2007 HOF Speeches

Burn Your Boats – Eliminate Failure as an Option

Burn Your BoatsI quit using nicotine on November 22, 2006. Over the preceding 25 years I had tried to quit hundreds of times and this quit started much the same way. I was going on a four night vacation with my wife where dipping would not be an option, so it was a good time to try to quit, again. In all my previous attempts at quitting I was always motivated to quit, but I was not committed to quit; at least not the level of commitment necessary to control my addiction in the long term. I was always able to quit for a week or two and then my lack of commitment would allow anxiety, doubt and rationalizations to convince me to cave and return to the addiction that ruled my life.

In my last few months on this website I have learned so much about my addiction to nicotine and I have also learned a lot about myself. But without a doubt the primary principle that I learned was how important commitment was to beating this addiction. In my time on this website community I have seen many people come and some people go. Everyone who came on to this site was motivated to quit, but the difference in what made some people successful and some people unsuccessful always seemed to be the level of commitment. Everyone who posted roll had their reasons for quitting (health, family, etc…), but not everyone had the level of commitment necessary to be successful. If you read through the posts and HOF speeches of those that have been successful, the one common ingredient in all of them is total commitment to staying quit. Conversely and sadly, many people (including myself in the past) fail to achieve their goal of quitting, not because they are lazy and lack self-motivation, but because they were never “fully committed” to succeed!

The ancient Greek warriors experienced overwhelming success on the battlefield. They were both feared and respected for their level of commitment to victory. The primary reason of their high level of commitment and success was not a special weapon, their skill or their training. The key to their commitment and overwhelming success on the battlefield had far more to do with a dramatic and effective motivation technique used by the Greek Commanders. After the Greeks invaded a new land the Greek commanders immediately order that the boats should be burned. The Greek commanders knew that the best way to instill commitment to success was to eliminate failure as an option. If they could not retreat then they would have to move forward.

Legend also has it that after the Spanish Conquistador Hernando Cortez landed his ships in Mexico in 1519, he ordered his men to burn the boats, because he was worried about their level of commitment. Cortez was totally committed and did not want to allowed himself and his men the option of turning back. By removing this option, Cortez and his men were forced to focus on how they could make the mission successful. Steve Curtis Chapman wrote a song based on this story titled “Burn your Ships” and it has become my theme song and a source of motivation over the last 100 days.

As addicts waging a battle against a powerful drug like nicotine, we can learn an important lesson from the ancient Greeks and from Cortez. In order to be successful in our battle against nicotine we also need to “Burn our Boats”. The definition of what is my “Boat” will differ depending on your personal situation. But the important point is that in order to be successful each of us needs to look at our options for retreat from the battle with nicotine and eliminate those options until the only remaining option is victory.

In my battle with nicotine, I had a couple of “Boats” that need to be burned for me to be successful. One “Boat” was my lack of knowledge about nicotine and how powerfully addictive it can be. My ignorance of my enemy (nicotine) made it easy to rationalize caving. Knowledge is perhaps the most power weapon in this battle and the lack of knowledge makes it easy to retreat from the battle. A second “Boat” was the fact that I had kept my addiction and subsequently the fact that I had quit a secret from those closest to me, but particularly from my wife. Prior to this quit, I never allowed or took advantage of any accountability in my battle with nicotine; so I always had an easy escape route back to hiding my addiction in the shadows of my life.

So I began my final quit like every other time I tried to quit; ignorant, alone and in secret; without any help from anyone, especially from my wife the one person who loves me more than anyone else in this world. On the 13th day of my quit I was on the verge of rationalizing a cave, again. I did not want to cave, but I was fighting a battle against an enemy that I did not really understand, without any support from others. So while sitting in my office and battling the cravings, I began to search the internet for information on dipping and nicotine. Part of me was looking for knowledge to help battle the cravings, but to be honest part of me was looking for a justification to cave; perhaps the Surgeon General had made a mistake and tobacco was good for me. Well I never found a justification for caving, but I did find QS.org. I started by reading the article from Bluesman and I was hooked. I was amazed that I was not alone in my struggle with nicotine and that there were others just like me who struggled with this addiction in secret. For two days I read and became educated and by the 15th day I had burned my first “Boat”: Ignorance. It would no longer be easy to rationalize caving to my addiction or that tobacco was really not that bad, however I was still alone in my battle.

