The language of our lives is filled with double meanings, allowing for a myriad of ways to express oneself. Such is the case concerning the phrase “drink the Kool-Aid”. Its origin is symbolized by an evil religious fanatic who led his flock down a path to death and destruction. Nowadays it is often used to describe groups of people who have joined together striving to attain a common goal of betterment. Regarding chewing tobacco, I have drunk the Kool-Aid twice, paralleling both meanings of the phrase.
The first time I drank the Kool-Aid was negatively, when I blindly followed the example of my peers resulting in a twenty five year period of addiction, lies, and declining health. It was with giddy anticipation, and a load of guilt, that I stuffed my first wad of Skoal in my lip when I was fifteen. My fear of looking like a pansy upon refusal of said dip vastly outweighed the realization that I knew what I was about to do was wrong. So, in it went. I immediately fell in love with the taste of the Skoal. The tobacco flavor, the zing of the wintergreen, and the slight burn all boiled down into pure pleasure for me. Then I began to feel the physical effects of the nicotine. My heart raced, my head spun, and I nearly vomited. I didn’t necessarily care for those feelings, but the gang of fellow dippers I was with ensured me that if I would continue to use, over time the perception of those negative effects would lessen and it would become an enjoyable experience. At the time, that line of thinking never struck me as odd. So, I kept dipping until it made me feel good, or so I thought. I also graduated into the class of Kodiak and then Copenhagen since I heard they had a bigger kick. They certainly delivered as promised, so I pledged myself to Copenhagen.
Over the rest of that summer and into the next school semester, my body fully adjusted to the nicotine assault I was forcing upon it. Apparently I thought it was now making me enjoy life a little bit better. I will never forget the day when circumstances prevented me from obtaining my tobacco. Up to that point I had never really considered the thought that I was dependent on the substance, physically or psychologically. I still remember thinking at the time that it was impossible to be hooked at such a young age. I found out for sure that afternoon when I entered a full-blown withdrawal. Being unprepared for such a state, I actually thought that I was going to go insane or possibly even perish if I didn’t absorb some nicotine into my system. So, I found a way to acquire a tin that evening. With the exception of a few time periods of being quit, for the next twenty five years I made damn sure that I was never more than an arm’s reach away from a can of tobacco, which is a feat in itself for a secret dipper.
I continued my stealth chewing right through adulthood with the exception of just a few people in my life knowing of my habit. I was able to achieve this by creative placement of the wad, swallowing the spit in public, concealing my tins of tobacco, and not talking to people very much. The sad part of that is, not only was I hiding my addiction from them but other things about myself as well. Most people liked me well enough because I was polite and quiet, but they never really knew me as a person because I never offered up any information. As long as I had my tobacco and no one else knew about it, I was perfectly content.
The safest refuge I had for most of my chewing was at work since the jobs I’ve had often had me working alone. It may strike someone as odd that most of the tobacco I have consumed in my life has been at work, but that is the place where I was least likely to have the closest interactions with people. I was usually able to have dip in every minute of the workday except for lunch. Typically at work I chewed Kodiak or similar products since it was easier to keep it packed in my lip for extended periods of time. My dear Copenhagen was reserved for special occasions such as fishing. Shortly after starting working at one job I was asked if I had chronic muscle pain because I always smelled like wintergreen and they assumed I applied Ben-Gay daily to the affected area. Being the dip user that I was, I carefully smiled and said yes.
My wife and I have one of the best relationships that I have seen between a man and a woman. Yet I wonder how farther and deeper in love we could have been all those years if I hadn’t chewed. I can’t even begin to count all the lost moments of tenderness and intimacy I shied away from because I placed a higher value on satisfying myself with nicotine. While we are in fact growing even closer now, we can never get those other times back.
She found out that I chewed tobacco a few months after we met. Giving me a loving hug good bye one evening she felt my tin in my coat pocket. She never hassled me about it that much because being the addict I was, I assured her that I only dipped once a day or so and would never indulge around her. I cannot believe that I ever told her that lie. Well, after growing closer and spending more time with each other I started dipping in her company and she discovered that I had not been honest about my use. She begrudgingly accepted it and I promised her that I would quit “one day soon”.
“One day soon” actually happened about three years later when I picked up a box of patches and decided to quit for her. This quit lasted less than a day, ending with me wearing two patches and putting in a giant dip to knock back the withdrawal. I’m lucky I didn’t die of a heart attack that day. I then informed my wife that I couldn’t quit- it was too tough and I didn’t have the strength in me.
