My story is similar to many other quitters on the Kill The Can site. Nevertheless, this is my story, and I hope that it may help or encourage another quitter in some way.
I dipped or used tobacco in some form for roughly 30 years. I started in 8th grade when my classmate, the son of a tobacco company executive, gave me a dip of Hawken. It was a cool new product. I liked it immediately. I liked the buzz. Did I say I really liked it? If I helped my friend with his homework, I received cans of Hawken in exchange. What a deal right? I was addicted and could not even vote yet. Soon I graduated to Copenhagen, Skoal, Red Man, Cannonball. I did not discriminate between smokeless nicotine delivery vehicles. Through high school, I dipped every day after school and when I studied at night. My parents thought that I used tobacco every now then, but I am sure they rationalized, just as I did, that smokeless tobacco was not nearly as bad as smoking. I rationalized that my grandfather had always chewed, and he was OK. In fact, he lived to the ripe old age of 92 and did not die from any tobacco related illness. (wait…I always conveniently forgot that he lost all of his teeth and wore full dentures).
Dipping could not be that bad right?…… Once I went to college, I dipped even more. I can even recall a few times falling asleep with a dip in my mouth. How stupid is that? Many of my fraternity brothers dipped too. It was not taboo. It was something many of us did regularly, but I did not like to dip around girls. I smoked cigarettes in college too because I thought it was less gross when I was around others, but I always fell back on Copenhagen or Skoal. Around this time, I had an opportunity to visit my parents who had moved overseas. I probably spent more time agonizing about whether I would have problems bringing a roll or two of dip through customs. Deciding not to risk it, I stocked up on cigarettes in duty free so I could make sure I had some nicotine.
Once I graduated from college, I was still dating my future wife. She discovered that I dipped pretty early on. Perhaps what tipped her off was that I regularly smelled like tobacco and had skunk breath. Before we married, I promised I would quit. I did for a little while, maybe a week or so. This was the beginning of not just lying to my wife, but also when I really started lying to myself – rather, little miss Nicotine was fully in control of my thinking. I hid my dipping and usually only dipped in my car, the bathroom, or when doing yard work. A few years later, I went to grad school and relied on tobacco even more. This was when I became a grand master ninja dipper. I discovered that I could dip in the back of my upper lip without being as obvious to the uninitiated humanity around me. I also realized that it was easier to carry a can of skoal in my waistband or tucked in my sock so no one would notice that I was carrying a can. Looking back on this, I realize how stupid this was to hide like this. One time, I can recall transferring a can of dip into a zip lock bag just so I would not be discovered with tobacco on my person. OK…. I kept dipping. My wife knew it. She would talk about it, and it was very upsetting to her because her father died rather young from smoking related illness. I promised to quit when our first child was born. Soon I rationalized, that this was too tough of a time to quit because of the stress of the changes in my life. What BS! I was addicted and could not quit. Being super busy and tired with work and a newborn was just a convenient deflection or excuse. Around this time, I discovered that several of my colleagues at work dipped when we were working on a project late night in the office. Wow…my colleagues are smart guys – Dipping can’t be that bad right? They were doing it just like me. Now my ninja dipping skills rapidly expanded to dipping at work with my door closed.
My wife knew I was still dipping. We were now expecting our second child. I promised to quit then. Of course I did not. Eventually, I stopped hiding my dipping from my family. I just tried to avoid having spitters or cans visible. I also never bought any tobacco if my family was with me. If I was on a dip run to a c-store, if I ever saw anyone that I knew, I would go to another store to avoid buying my vice in front of anyone I knew. Soon my dentist confronted me about stains and my receding gums. So little miss nicotine, and I came up with a new plan. I added a new wrinkle to my addiction. Every six months, I would stop dipping 3 to 4 weeks prior to my dentist appointment. Instead, I would chew nicorette gum up until my dentist appointment. The second I was done with the dentist, would get in my car and drive straight to a c-store to get a can or two. This ‘pretend quit’ did help my gums not be as inflamed when I visited the dentist. Also I could avoid lectures from the dentist because my mouth and gums would not look as bad. I kept this ruse up for a few years. Hey this was working right? My kids were now regularly telling me the messages they were hearing in school about tobacco and how harmful it was to your body. They would regularly beg me to quit. I would then try to just hide my dipping even more to hopefully appease them. Whatever happened, I really did not want to discuss that I was addicted to tobacco. This is just what I did. My family hated it. I hated it, but it was now part of my every day.
Once, I actually tried quitting, but not the real way. I was going to really try this time with Nicorette. I think I chewed nicorette for six months straight and did not dip. I ignored the part about tapering your use of NRT. Heck, this is not dip so it must be OK. I started thinking that I would surely die from smokeless tobacco every time I would start back. So I kept on chewing the hell out of Nicorette gum. When I would use too much NRT gum in a short period of time, I would get a wicked case of the hiccups and my breath would smell like crud too. Later I read that hiccups and headaches are common from overuse. I could intellectually understand that I was addicted to nicotine, but I thought I was doing a good thing by at least not using tobacco. I did about 4 to 5 cycles / attempts of trying to quit with NRT gum. I would always come back to dip. I never broke the cycle of my nicotine addiction!
I discovered KTC by googling something about dying from smokeless tobacco. Wow. I was blown away! Here are tons of people who have joined a site to quit. They were just like me. Not simply fellow nicotine users. These guys were smokeless users who wanted to quit. I had compared notes with a few people I knew that quit smoking, but our triggers and life with tobacco were different in some ways. Here was a site with dippers who had the same addiction and the same nicotine delivery vehicle I used every day of my life. Everything I read made sense. I read about how using NRT gum was a bad plan and not accepted at KTC. This really challenged me to think differently I kept reading entries and HOF speeches for hours on end. This was a community of people who were struggling with the exact same addiction challenges that I did. I get it. I had done almost every stupid thing I read on the site to feed my addiction. There were numerous experiences just like mine….
*Buying starbucks coffee just so I could spit in the cup.
*Inventing stupid reasons to leave the house or run an errand so I could buy dip.
*drinking the contents of your own spitter or spilling spit everywhere
*When I would try to quit, I would throw away new cans or partially consumed cans. Usually minutes later, I would probably utter something similar to Leslie Nielsen’s character from the movie Airplane “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit _____ (insert vice).” From there, I would dig out the can from the trash later just like a junkie.
I also noticed that there were lots of quitters who regularly posted after being quit for a long time. I read and fully understood that I probably cannot tell you that I quit nicotine/dipping for the rest of the my life. That promise is too hard for me to comprehend and agree to given my history with nicotine and my history with breaking promises.
My KTC user name ends with the number 180. This is because I am turning my life around 180 degrees by stopping tobacco. I CAN agree to quit and give my word that I will not use nicotine each day. I CAN post roll everyday. I CAN read the names of others who are quitting with me. This feels right. I am accountable to stay quit. Thank you KTC & November 2011 Quitters. After so many years, I now have the right perspective about my addiction. My quit is strong, but with KTC, my quit is stronger. I have my life back. Previously with each dip, I was slowly digging my grave and headed for an early death by carcinogens. Now with KTC, I quit daily, and each day of quit hopefully throws a spade of dirt back in that same hole or grave I started digging 30 years ago.