1,938 days ago, I was in Louisville, KY for a weekend of hanging out and camping with my brothers. I had quit smoking about five years prior, but for whatever reason, decided to buy a pack of smokes. When the smokes ran out in the middle of the red river gorge, I was offered some grizzly wintergreen pouches. If this were a movie or a tv show, my brother tossing his tin of grizzly over to me would be done in slow motion, with evil music playing in the background.
I brought that tin home with me, and bought another one on my way home. You see, as a former smoker, nicotine had just gotten its dirty claws right back into me. But this time, I couldn’t tell my wife about it, because we had quit smoking together years ago. So I became a ninja.
I started gradually – in my car on my way to work. Slowly I added a dip at work, weekend dips in the car when I was alone, until I was up to a solid tin a day. All pouches, so if I had to I could *cough* and get rid of it. I’ve had a few sad milestones over the last five years I’d like to share:
1,749 days ago, my son was born. That morning I swore I would quit after the tin I had in my hands. That afternoon I intentionally parked my car on the opposite side of the hospital parking lot and left something in it so that I could have a dip when I went to get it out of the car.
804 days ago, my daughter was born. Again, I swore I would quit. Again, I parked my car in the same damn spot, at the same damn hospital, and did the same damn thing.
710 days ago, I had a panic attack that made me question if I was having a heart attack. I have had anxiety issues since that day – until now (more on that in a bit).
Over the past five + years, I have hidden my dip from my wife and my kids. Every time my wife would be gone from the house and I snuck one in, I would have to triple check the toilets, garbage can, and counter tops to make sure no evidence was there that something had happened. Every time she would get in my car I would worry she would check that spot under my middle console where my tin and spitter were hidden.
Over the past five years, if I didn’t plan well enough in advance on Friday, I would create an excuse to leave my house, wife, kids, and dog to go to a convenience store to buy a tin. It’s hard to explain the shame I feel when I look back at this, or the shame I felt while I was doing this. At some point over the last two years, nicorette lozenges became a staple as well. You see, if I had to spend all day with the family and I couldn’t risk bringing a tin, I could hide them in my pocket and use it like a tic-tac! That way I wouldn’t have a nic fit around my family, and I could continue to hide the terrible truth.
Then, 110 days ago, my father-in-law passed away from lung cancer after smoking for decades.
101 days ago – I QUIT.
I quit because I was being selfish. Because I was hiding part of who I was from those that I loved the most. I quit because I love my family, and I want to be there for them. I quit for me, for my health. I quit because of the shame I felt for what I was doing, and who I had become. I quit because that vision of me in my mind – a devoted husband, a loving father, a strong man – had been altered to seeing a junkie that was deceiving everyone he knew so that he could get his next fix. This person I was would put the kids in front of a TV show so I could get in a dip, even when all they wanted was to play with Daddy who is always at work. He was a liar, a deceiver, and he was unworthy of the love and affection of everyone around him. For all these reasons, and many more – I quit.
100 days ago, I joined KTC and promised I would not use nicotine. For as long and hard as the pendulum had been pulled back in one direction, it certainly moved back to the other side very quickly. Now some milestones I’m proud to share:
87 days ago, I was at a cigar bar with my boss, and texted with my August brothers to stay sane. I did not cave. This, in particular, was a big victory – my first time out socially and drinking. Thank god for my willingness to trade numbers with random strangers who would end up possibly saving my life, and definitely saving my quit.
70 days ago, the fog cleared. A full month of fog, of obsessing over my quit, of reading everything on KTC and embracing the suck and the anger and the rage.
50 days ago, I realized my anxiety was almost gone. You see, when you hide who you are from those that you love, it does really bad things to your mind and body. Since quitting, my anxiety levels have fallen by at least 80%. The pendulum had finally reached the mid-point.
34 days ago, I went on vacation with my family, and for the first time I did not have to hide 10 tins of grizzly somewhere in my luggage.
24 days ago, I got back on the healthy eating train started exercising again, something I hadn’t done in the past few years as high blood pressure and anxiety contributed to weight gain. I now both weigh less and am physically stronger than I was when I quit on Day 1.
Today, I cross the 100 day mark.
An order of magnitude is defined as an exponential change in the value of a quantity/unit – generally used as a number x 10. Today I am two orders of magnitude stronger in my quit than I was when I started this journey 100 days ago. I am 100x stronger, but by leveraging KTC, my August brothers, and the system, I will continue to gain strength. Every day I put between me and Day 1 adds to my ability to say NO. To those in August that have supported me, and to the vets in my phone, thank you. You know who you are.
For the past 100 days, the arc of my life has filled me with such a profound sense of accomplishment and pride that I look forward to the next 100 days. My vision of myself is no longer that of a junkie, looking for his next fix. The man I am and the man I want to be are finally starting to merge, and it feels pretty damn good. The pendulum continues to move to the positive, and I’m reaping all the benefits that I can out of this momentum. But when it settles, I will finally be at equilibrium. 101 days ago, I didn’t think that was possible.
To everyone reading this from the outside, thinking about quitting: I have tried to bare my soul here for you. The pain and shame I feel writing about the man I had become is hard, but you cannot control what you are unwilling to confront. I have heard many ninja stories just like mine. And like me, you too can quit.
Today, I promise to quit. AlterEgo, Day 100.