I quit a couple more times over the next few years and never lasted more than a week. In 2000 I had my most successful quit to date. I stumbled across the original QS website but mistakenly decided that I wouldn’t need the help of a support group. I managed to stay off of tobacco for just a month, caving one morning when going fishing. That little voice in my head told me that I had learned my lesson and could now chew recreationally. I did, for about a week, then I was back to being a full-time dipper. As a matter of fact, I begun chewing more than I ever did previously.
It was at this point that I went totally ninja with my dipping at home. I didn’t want to disappoint my wife in that I failed her. After all, this was yet another quit for her. Using tobacco on the sly at home now required me to spend an inordinate amount of time planning out how I was going to do it each day. I had to make sure I had several tins in different locations so that I may be able to access one of them at any given time when an opportunity arose. This increased the likelihood of my wife discovering one of my cans, which caused further worry and stress for me. Not enough to stop using, of course. Going on vacations or out on social occasions were the most troublesome. This limited me to venturing forth with one source of tobacco only. I would even go so far as putting it in a different shaped container so I could carry it on me while avoiding showing that telltale ring. Quite often I would have to go several hours without my fix and invariably I would not enjoy the event and quite often ruin it for her and others as well. What a sad state of existence this was for all involved and it was how I lived my life for the next six years.
February 8th, 2007 was just another day in my tobacco-driven life or so I thought. Upon arising I took the last chew out of my basement tin and told myself to not forget to grab the new can I had stashed in the car under the driver’s seat when I left for work. When I was leaving for work I reached under the seat and come up empty. What the…oh no…I forgot to purchase some cans last night…shit…now what am I going to do…I don’t have time to run to the c-store…I’m already a few minutes late for work…
It was at this very moment that I snapped inside, so very angry at myself, angry at nicotine, angry that a little round can had been telling me what to do for most of my life. NO MORE! I am going to quit! This time it is going to be because I want to! I’m sick of this! I have now decided to quit for ME! I have not used tobacco since that epiphany.
The next day while at work, firmly entrenched in the bowels of hell also known as Day 2 of nicotine withdrawal, I recalled a website that I had visited six years prior. I wondered if the site still existed as I typed “quit dip” into the Google search engine. By God, the site is still here and it’s even more expanded.
For the second time in my tobacco-related life I poured myself a nice tall glass of the Kool-Aid. Only this time it was the KTC brand Kool-Aid with its life restoring powers. I read all of the articles on the main page. Then I clicked on Community and read everything on those links. I was astounded at how serious these people were in their quits. What the heck are quit groups I wondered. When I tried to get into the Quit Groups section it was asking me for a user name and password. Normally at this point I would just say forget it, but I was curious, I needed help, and the Kool-Aid was already starting to take effect.
In these Quit Groups I saw people who had been quit ranging from one day all the way up to over a thousand. I couldn’t imagine being quit for that long, yet these people kept saying things like “no tobacco today”. What??? How on earth can you stay quit for so long and yet only worry about today? I don’t understand this. What is roll call? I noticed a link to a chat room and thought I’d check that out and see if anyone in there could answer these questions I had. Almost immediately someone asked who I was, how long was I quit, had I posted roll yet, etc. They directed me to my quit group and gave me instructions on how to post roll.
Here I am more than a hundred days later and still tobacco-free, something I could never accomplish by myself. I attribute this success to “drinking the Kool-Aid”, which to me now means following the example of the successful quitters:
1. MAKE SURE THAT YOU ARE QUIT FOR YOURSELF
2. Be accountable to yourself and others by posting roll right away in the morning.
3. Only worry about not using tobacco today.
4. Read all the articles.
5. Visit the chat room often, post on the boards, and help out newbies.
6. Have a plan ready in case you are close to caving.
7. Use your tools- get into chat, PM someone, call someone when things get rough.
8. By all means have some fun while doing this. Quitting is tough and anything you can do to ease your mind will help immensely.
It would be impossible for me to thank everyone individually for all the help you’ve given me. However I would like to thank the three people who first responded to me in the main areas of the site: Timonesock for helping me in the chat room, Sheriff for being the first Mayniac to reach out to me, and 7Iron for responding to me in the Café with his usual brilliant advice. Thanks a million to the rest of you and let’s keep quit shall we?
Anyone reading this who hasn’t yet quit, but is considering doing so, let me assure you that you can successfully quit, too. I give you my personal guarantee, 100%, that you can do this, too. I promise you that if you apply yourself, let us help you, and if you help others, you can be nicotine-free just like me. All it takes are the 8 steps I listed above.
So come, drink the Kool-Aid, and let us live the way we were meant to be – without tobacco.