I don’t know moderation. I’m a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. I was bad, real bad, for decades. Quitting those mood-altering chemicals has been easier than conquering a 29 year love affair with chewing tobacco. Chew became my best friend, my comfort, a way to block out fear and a wide range of emotions. Whether happy, sad or somewhere in between, any emotion legitimized a chew. I put one in before bed at night, removing it upon awakening, to brush my teeth and slap in yet another wedge. Simply put, if I wasn’t eating I was chewing. Upper, lower, left, right or center, a pinch of worm dirt in my lip became just another appendage, a security blanket. I didn’t feel whole unless I had some lip burn happening. I was restless, irritable, discontent and unsettled when without. I always knew it was good for nothing, and even that it added to my anxieties, compounding them. For my entire adolescent and adult life I had been inextricably linked to that shit. Not happy with such an identity, I set about changing it 100 days ago.
Chew was a way to put distance between me and others, whether family, friends, wife or colleagues. It was my shield of sorts, “protecting” me from intimacy, allowing me to retreat. Was I scared of people getting to know the real me? Yes. Why? Perhaps I’m still working on all the reasons, and they may not matter. What matters is I no longer want to have a wall between myself and others. I’m a chronic introvert, a loner by nature and all my preferences lean toward solitude. Despite these inclinations I want to be part of the world, connected and bound to others in an honest, transparent, genuine exchange of human relations. I cannot be honest with a chew loaded, because I’m not being honest with myself.
I have a lot of work to do on me, and relinquishing something that had become so ingrained in my identity is like peeling back the first layer of an onion to get at the core, the real me. I am no longer defined by a bump in my lip. For that, I am grateful. I am grateful too for the structure of KTC, the family of quitters who relate to what I’m going through. As I’ve learned in several 12 step programs, the fellowship is an essential part of recovery, offering strength and support when an individual cannot muster sufficient will. It doesn’t surprise me that some of the methodology, mechanics and indeed the terminology of this forum is strikingly similar to AA and NA, this addiction is every bit as serious and sinister, requiring everything we can collectively summon to rise above and beyond. This addiction, as with others, will require vigilance and routine maintenance for the balance of my life. I thank KTC for being an invaluable backstop as I embark on this new, promising chapter of my life.