My name is Leighton and I am a nicotine addict. So, what motivates a person to take on their addiction? What separates an addict from someone with a bad habit? What is there to gain, what is there to lose? These are all questions we asked ourselves in one way or another when we decided to quit. There are a few primary motivators for a quit, some seem to end better than others. The main categories for me are control, health, financial and peer pressure. It seems there are many people that take on quitting (or overcoming addiction) for one of these reasons and some quits seem to stick better than others. They say you have to be ready to quit, but I also believe you can move yourself to a place where you are ready to quit if you want to quit. In other words, wanting to quit and being ready are not the same thing. When you “want to quit” – a term used by most nicotine addicts followed by “it’s hard” or “I can’t” – you have not yet found your motivation. I find that when someone wants to quit, they need to focus on a reason why quitting is important to them and use that motivation as a goal. If it is health, you have to see yourself healthier in the future. If it is money, you see what your ill-spent funds will be better served on and so on. Until you pick a strong motivating factor and truly believe you want to see your way to the other side of it, you will not stay quit.
Control was truly what made me want to quit. I have focused on the Garth Brooks line “I have never let anything have this much control over me, I’ve worked too hard to call this life my own…” throughout my quit. I have also thought how God is the only one who should be able to control me as much as this addiction and that reminds me to pray. I was avoiding occasions, manufacturing times to feed my addiction and generally giving complete control of my time and life to nicotine. When I worked in a corporate office, I squandered time outside with the smokers. When I went to visit my parents I walked the dog 12 times a day – I think the dog wanted me to screw off by the end of a weekend. If I needed to travel for something I would find a reason why it was better to go alone so I could dip in the car without being nagged by my wife. Whenever a situation presented itself, my mind would start calculating how Copenhagen could be accommodated. So, control was and is my long term motivation. The reason I am ready to quit.
The next motivating category that I see is health. This can be a powerful motivator for some, but a short term one for others. The reality is, we abuse our bodies in many ways in our life and it has to hit and maintain a certain level of reality before it can be the motivation for a long term quit. I have met some great quitters on ktc.org who have motivated by health reasons. I think of ODT who’s struggle with cancer has made him a motivation to others. Who has taken his battle with a hideous disease and used it to give to others. I think of people like chewlessjim who live a healthy and active lifestyle that is not congruent with a nicotine addiction. I think of Rose who came as close to a full cancer diagnoses as any of us would ever want to come. Health concerns can make you ready but can also be a trap. For many, when the fear of immediate health concerns are alleviated (it was just a bump, cold sore, etc) the motivation is also gone and they decide that one more will not hurt. All of us quitters know where that leads – right back where we left off.
We often think of peer pressure as a negative thing, but it can be equally positive. Who are our peers? Our co-workers, our friends, our spouses and families, our congregations, etc. When nicotine and tobacco are de-normalized our peers begin to tell us in one way or another that what we are doing is disturbing to them. They see us wasting our time and money for something disgusting. They see the control it has in our lives. When they are honest with us, it is like a mirror reflecting our lives and we cannot help see nicotine for the beast it really is. A lot will say we have to quit for ourselves and to a degree that is true, but part of being self-serving is maintaining our relationships. If nicotine is causing my wife to not want to kiss me, my buddies to not want to drive with me (and stare at my spitter) and me to be distracted when visiting with others because I do not want to go dip that is a consequence of my choice to feed my addiction. If I do not like that consequence I can chose to take on the addiction so I can restore right relationships with those people. The less distractions there are, the more honest the relationships can be and that makes them fulfilling.
So what motivated me to start writing this? Well, I saw a sign in my local convenience store to warn people of the new prices. It read “Smokeless Tobacco: $10.90 +tax”. Which by the way is just sales tax, there are many taxes in the price already. That works out to $12 even for a tin. Now before you go thinking that is high, remember, I am Canadian. The tins here are 15g to the US 35g tin making that price the equivalent to $28 for a tin in the US. We have all said at some point that we will stop when the price hits $x.xx. What is x? Well, it is a moving target. It is always just high enough to console ourselves. Addictions do not respond to money well, they do not care if they break you. Money does; however, come more into play when you are already quit. When I realize that I would be spending over $20/day if I were still dipping I cannot imagine how insane it would be to go back. Yet the night I saw that and started thinking about it I had a dream I dropped a big fat dip in my mouth. I went in the store and saw the sign but decided I would never really go back at those prices so I would give it a try. I figured I better not risk it and buy my brand so I played it safe and got some goofy skoal flavour. Surely that would not get me back on my addiction. I threw in a big fat dip and could feel the calm surge through me. Man, I felt confused when I woke up.
I am trying to decide how to draw a point out of the money issue and here is what I find interesting. Canada has 100% publicly funded health care. In other words, you get sick, you do not pay. The spin doctors talk about what an incredible burden the “smokers” (they never talk about dippers) put on the healthcare system but they fail to mention the revenue. The reason prices are so high here are the government putting on hidden “sin taxes” as we like to call them. They sell the bill in the government houses by showing how it will deter people from taking up “the habit”. They treat it like it is gum or jerky or nail biting. A habit, so if you raise the price, people will break the habit. The reality is it is not breaking a habit, it is confronting an addiction and by strictly raising the prices the government is just extorting the weak. As long as we do not take on nicotine as an addiction, we will not overcome it.
So what made you ready to quit? What keeps you ready? We must live in a perpetual state of readiness. We remain alert to the enemy. We are at war and if we grow weary and lay down our arms and stop fighting then it is just a matter of time until the enemy finds us in a vulnerable state and takes control of us again. Continual readiness is called vigilance. We hold vigil as quitters. That is the power of the support networks. In war, everyone must rest. At times I grow weary and need to lean against a tree and take a drink of water. When I need to do that, I ask one of my fellow soldiers to keep an eye out for me and I hope to do the same for him or her sometime. Let us all fight tirelessly, let us support the weak and weary, let us admit when we are weak and weary and swallow our pride. We shall overcome as a united force against addiction and a society that teaches us instant self-serving gratification.