and up until about 10 years ago he has been clean as well. Your Christmas and first New Year’s story was very beautifully written, and a heartfelt leeway into your second New Years story. Falling in love is always a scary risk, but I think sometimes the greatest things can come out of the darkest times.

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  23. You put a mix of emotions and thoughts right into tangible words. It is so easy to look past arising problems in relationships and rather blame yourself for the mistakes (thanks for giving me a new Latin phrase to learn!). However, I recently read a romance novel that changed my thought process and gave me a whole different perspective on this subject. The author explained your partner should be someone who works with you and alongside you despite the differences you may share. The book is called Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert if you’re ever interested! Also, huge kudos to you for taking that leap and quitting smoking! That story was humorous and light hearted, and was fun to read from a different perspective (I’m normally the friend or family member encouraging someone to quit).

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    • Thanks for the book tip! When a relationship ends there is usually anger and a tendency to blame the other one. I do find it useful to try to figure out what I did wrong, too – not just him. As for encouraging others to quit, keep doing it! Just be patient that ultimately it has to come from inside that person.

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  24. I enjoyed reading your depiction of these two very special moments. I loved how you described the view at the top of the hill and how you likened the lit up San Fernando Valley to a tapestry at a museum. What a wonderful motivation to finally quit smoking! Congrats on being cigarette free for more than 20 years! I know what a feat it is!

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  25. Wow I loved reading this. Often times we hear about people remembering drunken fails, resolutions, or who they kissed when 12 rolled around, but I love this piece because its a bit unconventional and more realistic in my opinion. It takes something that happens annually and makes it feel like a day to day occurrence, without being mundane. Congrats on quitting smoking, it is a very difficult thing to do and for that I commend you!

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  26. I really liked this story and I can relate to, it was hard to quit smoking and for me as well there was that one time that’s different than the others and something that finally helps you kick the habit for good.

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  27. Im so glad you quit smoking. Its such a great accomplishment and I hope you continue to stay that way. I have a family member who died of lung cancer, most likely due to smoking, and thus I feel relieved whenever someone quits smoking.

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  28. This is such a wonderful story and such beautifully written. I am glad you were able to make a strong decision in order to take care of your health

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  29. That was very inspiring because it’s easy to say you’ll stop, it’s hard to actually commit to yourself and stay true to your words through your actions. If no one has told you for a while that their proud of your for at least trying, I am proud of you.

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