Before you begin to read, you must be warned, this is pretty lengthy. After all, I’m a lawyer and I enjoy hearing myself talk (or reading my writing) and brevity is not my strongest suit. Another comment I must make is that while this speech is so long, it would have been an epic novel had I included every person who gave me a hand along the way. To be clear, I am forever grateful to ALL of you. I pray that by ATTEMPTING to have some form of brevity in this long speech, I do not make someone feel as though his or her support was not memorable or helpful because this is truly not the case.
That being said…I entered the KTC Hall of Fame on November 4, 2011. As I approached that 100th day, it was an extremely emotional time for me, a time of anticipation as well as a time of pride. During those closing days, I pondered the things that I would say in a “HOF Speech”. Here I sit, on Day 118, and still struggling with the same things, what to say, how to say it, etc. The way I see it, the HOF Speech is a very important post – one that must be articulated with the utmost care. I believe the “HOF Speech” has three purposes. First, it is a way for the hall of famer to memorialize his successful journey in being quit for this first important milestone. Second, it may fuel the quit fire in the belly of those other members of the KTC community who continue to utilize its tools. Third, and most importantly, I believe, it provides a story for those lurking and those new in their quit…a story quite possibly very similar to their own. Reading about those who have struggled and those who are winning, one day at a time, will hopefully cause a stir and encourage that addict to join or continue to quit with KTC…and for certain, save their life – not just the physical part of life, but their soul. Here is my effort to share my story and hopefully pay it forward…
For the first 18 years of my life, I was nicotine free. I had no addictions and was not controlled by a drug. I sometimes think about how that felt. I often think about those who do not carry this addiction and how they go about their day without the urges or thoughts of putting a poison into their mouth. I envy them. However, as many clichés say, “it is what it is”, “I made my bed so I must sleep in it”, etc., etc., etc. These words may appear negative. After all, this is supposed to be my Hall of Fame Speech. I’ve eclipsed 100 days of freedom from nicotine so my words should be expressing nothing but joy and victory, right? Well, that is half right. The “joy” and “victory” will certainly make an appearance a bit later into this speech. First and foremost, though, it is important to understand that beating this addiction does not end on Day 101, nor does beating this addiction end on Day 1,001. We, here at KTC, beat this addiction today, period…one day at a time. I’ve learned there is no magic number. It is one day at a time. Moreover, one day at a time makes this very difficult addiction manageable…and beatable. I, too, am winning, one day at a time.
How did I get here? When I was in the early stage of my quit, one thing that really helped me was reading stories from people who traveled a very similar path. There is something powerful about seeing someone succeeding after they experienced the same or very similar circumstances. In that regard, I wanted to share a little bit of a timeline that covered the 21 years of my addiction. Maybe there is someone out there pondering a quit but thinking their addiction is just too deep and strong to quit. Well I have good news – that is not the case. Take a gander at the “former” slave – AgLawyer…
The addiction began in 1990 when I was an 18-year-old freshman at Texas A&M University. I had a buddy who dipped Copenhagen and I thought about giving it a try. I remember this moment vividly. To be honest, there was nothing extraordinary about my dipping story in college. From the ages of 18-22 I partied heavily and dipped often – never a thought in my mind to quit. Why bother, I was invincible. Arrogance prevented me from even considering that it was bad for me or that I was addicted. What I did appreciate though was the fact that it was a disgusting habit (I refer to it as “habit” because, of course, I was not an “addict”) so I never did it around girls I was dating, anyone else outside of my inner circle of friends (who also dipped), or my family.
From the ages of 23-28, I continued along the same path – an addict masked by arrogance. I literally never considered quitting. It wasn’t very difficult to hide from girlfriends so what was the harm. I didn’t see anything wrong with what I was doing so I literally never had a single thought in my mind to quit.
