From resolve to dissolve

Some old habits die hard, while others fade away

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

When I took a philosophy class a long time ago, one of the students asked our professor how he planned to observe the new year. His response was that he would drink whiskey and hope things didn’t get worse. 

I’ve followed that philosophy more times than not since then, though a curious thing has happened: For some reason, I stopped drinking whiskey almost altogether. I’m not sure exactly when that took place; as far as I can reckon, it must have been sometime right around the start of the pandemic and maybe even before.

I hadn’t intended to make that change, it just sort of evolved (and doesn’t always hold true). The same thing happened to me with soda much longer ago — perhaps even more dramatic, as there was a long stretch when I used to consume about two cases of Dr. Pepper a week. I probably haven’t drunk more than a half dozen servings of soda since 2006. Likewise with candy or really sweets of any kind — not even pastries, cakes or pies. 

(Of course, this does not extend to the sugars contained in beer or wine. Those ones are definitely OK with me, but not in any kind of “fruit” beer; nor “chocolate” or any other kind of sweet stout; nor any cider other than dry apple; nor almost any riesling, spumante or port, unless the latter is good port.)

I more consciously but just as consistently swore off fast food at least 15 years ago, though have been known to enjoy a burger from Serv-a-Burger from time to time, which I’ve never considered “fast food.”

Perhaps the weirdest and most recent shedding of a formerly well-nigh rampant habit was when I mysteriously stopped drinking coffee. Again: I don’t have a clue precisely when or why this took place. One week a few months ago I just stopped making it in the morning. It wasn’t on purpose, and I found this strange when I realized it had been happening — replaced with unsweetened black tea — and so figured I’d order a coffee from Bluebird Bakery and take it back to the office.

I consumed that coffee at my desk and, after about 15 or 20 minutes, thought I was going to die. I developed flop sweats and my heart palpitated to such a degree that I feared my colleagues might find me expired, head down on my keyboard.

For context: I started drinking coffee at the age of 7. I am now 43. That was the last cup of coffee I’ve had, and I want to say that I experienced it in the early spring of 2023.

This drifting away of generally harmful consumptive habits wasn’t something I expected as I’ve advanced through the years. I didn’t “resolve” to do any of that, those habits just seemed to dissolve. “Quitting” things has never come easy to me, and I don’t expect it comes very easy to most people. For instance, this year will mark probably the 20th annual occasion when I swear off tobacco products. That is a habit that I desperately wish would simply fade away. As for the beer and wine, that could also at least undergo a demonstrable ebb.

Article after article cites expert after expert this time of year reminding us that only about 20% of people who make “resolutions” during the new year make it past the first weeks of January, to which my long-running and so-far-unsuccessful battle with cigarettes can attest. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to give it another go.

At the same time, as I’ve (mostly) given up on whiskey, I think I might attempt to abandon my customary grim New Year’s ruminations. Rather, I plan to attempt what so many of those aforementioned “lifestyle” experts also tell us, and practice a little more guarded optimism and try on a little more gratitude for the good things, rather than the bad things that have happened or might happen.

Maybe starting some things, rather than quitting them, will have more success than my past efforts. And maybe a few current habits will start to fall away as inexplicably as those others. At least I can hope, and that’ll be a thing to start, too.

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