So on day 15, I joined the QS2 community forum and from then on I was no longer alone. For the first time in my life, I was making myself accountable to others to stay quit and I had supporters that understood what I was going through. My second “Boat” was starting to burn; however it was not yet beginning to sink. As valuable as the support and accountability was that I received from this site it was still only a forum, I was still anonymous and it was still possible to take my addiction back into hiding. So on day 45 I posted the following message on the forum:

QUOTE (Virginia Jim @ Jan 5 2007, 02:53 PM)
All right it is day 45 of my quit and I am feeling great.  But I have been doing a lot of thinking about an issue, so I am going to subject you all to my ramblings, instead of working which is what I should be doing.My issue is when to tell my wife that I quit.  I want to tell her and I need to tell her; but I have not been ready to tell her yet.

My wife is the best friend I have in the world.  She is the only person that knows I still struggle with this addiction, though she probably does not understand the extent of my struggle.  I have tried my best to hide my addiction from her, but it has been an issue in our relationship.  It is the “800 pound gorilla” that neither of us (but particularly me) has wanted to confront and deal with directly.  She has caught me and confronted me about it many times.  I have quit many times because of these confrontations, only to cave later.  It is really the only secret that I have from her and I want to come clean and tell her in detail about my struggle with this addiction; but at the same time I feel almost ashamed to admit to someone else the extent of my addiction particularly someone as close to me as my wife.  I want her to know that this time is different.  That this time, I have really quit for good.  That I have: “closed the door”.  (Man, I am getting emotional just typing this.  I am going to have to shut my office door.)

When I started dipping in High School it was because all my friends were dipping.  It was a “social” thing, even my high school football coach chewed (he was also the health teacher – how ironic is that).  When I went to college where I met my wife I began hiding it more; except from my roommate and best friend Steve who was also a dipper.  I was closer to Steve than anyone else in my life, except for my wife, and we dipped every time we hung out together.  When I started my career I went even deeper underground and when Steve committed suicide 13 years ago, I was completely alone with my addiction.  I have not dipped “socially” in over 13 years.  I dipped for about 25 years, however over the last 13 years I have gone so deep underground or “ninja” in my dipping that sometimes it feels that I am even hiding the addiction from myself (Not sure if that makes sense).  It has gotten to the point where I am so ashamed of my addiction that I would not even admit to myself that it was an issue and it was unthinkable to admit this weakness to my wife.

Most people in my life now have no idea and would be shocked to learn that I dipped or that I am addicted to nicotine.  I have no intention of publicizing it to others, at least not at this point.  I see no purpose or value in sharing this weakness with people who would not understand.  Like most guys I am not real big on exposing my weaknesses to others and to a certain extent the fact that no one expects me to be dipping is helpful in quitting.  I have absolutely no outside peer pressure to dip.

However, I am ready to come completely clean with my wife about my addiction to nicotine.  I am ashamed of my addiction and the fact it has ruled over me for so long, but I am even more ashamed that I have hidden the extent of my addiction from her.  I am not really worried about her being mad at me.  We have been married for 16 years, she is well aware of the fact that I have faults (I think the word is dumb ass) and she still loves me.  But I have been struggling with how to tell her and when to tell her.  This is not going to be a short or emotionless conversation, at least not for me.  I want her to know that this is it.  That I have finally quit, but in order to do that I need to get to a point where I know in my heart that I am finally quit.  I think I am finally starting to approach that point.

For reasons to numerous to list, this quit is different than the hundreds of times I have tried to quit in the past.  Deep down I know I will never put nicotine in my body again; however I do not feel that I have completely shut the door yet.  I think I still have the door open a little, but my hand is definitely on the knob and I want to shut that door more than anything in the world.  I was waiting until I had “shut the door” to tell my wife that I quit; but I am coming to the realization that coming clean with my wife and including her in this struggle is a step I will have to take before I can completely shut the door.

Anyway, if you have read this far; then thanks for your interest.  This post is far longer than I thought it would be when I started.  I think I just need write some of this out and get it out of my head.  I feel better now and ready to go back to concentrating on work.

