Growing up, both my parents smoked. I swore to myself that I would never get involved with drugs, nicotine, or alcohol. Yet here I am on a website for addicts. I’ve done a pretty good job on the staying away from drugs part, but the alcohol and nicotine aspects got pretty quickly ruined. Whether you want to attribute that simply to a lack of discipline or several years in the Marine Corps is your choice. Regardless of the circumstances that led up to me starting to use nicotine, the fact is I became addicted. I can’t recall if it was one of my brothers (fellow Marines) or just my own desire to stop smelling weird, but I eventually came to the conclusion that I wanted to stop smoking. I was living in Paris for a year working at the embassy so it was actually super common for folks to smoke, guys and gals alike. It was normal to sit at a café and have a cigarette. That became one of my “hobbies.”
My first failure. I decided to take leave (vacation) and go for a nice little walk called the Tour du Monte Blanc. A 110 mile loop that takes about 12 days and starts in eastern France, goes south-east into Italy, north into Switzerland, and then back west into France again, ending where you started. I had a cigarette at the train station, threw everything away, and got on the train to head over to eastern France from Paris. My addiction was definitely impairing my ability to enjoy the hike. When I walked into a town to get supplies and just pass through, I’d see people smoking and I’d have a pretty strong craving. I’m hiking alone, no nicotine (duh) and I’m doing this for a week and half to “detox.” So my day 3-7 were on the trail and it was not pleasant. I end the hike and get back to Paris and I’m doing pretty good. I get back to work at the embassy and things are going alright. I still miss my nicotine because it kept me awake (I worked midnight-noon). And what happens? The perfect excuse to start using again. The November terrorist attacks. I was chilling in my room and had just woken up, then got a text from some German lady friends “hey don’t go to the xxx arrondissment, something bad is happening.” Then a couple minutes later we get the call from the embassy to haul ass and get in our gear and load our weapons. So I spent the next 9 hours aiming my rifle out the window functioning as a sort of LP/OP. I was having a great time, I finally got to do my job! The next few days were pretty rough, stress was high as we prepped for a follow on attack, and we were all super sleep deprived. I said fuck it. Had a smoke. And whaddya know. I’m back to ground zero.
Second failure. I’m back in America 9 months later, stationed in Quantico. Still using nic. At this point I always have nicotine in my system. I pretty much live with a dip in and when I don’t, I’m vaping (at least that smells good, right!?). I decided that my cut off would be when I get out of the Marine Corps, so I had 2 more years to feed my addiction. About 9 months before I got out, I started going to medical to get all my boo boos documented and try and get them fixed (motrin, anyone?). While talking to my doc and going through everything, naturally my nicotine use comes up and I mention that I’m going to be quitting in a few months. He writes me a prescription for Chantix, the drug that is supposed to help with quitting. You’re supposed to start taking it for like a week or a month, and THEN stop smoking and keep taking it until you hit 3 months, then you’re cured. If I remember correctly, granted it’s a blur, it was either the day I got it that I found KTC, or a couple days later. Either way, I distinctly recall starting the pills on the same day as quitting nicotine cold turkey (at this point I’m smoking reds, vaping, AND dipping grizzly wintergreen longcut). Screw the instructions. Boy was it brutal. My lips started bleeding because of all the sunflower seeds I was going through but I didn’t let up. KTC was imperative to my learning experience. Fast forward a few months, I had just hit HOF in like July or August of 2018. I am FREEEEE! No nicotine use, no more weekly haircuts, no shaving, no rolling my sleeves every weekend. I’m a normal human being with rights again. So I decide to go on a hitchhiking trip with no cell phone and no money. I don’t remember exactly how events unfolded with KTC, probably some sort of repressed memory of guilt, I imagine. I return from the trip and don’t feel like I’m a part of the group anymore. And do note, I take full responsibility for my shortcomings. I come back, still nic free, but I think that I don’t need KTC anymore (any idea how that’s gonna turn out?). Sometime in the next couple weeks, I cave. It was somewhere around like day 110 or something like that. It was not long at all after HOF is all I remember.
At the time of writing this, 31 January 2020, I have been out of the Marine Corps for a year and a half. I am 24, and most importantly I am 136 days nic free. It’s hard to admit weakness and gaps in our armor. I usually ask for help because I know it will make a task easier and go smoother, and I’m not used to just simply not being strong enough or capable to do something alone. I’m a failure. I’m a Marine, I shouldn’t be capable of failing, right? Well, now I understand this crucial flaw a bit better, and I understand how crucial KTC is to my success. Every person is different, some people can use nicotine “recreationally.” Just smoke for a month then put it down without a problem. Then there are people like me that are incredibly weak. I have a hard time that it is simply a matter of self-discipline. Regardless of the cause, the important part is the introspection to decide where we fall on the spectrum of recreational user to hopeless failure and addict. I put myself in the hopeless failure and addict category. I would not be quit if it was not for my group. For other groups. For everyone on KTC. Including you, reading this right now (sociology, 3 degrees of influence. You’re a part of my life now). I am eternally grateful for all of you, and the massive impact you’ve had on my life by keeping me from succumbing to my addiction.
Thank you for reading my story, next I will publish the entire LoTR series along with the Chronicles of Narnia. If there is anything I can do to help you, or you just want someone to shoot the shit with, do not hesitate to contact me.