At the age of 28 I met my wife. Now things started getting a bit more difficult. I still had no thoughts of quitting but it became much more difficult to hide when you are living with someone. She would catch me dipping on occasion and I would come up with an excuse like, “I’m just doing it for the heck of it”, “I need it to help me stay awake to study”, etc. I wasn’t addicted. I was just doing it because I really liked it and it just gave me something to do. She would get angry, saying it was disgusting, unhealthy, etc. but I still had no desire to quit. I would just have to be smarter about keeping it away from her.
As I turned 30 years of age, things started changing in my life. I had my first child and graduated from law school. For some reason, at the age of 30 I started to think more seriously about “tomorrow” instead of just “today”. Something clicked with me and for the first time, I had the thoughts in my mind how I wanted to or should quit dipping. After all, it was in fact a disgusting habit and I didn’t want to be engaged in my career and always trying to sneak away for a dip. So I would just toss it aside and quit right? At this point, 12 years after taking that first dip, I found that I was unable to simply quit. For the first time, I looked in the mirror and began to see an “addict.”
For the next 9 years I wanted to quit. That’s right – I really WANTED to quit. However, I was still dipping at least a can a day and sometimes more. For these 9 years (the 12th – 21st years of my nicotine use), it literally entered my mind every day how I wanted to quit using nicotine. As these 9 years progressed, this addiction was literally killing my soul and my psyche. I truly cannot even count how many times I thought I had cancer from the dipping. I won’t go into the details but there were doctor visits after various things like strange feelings in my neck and throat, head, mouth, etc. As much as this scared me, it wasn’t enough to make me quit.
I find it very hard to express into words how I was feeling. It was horrible. I felt I was truly at my wit’s end. Every night I would lie in bed and pray to God to give me the strength and the tools to quit. Every New Years I would make a resolution to quit – I never lasted more than a few hours. For Lent every year I would tell myself that I could quit for God. After all, Jesus spent forty days fasting in the desert. Certainly I could quit for Lent and then I figured at the end of the 40 days I would be cured. However, I never lasted more than a few hours without it. I would cave and buy another can, sometimes in the middle of the night, and as soon as I popped in that dip I felt horrible. I was a complete and utter failure. It tore me up mentally being addicted to this poison – the disgust on my wife’s face when she would walk in on me and catch me when I was dipping, the ridicule and guilt she would lay on me when I placed the poison over my health and my children, my doctor telling me all the time that I WOULD get cancer, etc. I had everything going for me in my life – why would I risk it all for a stupid poison? I had a great family, great friends, and successful law practice. However, as painful as it was, I was simply resigned to the fact that I would never quit. You know the feeling – your feelings of helplessness are no different than mine were. Nothing in my life was worth more than that poison in the can.
The more I wanted to quit, it seemed the harder it became. I saw no end in sight. To be honest, in my mind I started to become resigned to the fact that I just would never quit. I would continue to live a lie and be controlled by this poison in literally all aspects of my life. Some of the things I did as a result of being controlled by this addiction:
–As soon as I woke up in the morning, I couldn’t wait to get into my car so that I could have that first dip on the way to work and in private.
–While at work I would close my door and dip all day.
–On the way home from work I would dip in the car. I had a particular trashcan that was in a McDonald’s parking lot where I would drive up and dispose of my spit cup before pulling up to my house.
— After the kids were tucked into bed I would tell my wife that I had pressing work to do so I would leave to the office. Almost daily I would stay for several hours, usually from about 9:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. – all so that I could dip in private without the fear up my wife getting out of bed and catching me.
–While home during the day on the weekends, I would come up with random errands I needed to run. When my kids wanted to come with me I would give them some lie as to why I needed to be alone, such as making a business phone call, just so I could pop in a dip in private.
–I can’t count how many half-full cans I threw away, declaring as “my last” – only to be digging in the trash can a couple of hours later. I wouldn’t empty them because in the back of my mind I knew that I would be reaching into that trash can and digging them out.
I could go on and on but you get the point. There was literally nothing in my life that was my own. It seems everything I did had an asterisk next to it – some part of my activity was controlled by the addiction and need to feed it.
