A VERY OLD ANIMAL PEN sits abandoned at the Ashcroft Manor.

A VERY OLD ANIMAL PEN sits abandoned at the Ashcroft Manor.

Bad habits come with strings attached

Whoever decided that bad habits were bad? Is there anyone who doesn't have at least one?

At which century did we start referring to habits as good or bad?

I’m guessing it was quite a while after Sir Walter Raleigh brought that foul weed back to London in 1578.

Humankind has always been fascinated by mind-altering substances. Come to think of it, so have animals. We give our cats catnip and watch their dopey antics, but there are many well documented examples of animals finding their own natural sources of drugs.

Just because it’s natural isn’t an excuse to abuse these things. But addiction seems to some easy for us – some more than others.

My mother never apologized for her smoking, but used to tell me “We never knew it was bad for us.”

This is the same woman who gave me years of good advice, some of which I still follow today. C’mon mom, you didn’t know because nobody told you? I’ll bet most of us know that a steady diet of alcohol is bad for us even if we hadn’t seen the label they slapped on the bottle that says: “Alcohol is bad for you.”

She gave up a lifelong habit of Export A roll-your-owns reluctantly because my father had asthma. He’d had asthma since long before he met my mother, but it had gotten so bad that he’d been forced to quit smoking because one day he couldn’t inhale enough to light his cigarette. He had to quit, ergo she had to quit.

I got to attend her “stop smoking” classes at the hospital because I was too young to leave at home alone.

So why did I start smoking? Let’s just say, I fell into a bad crowd at university – student journalists who felt that they had a role model to live up to – fedora-wearing, swearing, hard drinking and smoking types.

The fedora came and went quickly. I try to keep the swearing down to a gnashing of teeth while I’m in public. The smoking came and went over a period of 10 years before I finally stopped for good in 1987.

So why even start a habit that you’ll be throwing money at even while you’re trying to quit?

You don’t really ask that question until you’ve successfully kicked it, but that first cigarette, drink, roll of the dice – you name it – always seemed like a good idea at the time. There’s always an enabler close by when you take your first drag.

And kicking something that all of your buddies are doing – that’s the hardest part of giving up a bad habit. But just as there are always those who will help an addict stay addicted, there are those who will help them stop.

We just zoomed past another national Non-Smoking Week, but for those of you who gave up cigarettes – and any other bad habit – after New Years and are still struggling to stay away from it, I say “Good for you!” Keep it up and don’t look back.

Wendy Coomber is editor of the Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal