Pretty easy … it’s a combination of my two passions in life – cigars and supporting men’s mental health. I also love challenging the norms, and so with people looking to cigars as just a pastime, I saw it as a unique opportunity to provide an avenue for men to use the camaraderie and friendship surrounding cigars as a means of opening communication channels in a relaxed and chilled environment. So I decided to create a movement of men focussed on supporting other men in managing their mental health that just happened to be based on a unifying interests in cigars … pretty simple really.
I started back in 1995 when I arrived in London. My wife and I lived in a very famous street in Piccadilly called Jermyn St… look it up! There was and remains a very famous cigar store – JJ Fox – it was the heyday for Cubans… the Partagas Series D4, the Cohiba Robusto’s, the R&J Churchills, the Monte No2 … OMG … there was something intoxicating about the feel and the aromas of cigars even before they were sampled. I loved walking into the store, I loved the whole process of selecting them, of caring for them, to then engage in a ritual of relaxation and delight when I clipped the end off and engulfed myself in the unravelling delights of the cigar!
Is the Pope Catholic? … it’s such a ridiculous question why even bother to ask it …. Yes, of course. Aside from the normal stress-induced outbursts, feeling down or anxious at certain times in my life, I did indeed suffer a particular mental health issue a few years ago resulting from a crescendo of stressful situations all at once. I was very emotional. I was just so exhausted and so tired and couldn’t see the sunshine for all the fog around me. I needed to find a away to lift my head above the clouds.
To be honest it’s an ongoing process. For me CBT didn’t work. Medical assistance definitely did (hence why we are a no alcohol League). Slow gentle exercise was and remains wonderful. But the best thing for me to be honest is what my doctor said very early on – give back to yourself, be selfish, love yourself. And for me that was easy … I loved taking the time to sit (summer or winter with a fire), or spending time getting the environment right with an espresso coffee or fresh sparkling water and indulge in the ritual of cutting, lighting and enjoying one of my very favourite cigars. It gave and gives me 1-2 hours of peace, of slowing down, of me time, of collecting my thoughts or chatting with a friend or two when we would get together during Covid over zoom and just chat … For me it is seriously soulful and uplifting … it makes me feel happy and that’s a great thing!!
I have five insights on my experiences which might be helpful to others This is by no means advice to others, it’s just what worked for me: