As with many things stupid and addictive, my habit for smoking cigarettes took hold in my mid teens. After the introductory initiation of feigned maturity symbolised by a woodbine between my lips I was hooked before I knew it. Smoking into my late 20s was ever increasing and despite all efforts to stop I found myself rekindling the tobacco within a few short weeks. Just about everyone I knew back then smoked. In a time when the smoking section in the cinema was separated from the non-smoking by the aisle alone, and though personally I didn’t smoke there, I saw plumes of blue smoke caught in the flickering light of the projectors waft from smoker section over to non-smoker section without hindrance. I had my three youngest children there between me and my wife and I realised that, though I was not smoking there and then, they too were passively smoking and were being harmed by those around them and that included me. I decided that I must stop. I couldn’t stand the reality that my children’s lives were being polluted. I talked to my wife, Liz, who, wise as ever, had the answer and I followed her suggestion.
Liz has always been supportive of my work and knows the love I have for woodworking in general and the high levels of quality generally only possible through hand work. She suggested that reward was often the catalyst that led to successful habit breaking. Her thought was for me to save the money I would have spent on cigarettes for say a week or two weeks and decide which tool or tools I needed in my work. Planes and saws, chisels came in my first wav of buying my essential tools as an apprentice. The ones I was to buy were more complex and only essential when I really needed them. After a few weeks I could see the tangible effects of giving up and soon I had established the second wave of hand tools that until then I could never afford (probably because of my habit). The hook was baited and our children were in a much safer environment. It took me three years to actually lose the desire for cigarettes even though I did indeed stop throughout those years. I was however, able to stop rewarding myself after the first year. Financially we were better off and my children never developed the same habit as I, thankfully.
A few years ago someone wrote me about his life changing experience through woodworking in a very different way. He’d been in prison for supplying and selling drugs to support his own drug habit. He had just been released from another term locked away and was considering reestablishing the drug habit and selling drugs to support it. He wandered out to his parents garage, bored and frustrated and saw a #4 Stanley on the shelf. It was rusted and unusable so he googled bench plane #4 and ended up watching my YT video on restoring a bench plane. Several hours later the plane was whisking of gossamer shavings and he discovered woodworking. He followed more of my videos (and I am sure others too) and before he knew it months had passed without him doing drugs again. He said that he never returned to his old habit and was pursuing woodworking with all he had in him.
So, I say these things because there may be others who need an outlet like woodworking to break powerful habits.