“Last night I was getting a burning sensation in my gums. I actually thought I had cancer. I wasn’t scared, surprised, or even upset. I was actually happy. I can’t remember ever looking so forward to being diagnosed of having a terminal illness.” This unusual statement was made to me by a clinic participant on his fourth day without chewing. While it sounds like the ravings of a severely depressed or mentally ill individual, in fact he was nothing of the sort. To the contrary, he was smiling and laughing when he said it.
What was the humor he saw in the statement? As soon as he said it to himself the night before, he realized the pain he was experiencing was the same complaints he heard three other people describe earlier that day at her clinic. It was a normal part of the healing process from quitting chewing. He also recognized the fact that he was not looking forward to a debilitating illness and an early demise. He was looking forward to taking a chew. When the pain started he rationalized that as long as he had cancer already, he might as well chew. Then he realized he was looking forward to cancer. At that point he recognized just how morbid his thought processes had become. Not because he was quitting chewing, but because he was an addict and was he capable of thinking in such depraved terms. Upon recognizing the absurdity of the situation, he laughed off the urge and went to bed.
It is important to remember just how irrational your thoughts were when you too were a chewer. As a chewer you were constantly warned of the dangers through the media, physicians, family, friends who quit, and most importantly, your own body. Not a week went by when you were not being bombarded by the constant annoying message that chewing was impairing and killing you. But being the obedient addict you were, you disregarded these pestering outside influences to obey your true master–your chew. As Vic, the participant in my first clinic once stated, “Everywhere I turned I was being warned about tobacco. Newspapers reports and magazines articles constantly reinforced that tobacco was deadly. Even bill boards advertising chew carried the Surgeon General’s warning signal. Every time I’d reach for my can, a warning label stared me in the face. It was only a matter of time before I reached the only logical conclusion. I quit reading!”
The control tobacco exerts on you when you are in the grip of the addiction is complete. It makes you say and do things that when observed by outside parties makes you look weak, stupid or crazed. At the same time it robs you of your money, health and eventually life. Once free of chew you can recognize all these symptoms of your past addiction. You don’t have to live such a miserable existence!
© Joel Spitzer 1988
The original article has been modified to be more relevant for dippers and chewers.