Close to the end of July 2011, I started getting very careless. I started dipping in my home office, which is situated above the master bedroom. This room is somewhat of a “man cave” and my wife would rarely travel up those stairs. Since I didn’t think she would go in there I left spit cups lying around. To be honest, at this point I was actually coming close to just confronting her and telling her to just learn to live with it – I dipped, period, that’s me. It’s not like she would divorce me over it. Maybe then it would stop the nagging when she caught me.
Anyway, one evening she ascended those stairs and the look on her face was one of utter disgust. As an addict, I didn’t realize the strength of the smell but she caught it as soon as she made it up the stairs. She was so angry that she literally did not speak to me for 4 days. I think what made this time even worse from her perspective was because I was so arrogant about it – simply leaving these nasty dip cans around and not caring if she or the kids stumbled across them.
I swore to her that I would quit. It didn’t matter to her though – she’d heard it all before. I was a liar. However, I did “stop” dipping and instead thought I’d just chew on cigars. Certainly that isn’t the same thing. It’s not like I’m spitting and I didn’t get flakes in my teeth. For about a week or so I figured that I would just chew on a cigar here and there. So here I go, popping into the tobacco store and purchasing a whole bunch of $10 cigars. I’d take the cigar, cut it in half and chew on both ends before tossing. I went thru about 4-5 cigars each day. Oddly enough, at the time I still didn’t think that was bad. In my mind I was quitting. So I traded a $5 can of Grizzly a day addiction to a $50 in cigars a day and, no lie, in my mind I felt at the time like I was kicking the addiction.
Toward the end of those days of silence from my wife, she gave me a good verbal lashing after learning that her dad’s good friend had recently been diagnosed with bladder cancer and his doctor connected it to his dipping. I had never heard of such a thing so I “Googled” it – I typed “bladder cancer nicotine” or something like that and found numerous articles on the subject and in them I did learn that bladder cancer could result from smokeless tobacco use. Scary.
This wasn’t all I found though. My search also resulted in a website called, “KillTheCan.org”. Quite frankly, I couldn’t tell you why I clicked on it. I wasn’t even searching for a method to quit using nicotine. After all, I wasn’t dipping anymore – I was just chewing on some harmless cigars. (I was such a damn fool.)
I remember spending a great deal of time lurking and reading many things on KillTheCan.org prior to joining and posting. I read about the addiction and how it had once controlled the lives of so many others. I remember reading stories after stories of addiction and failures in attempts to quit – stories that sounded so very similar. I learned about the term, “ninja dipper” and how so many others had struggled with the same thing. I was not unique. I saw harsh words for those who failed and encouraging words for those who needed a hand. I read post after post and blog after blog – everything I read made me hungry for more. There was one blog post in particular that really caught my attention. If I recall correctly, I believe it was written by klark – the gist of it was that addicts understand addicts and addicts are the best help for other addicts to quit an addiction. This made so much sense to me. My wife, who was utterly disgusted with my dipping and lies, couldn’t make me quit. My doctor, who tried to scare me with visions of cancer and death, couldn’t make me quit. The thought of my baby girl not having me with her when she walked down the aisle couldn’t make me quit.
I decided to “give it a whirl” – which is what I posted on my Introductions page on July 30, 2011, and actually titled it, “I’m DONE! (I hope)”. What happened next blew me away. There was comment after comment – urging me to stay strong and continue to fight and stay quit. There were many private messages, text messages, etc. providing me such kind support. Miles told me that “Trying is ghey, attempts are lame & Hope is a fat chick from high school.” That right there is the essence of KTC. It is where the rubber meets the road. No bullshit and no excuses. That became part of my signature. I love that. Thanks, Miles. To note: a Mod later removed “I hope” from my Introductions page – there is no room for that here.
And I met a fellow named, klark. I’m less than a week into my quit and he takes my cell phone number. One morning when I hadn’t posted roll yet he is texting me wondering where I am. I responded in a very friendly positive way but will admit here that I was a bit taken back – who was this guy and why the hell did he care if I posted??? What I learned is that this klark character really did care. Thanks, klark – your simple action that morning helped build the foundation for my KTC method of quit.
