Fathers and Facebook

Tomorrow marks one week since I removed Facebook and 100 other applications from my phone. Since that time, I have not visited my FB account via mobile or desktop. I’m proud of that success and I look forward to continuing the journey wherever it leads. And I sure as hell hope that it doesn’t lead me back to re-installing it on my phone (been there, done that).

Mark Twain famously said, “Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a thousand times.” I understand that. In my life, I’ve faced down a few habits and it’s rarely been one-and-done when it comes to changing something. Nothing was harder than cigarettes, but I eventually succeeded because I loved being healthy more than I loved the habit.

My father was a four-pack-per-day smoker. He once told me that at his worst, he kept one carton in his office, one at home, and another in the car. During that same conversation, he looked up at the ceiling and said, “If I knew I was going to die next month, I’d go out and buy some Marlboros right now.” Now, that’s a man who understood how vulnerable he was to his addiction.

But my Dad was also someone who stopped drinking and remained sober for thirty years. And when he did know he was dying, I don’t think he went out to buy those cigarettes. That leads me to believe that 1) he understood his weakness; 2) he was pretty darn strong when he put his mind to something and 3) he used self-effacing humor to keep himself humble.

One week in does not a broken habit make. But it’s a start, a significant step forward. And I’m feeling good about the work I’ve done. And it is work.

Shakespeare wrote, “The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children.” There’s truth in that. A long legacy of bad habits – some a lot worse than smoking and social media – are often passed down from fathers to sons. (To be fair, I imagine that mothers and daughters aren’t immune to this stuff, either.)

Nowadays, there’s a lot of awareness and support. 12-step programs, therapy, books, and other programs exist to help anyone who’s serious about freeing themselves from a habit or addiction. It’s not easy. In fact, it’s often very painful. But it can be done. We are very lucky to live in a time when help exists in so many forms. In spite of this, many of us still fall through the cracks. Drugs, in particular, are robbing many people of their careers, relationships and, sometimes, their lives.

In light of these serious addictions, it’s easy to minimize the importance of steering clear of too much social media. I can say to myself, “Scott, you’ve done so much. Why do this, too?” And that is the way the habit can recapture me. All it takes is a foot in the door – one cigarette, a beer, a single line of coke. Those of us who have addictive personalities CANNOT use moderation like everyone else. We just can’t.

My father wasn’t a perfect man. Not by a long shot. But he did stare down and beat two bad habits that affected his physical and mental health. And that’s what I’m doing. So, thanks, Dad. The virtues of the father can be passed down to the sons, too.

P.S. It’s never too late to work on the relationships we have with our parents, grandparents or otehr loved ones. Even after they’ve died, we can still learn how to love and forgive them and heal ourselves.

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