Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Obama Admits Falling off the Wagon

Since my blog post this morning, Barack Obama has held a press conference and, among other things, he acknowledged that he still smokes now and then.

As I've pointed out before, it's hard to give up smoking. The president has taken the same approach I have — sort of. In his statements today, he compared his smoking addiction to alcoholism, which is the same thing I have done. For more than two years, I have referred to myself as a "recovering smoker." That is my way of acknowledging that backsliding is always possible.

Frankly, though, I think I have been more honest with myself than Obama has. Even after more than 27 smoke–free months, I simply cannot refer to myself as an "ex–smoker." To me, such a phrase implies that the fight is over and I won.

I think the likelihood of stumbling becomes more remote with each passing day, but is the fight over? Have I won? I don't think so.

And, as long as I feel that way, I will remain on my guard.

Obama's words suggest (to me, anyway) that he is kidding himself.

"[A]s a former smoker I constantly struggle with it," he said today. "Have I fallen off the wagon sometimes? Yes. Am I a daily smoker, a constant smoker? No."

That tells me that he is trying to quit, which is commendable. It also tells me that he is finding it difficult to do, which it is.

He calls himself a "former smoker," but how can one be a former smoker if one admits to still smoking, even if it is occasionally?

His motivations are good. "[L]ike folks who go to A.A., you know, once you've gone down this path, then, you know, it's something you continually struggle with," he said, "which is precisely why the legislation we signed was so important, because what we don't want is kids going down that path in the first place."

I applaud Obama for what he is trying to do. And I applaud him for admitting how tough it is. But it will continue to be tough as long as he continues to give in to temptation. And the war will not be won.

I don't think he is a "former" smoker. He has admitted that, like so many smokers, he began smoking when he was a teenager. He will be 48 in August. That means he has been smoking for around three decades. It's hard to stop doing anything you've been doing that long.

Obama may not be a heavy smoker. He may not be a chain smoker. But that is only a difference of degrees. Until he rids his body of the nicotine that controls him, he will continue to be a smoker. And, in that respect, there will be little difference between him and someone who smokes two or three packs a day.

If he wants to be a role model who keeps young people from following him "down that path," he still has a lot of work to do.

He isn't completely off that self–destructive path. Not yet.

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