You know… 100 days feels like a really long time, but it also feels like no time. I remember late October like it was yesterday. I’d kept putting off quitting. “I’ll quit soon. I know I need to do it. I’ll do it soon. Really soon. Promise.”
I was long overdue in going to the dentist for a cleaning. I think it’s been 3 years since I last went to the dentist. My wife had made appointments for the whole family. The day of, I snuck outside, called the dentist’s office and canceled my appointment with a lie. I told them I had some really important work meeting come up and I’d need to reschedule for a later date. I didn’t want to go to the dentist and have my gums bleed all over the place during a cleaning because I dip and my gums are a mess.
So, I quit around that time. I don’t recall exactly when that dentist appointment was supposed to be. But I do remember quitting dip on October 27th. I don’t know why that date. Actually I kind of do. It’s a month and a day after the 14th anniversary of my dad’s death. Why a month and a day after? Because I failed in quitting on the anniversary date. And I failed in quitting a month after the anniversary, and because I still had half a can of dip left.
There was a lot going on in my life 100 days ago, especially at work. We’re still neck deep in this Coronavirus pandemic. I’ve been working from home since March of last year and the kids have been doing school from home as well. The family is packed in the house 24 hours a day like sardines.
It’s at the end of October that we at the company learn that the big corporate parent company is divesting a part of the company and the sale will be finalized on December 18th. My team and I are part of that divestiture. This is a pretty big pill to swallow. I have no idea if I’m still going to have a job after this sell off. Nobody knows if they’ll still have a job. I’m the breadwinner of the family. My family’s livelihood rests on my shoulders. And the holidays are right around the corner.
And I’m in an absolute haze. I’ve decided to quit dipping and I can barely remember my name, let alone which end is up.
I peel away into the home office every morning and try to string together complete thoughts. I talk to my boss and my boss’s boss and I feign enthusiasm only because the thought of losing my job at my age and during a pandemic where unemployment is at an all time high is unfathomable.
And then I just stop. I stop and I think. I think hard. I think about what’s really important.
I remember going on walks. I just needed to get out and try to clear my head. Or just be outside and be in motion to distract myself from nicotine cravings and from the stressful thoughts of my job and looming changes thereof. I’m in such a haze. I look ahead as I’m walking and there are literally halos around bushes and mailboxes and rocks. It’s that kind of haze. So I take it all in. I embrace the suck. I’m in that nicotine craving fog and I just have to somehow figure out how to make it through this moment. And then, if I’m lucky, make it through the entire day.
I’m still stopped and I’m still thinking. The job doesn’t matter. What’s the worst that can happen? I lose my job? And then what? I’m not an invalid. And my wife is resourceful. Both of us could find jobs doing *something*. Might not make the same kind of money we make today, but we could figure it out. It might be a struggle for while, but we’d make it work. It’s not like I’m going to die…
That’s why I wanted to quit dipping. I thought I was going to die soon if I didn’t. How much longer before I found myself in a doctor’s office where I was hearing that they were going to have to refer me to an oncologist? For something that I’d spent decades choosing to do to myself?
I’d rather be alive and scraping by with my family than be “comfortable” in some kind of normal lifestyle with cancer.
I went for a walk this morning. For whatever reasons, my eyes popped open at 4:50-something this morning. The first thought that popped into my head was, “Hey, it’s my Hall of Fame day for being tobacco free for 100 days.” And then I dozed off a couple times.
Restless sleep. Not agitated restless, just restless. Like I have some kind of unconscious agenda. And then I remember the photos I saw yesterday. My cycling and running friends posted these great photos of an amazing sunrise from yesterday morning. From experience, great sunrises are usually strung together across a few days. So I hopped out of bed at 6:30 and looked out the window. No sunrise yet. I checked my phone. It said sunrise is at 7:25 a.m.
It’s 41-degrees this morning, so I dressed accordingly and headed out the front door of the house with my insulated coffee mug in hand. I walked a big loop through part of the neighborhood, heading east first so I could catch the sunrise. I’d admittedly gotten a 5-minute late start so if there was a painting-like sunrise, I’d have missed it. But I could tell from my earlier peeks out the window of the house that today wasn’t one of those days. It was a little gray and hazy this morning. And when the sun crested the horizon this morning, it sort of just popped its way up into the sky and presented as a fireball amongst the gray haze. Unfortunately there were no pink and orange brush strokes in the sky like those in my friends’ photos from yesterday.
It was still a nice walk though. The air cool and crisp with that fireball up in the sky. It’s a new day. A new opportunity to be alive.
While I was on that walk this morning, I thought about my friend Abiram. I used to work with Abiram and he and I used to run a lot of miles together. I helped train him for the 2019 NYC Marathon. Abiram had always struggled with smoking.
Since the pandemic has forced us to work from home and there are no races, Abiram and I hadn’t talked much in damn near a year. But I knew that he’d quit smoking. I’d see him post his runs on Strava along with a screenshot from an app he was using to track the number of days he’d been smoke free.
Since today was my 100th day being nicotine free, I texted Abiram while I was on my walk this morning. I asked him if he was still smoke free. He texted me back fairly quickly. He said he’d gone back around the new year. He’d made it 6 months and started smoking again.
Even after 6 months. And today I have 100 days.
Nicotine is a fickle beast. It’s an addictive substance. Depending on the preferred source, invariably nicotine is listed among the other “most addictive substances” like cocaine, heroine, methamphetamine, opioids, and alcohol. Those other addictive substances drastically change your mental state. What does nicotine do for you? After you’ve been addicted for so long, your tolerance is so high that it’s not like you get any kind of buzz from it. And is a nicotine buzz that great anyway? Does a party become a real party because nicotine is there? Are jokes more funny? Is it a social lubricant? I mean seriously; at least with with cocaine or alcohol you get high or drunk. You feel way different. With tobacco? Can’t say I ever really felt different or better. Having a dip in my mouth just became “normal.”
It’s just a poison that changes the way that our brain works over time. And there’s a likelihood that it’ll kill you eventually. It’s crazy.
I still have cravings every damn day. And it’s frustrating. Part of me thinks, “do I want to have to spend the rest of my life acknowledging that I’m an addict and struggle every single day with cravings? Or can I go back to the way it’s been for the past 30 years and feel ‘normal?'”
I used tobacco for 30 years. Nicotine and I have programmed that addiction into my subconscious for 11,000 days. I’m 100 days into this fight. I’m just getting started.
It’s good to have friends like y’all to go into battle alongside every morning.