That evening with the advice and encouragement of my quit brothers giving me confidence I told my wife more than I ever had before about my addiction to nicotine, that I was quitting and that I needed her help and support. Admitting the extent of my addiction and the details of my struggles to my wife was a very difficult thing to do; but it was a critically important step for me in my battle against nicotine. I now had an accountability partner who not only loved me, but also that I could not run away from. My struggles with addiction were no longer a secret and my second “Boat” began to “burn and sink”.On day 100, my battle with nicotine is not over, but it does gets easier each day. I know that I will be a nicotine addict for the rest of my life and I have had to learn patience to take this fight one day at a time. However, one thing I can tell you is that my “Boats” are all burned and I am fiercely committed to the fight. Retreat is not an option. I am winning the daily battles and I am committed to winning the war.

I have a lot of people to thank for helping me get to the Hall of Fame; many of whom I owe a debt that I can never repay. To start with I obviously want to thank Matt for creating the QS1 website and thank Flavius for maintaining the QS2 community; this website and community have provided me with the knowledge and support necessary to stay quit. I probably never would have joined if this site were not free, but after several months in this online community I can see that it is priceless. Some people have helped me directly with their advice and encouragement. Some people have helped me indirectly by posting their thoughts and experiences. As I think back over the last 100 days, the people that supported me fall into three different categories and I would like to recognize and thank each group separately.

The first group I want to thank are the veterans on this forum. Those that have made it to HOF and in some cases far beyond 100 days. While I am sure these individuals still benefit from their involvement in this community; it is clear that for the amount of time they invest here the primary beneficiary is the Newbies like me, who are struggling to understand and control their addiction. There are so many people in this category that have helped me through their posts or their HOF speeches, but I would like to specifically thank a few individuals whose advice and encouragement were instrumental in my success:

“Gi Kea”: Your role as “Mother Hen” of the March group has been so valuable to me and to the rest of the Motley Quitting Crue. However, your experience and advice as a fellow former “Ninja” dipper is what makes you stand out as inspirational in my quit. You provided me with an example of how bring my addiction out of the shadows; how to stop lying and hiding my addiction from those closest to me. Thanks Kevin!!!

“Captain Kirk”: Your advice was always blunt, to the point and usually correct. Particularly, your advice to me and to others to stop hiding this addiction from our spouses. This sage advice was very difficult to accept at first, but it was instrumental in convincing me to burn my flagship “boat”.

“Chewie”: The first person to offer me his phone number to call for support. I programmed it into my cell phone and never had to use it, but just knowing that I had that level of support meant that I had no excuse to cave.

“Bluesman”: Reading the article “The Secret of our Success” by Bluesman was a life changing moment for me. The similarities to my own struggles were incredible and it was the beginning of my awareness of how important being totally commitment is to winning the war against this addiction; it was also the first time I was introduced to the concept of “Burning your Boats”.

The second group I would like to thank are all the members “March 2007 Motley Quitting Crue”. From “Gun5ling3rX” and “Ben Miller” who enter the HOF with me on March 1st to “Dodge” who will be the last member of the Crue to cross the line, I am proud and honored to be a part of such an incredible group of quitters. My membership in this special group has been the foundation of my success over the last 100 days. I have even been helped by those that caved and dropped out of the March group, particularly those that had the guts come back and join later groups. While the failure of others in the group was very sad and painful, I frequently learned lessons from their mistakes and I was inspired by the level of commitment of those that experienced failure but did not give up. It would be impossible to list what all the members of the Motley Crue have meant to me; your support and the fact you where going through the same things I was going through gave me the strength to stay quit day after day. However, I would like to say a special thank you to “Sir Dipnomore”; your leadership and role as node master has been so important to my success and to the overall success of our group. You are a gifted leader and the knowledge that you would hunt me down if I failed to post roll call for a couple of days was often enough to keep my focus on staying quit.

The last group I would like to thank is my family. I have three wonderful boys and I want to do everything in my power to make sure I am around as long as possible for them and that I am setting a good example for them. The thought of missing even a minute of their lives because of my selfishness and my lack of strength to deal with my addiction is painful and would be inexcusable. But the one person I want to thank more than anyone else is my wife Amy.

Amy, you are my best friend and my biggest supporter. You have been a victim of my addiction and there is no way I can express how sorry I am for my selfishness in not dealing with my addiction sooner. Thank you for your forgiveness, for your support and for your understanding. You have loved me in spite of my flaws and weaknesses. I am truly blessed to have a partner in life as wonderful and understanding as you. I love you and I plan on growing old with you. I am still planning on buying that sailboat someday; I will need a First Mate and I will promise that it will be one boat I will not burn.


NOTE: This piece written by KillTheCan.org forum member Virginia Jim

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