Where to begin…
It’s not every day that you reach a milestone in your life that you will remember for the rest of your days. This is one of those milestones. It’s a milestone I will always remember. It’s a milestone I must remember.
On June 28, 2018 I finally stopped being a coward. I jumped off the deep end into freedom and finally gave in to my inner conscience, the voice deep within my soul, instead of the voice of tobacco. Simply put, I was terrified of quitting, but even more terrified of getting cancer. I would have thoughts every night about how I have to stop because I’m killing myself… When my mother-in-law died of cancer earlier that month I knew I had come to a crossroads wherein I had to make a choice: quit or die. I chose life.
It was not easy to quit after 20 years. It’s a humbling thing – a life-altering realization – when you accept something about yourself you didn’t want to accept. I realized early on, by reading things on the KTC website, that I’m an addict. It was one of the biggest and most important lessons I learned early on in my quit. I’m an addict and I am weak. If I were not weak, I wouldn’t be addicted to nicotine. As an addict I can’t quit on my own. If I could I would have done so a long time ago. But I can’t. I need accountability.
And I learned very quickly why I needed daily accountability. It’s because addicts will convince themselves using any rationalization they can come up with in order to feed the addiction. I learned that I have the ability as an addict to make the insane and the irrational actually acceptable and normal, mainly because my brain has been beaten, twisted and ravaged by years of addiction. That’s what addicts do: we trick ourselves in thinking that something that is clearly harmful for us isn’t actually harmful, even if the facts say otherwise. The addict-mind simply overrides any information to the contrary and normalizes behavior that is unambiguously self-destructive. Accountability, however, does not allow the addict mind to rationalize anything.
I suppose a celebration is in order and a moment to give thanks to God, my wife and family, and my KTC brethren. Simply put, I wouldn’t have reached this milestone without the accountability system and the people of KTC. There are several veterans I wish to thank: Bomber, Boovie, Brad (Cochese), Chris2alaska, Mike2017a and Samrs (the humorist). I received the best advice a new quitter could ask for and a lot of support and encouragement from them. For example:
Day 1: Cochese598 (Brad) wrote, “I encourage you to get as many of your October brothers and sisters digits that you can…Mix in some vets and you’ve got a great base of contacts…Call or text if you need me…but DON’T put that shit in your mouth…you already promised you wouldn’t”
Day 5: Mike2017a wrote, “240 hell yeah! Keep building on your quit brick by brick. Every hour quit is another brick in your foundation.”
Day 9: Boovie wrote, “You are in the belly of the beast right now…so keep fighting brother it does get better. I am so proud of you and proud to be quit with you today!”
Day 22: Samrs wrote, “Learn to hate what was killing you and stealing your life and time.”
Day 22: Bomber wrote, “IQWYT. We promise and face the battle head on. We knock out nicotine. Small victories come all day long when you quit and have your freedom from nicotine. 862.”
Day 55: Bomber wrote, “EDD IQWYT We keep our guard up and quit strong!”
Day 100: Chris2alaska wrote, “HAPPY HOF DAY 100 261 and super proud to be quit with you today.”
These messages of encouragement bolstered my resolve to stay the course. They said the right words at the right time. They quit alongside me; they walked through the valley before me and circled back again to walk through the valley with me. And they continue to walk with me today, and I with them. In my early quit days especially, these veterans made all the difference in the world. I would have caved without them. That occurred to me in the first two weeks of my quit.
There are others too, especially veterans that posted stuff now and then that made a difference. One guy who comes to mind is Leonidas. I remember him confronting some cavers in our group and I thought he was harsh. But then I thought about it: Leonidas taught me that addicts will lie to themselves and brutal honesty is the only way true accountability works. It helped my resolve. It made me realize that my addict-mind will come up with stupid, irrational, absurd ideas to get me to cave. Furthermore, Leonidas injected a sense of dread into my quit: I was afraid to cave because I didn’t want to have to face him and his interrogation. But it worked. I resolved that I wasn’t going to become a casualty in this war against nicotine. I don’t even know if Leonidas is aware of any of this, but I want to say thank you to him on this occasion.
I must mention, on an occasion like this, all of my brothers and sisters of October 2018 Quit Group. Every day I promised them I wouldn’t use; they promised me they wouldn’t use. They showed me what accountability looked like on a daily basis. I want to point out a few who deserve special mention too, along with others from other quit groups: 240Bravo, Cussing, Tashlyn, Capital70, MikeW2018, MonkeyBrain and Cdmsatisfied. QuitNWinway deserves mention because when he caved early on he got right back on the road of the Quit and didn’t give he up. He showed true grit. He inspired me at a critical juncture. I also want to single out ClevelandFan and Golfer25, both of whom in very different ways kept me on the straight and narrow:
Day 23: ClevelandFan wrote, “That site [the KTC website] really does work. Makes it so much harder to cave with the accountability.”
Day 39: Golfer25 wrote: “My summer project was/is the effects of acid molarity on hydrogen production when reacted with various masses of magnesium.”
Day 42: Golfer25 wrote, “I’ve quit because I don’t want to become dependent on dip to function in my daily life…Caving is not an option. I’m not going through all this hell again.”
Day 46: ClevelandFan wrote, “I remember the first 3 days so vividly. I never want to relive them.”
Day 66: ClevelandFan wrote, “Stay strong this long weekend. Gimme a call if you’re craving.”
Day 94: Golfer25 wrote, “Complacency kills everyone. From golfers to academics to quitters.”
Day 100: ClevelandFan wrote, ”Sean congrats to you brother. It has been an honor to text with you these past 100 days.”
Even Golfer’s statement about his science research project was critical: I was in the midst of my own academic project that summer too and helped to know that we were both nicotine-free while doing the work. ClevelandFan and Golfer are my true brothers. They have walked with me since the early dark days of my quit and have been there. And speaking of brothers…
I must, of course, also mention the three men who have had the greatest impact on my quit: BBQChips, Croakenhagen and Copequits. I am eternally grateful and thankful for these fighters. They made me want to fight all the more, to overcome adversity, to maintain one’s integrity in the Quit; they have showed me the value of life and what it means to live free. Because they have been in my corner, I can celebrate this milestone. There’s no drug or counseling or seminar that can give you what they give me every day: brotherhood. You can’t buy brotherhood. You live it – with brothers. And that reminds me of the most important thing I’ve learned from my KTC journey: you realize that people are more important than the next fix. Infinitely more important.