Day 15. This is a day I shall never forget. Quite frankly I think my Day 15 was worse than Days 1-3. Nonetheless, it was a horrible day at work – I was having all out war with some very unreasonable attorneys and it was really stressing me out. Throw in the fact that I wasn’t sleeping and lacked the ability to concentrate. I actually articulated to my wife that I couldn’t take it anymore and I wanted a dip so I could get back to “normal”. Instead I texted with JTRicher (September 2011 group) and articulated my problems. As a trial lawyer himself, he understood that day I was having, talked me off the ledge and I made it to Day 16. Thanks JT for having my back. I’ll never forget Day 15.
In those first few months, I think I spent more time on the KTC website than not. It is what I needed to keep me focused. I was (and still am) a very confident quitter but the reason why was because I “drank the koolaid” and utilized the tools here as intended. I was in Live Chat several times a day and always at night. I always looked forward to seeing rustaf in there – so much so that there was a week when he was away on a business trip and I actually panicked a little bit when I went in there and he wasn’t there. That routine helped me stay quit. Thanks, rus, for continuing to participate in the site – your presence played a daily roll in my quit and you probably didn’t even know it.
There was a time I was in Vegas around my Day 45 or so. I hadn’t posted yet because quite frankly, I was too busy partying it up so figured I’d just get to it when I had the chance. I had a PM from Ready around noon that popped up on my phone. I believe he said something like, “You better just be hungover cause it’s time to post roll.” That’s accountability that a weak addict like me needed to stay the course. This is the essence of KTC – addicts looking out for other addicts – making sure I didn’t disappear into the sunset.
I did what I could to build this accountability – to have my name out there as much as possible so that people would look for me on the roll. Posting roll and engaging with folks on KTC is the key to building this accountability. It is quite frankly such a very simple yet effective tool that it truly amazes me that it isn’t taught in the medical schools, published in journals, etc. I knew that if I disappeared that there were many people who would be disappointed in me. I can’t even begin to name all the people who posted support with me and encouraged me to post with them. Thank you so much to Corn, Sam, Rocket, gmann, JTRicher, Taz, Tsquared, Ryan and so many others for that support. You have no idea how much that strengthened my quit. I am very grateful.
Souliman, your words motivate the hell out of me. That crazy voodoo magic quit you possess is solid – I’ll have a drink of that. That positive attitude is what helps me continue to win.
To my fellow November ’11 crew, it has been quite a ride making it thru the first 100. I look forward to supporting you while you support me as we continue forward, one day at a time. I plan to stick around for a long time as I hope you do as well. These 100 days really flew by fast – so fast that I did not get a chance to really get to know most of you. There are many of you that I have exchanged text messages with and for that I am deeply grateful for the support. I look forward to getting to know you all much better. I did manage to get pretty close with a few of you, mkiveynv, Glad, and whsii. I hope one day I can meet you guys in person. You guys have solid quit and I can tell that you are good men in the “real” world and not just on the internet. Thank you for your support.
To the Admins and Mods, I really don’t know what to say. The impact of your efforts in running this website are so profound that I truly cannot express it into words to truly give it justice. I’ve asked Chewie if he can REALLY comprehend the gravity of what he is doing here – truly saving lives. Without the selfless unpaid work of these volunteers, I would be sitting here, still a slave – dipping and thinking I will never quit. I am truly and deeply, forever grateful.
So what do I have to show for the past 100+ days? I have my freedom and I have a whole bunch of guys and gals that I really do consider friends. Thank you, KTC. One of these days I hope to meet many of you in the “real world.”
To the newbie who made it this far in this very long HOF speech — If you are contemplating making this journey with us…if you really want to quit…to take your life back. Come on in – I promise you WILL succeed. We have your back. We’ll keep the lights on for you…
God Bless KTC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
AgLawyer a/k/a Paul