Fair warning – if you’re expecting typical Syndrome style, turn back now. This will be the first and last time I step out of character.
My story starts back in the spring of 1985, my sophomore year of college. My girlfriend at the time liked to smoke after a few drinks. I didn’t much care for it, because I come from a family of smokers, and frankly it was very much like kissing an ashtray at the end of the night. But she wasn’t giving it up. I thought I’d show her what it was like and bummed a pinch of Skoal from a buddy. Now, back in those days there was no “long cut” and the first pinch ended up all over my mouth. Really, it was more than I hoped for, because surely she’d get the ashtray experience in full force. And it worked – kind of. She didn’t smoke for a month or so afterward, at least that I knew of. But then she started again. My buddy recommended Kodiak, which was longer cut and easier to pack, and our battle of wills ensued. Now, I was fully aware that what I was doing was unhealthy, and that our friend the nic bitch was addictive. But I wasn’t going to do it often enough to get addicted. Summer came, and we went home. I to my job building ladders, she to a country club job some 200 miles away. I didn’t need to dip, but all the factory guys smoked at break, so I just threw in a dip anyway. Skoal introduced its long cut product, which saved my lip that Kodiak was ripping to shreads. Back at school for my junior year, I’d finally mastered the art of packing a dip well enough to graduate to Cope – the brand that would own my pathetic ass for the next 23 years. The battle of wills with my girlfriend continued – until she dumped me. I could have quit then, but if I could quit then what difference will another year and a half make? The following year, shortly before graduation another one of my buddies and I tried to quit. We counted the hours. I don’t think we made 100 hours. That’s when the realization set in: I AM AN ADDICT.
The next year I started grad school, thinking “away from my old buddies, I might be able to quit.” Alas, fortune favored the bitch, because I shared an office with the only other dipper in the program. Spit cups and cans littered the office. I left grad school after 2 quarters, basically due to burn out from studying, and prepared to make my way in the work force.
I didn’t start dipping in the office right away. I waited until after work, and got that last pinch on the way in. But inside 3 months, I was sneaking a dip here or there. By the end of my first year, I was buying a can of Mountain Dew every morning for a caffine fix – and for my daily spit can. And so it went for a few years. Until I got engaged. She didn’t like my dirty little habit, and I promised I’d quit. And I went to great lenghts to hide it from her. After a few months, those great lenghts weren’t as great, and I was again discovered. Again I promised to quit; again I lied. When she discovered I hadn’t quit the second time, she broke off the engagement. Depressed, I turned back to the nic bitch for solace, for she would never leave me.
A few years later, I was engaged again. I had learned my lesson. I would go to even greater lenghts to hide my mistress. Dipping more at work, and waiting until she went to be I was able to hide it until 2 years into our marriage. God bless my wonderful wife for sticking by me, and not trying to face the nic bitch with an ultimatum. I wouldn’t use it around her, and she wouldn’t nag. Despite not letting me jump out of airplanes, or own a motorcycle, she didn’t fight this one. On day 78 of my quit, we celebrated our 15th anniversary. In the mean time she’s given me 2 beautiful little girls.
I don’t want my children to be addicts. I hate that they ever saw me use the shit. Yet, I want them to know how hard this fight is. Since my first was born nearly 13 years ago, I’ve known I had to quit. I tried, and failed, many times. When the gum was first available without prescription, I tried it. But since it didn’t have instructions for dippers (and it made my jaw ache) I failed. When the patch went over-the-counter, I tried it. I used it as recommended for heavy smokers, and I didn’t have a dip for 2 months while using it. But I hadn’t broken the hold the bitch had on me, and soon after the last patch was gone – Cope again filled my lip. I’ve tried herbal snuff (really crappy tasting stuff) and mint snuff, but despite having something in my mouth the nic bitch was always there – wanting to be that something, and waiting for the inevitable cave. My doctors and dentists have been utterly useless. “How can I quit?” I’d ask. The response was “Just quit.” Hell, my dentist even told me not to use the mint stuff because it had too much sugar!
THE FINAL STRAW
Remember, I’ve wanted to quit for some time now. I’m a cheap bastard, but despite the price of Cope going from under a buck when I started to over five bucks a tin today, it wasn’t material. See, I’ve never been a tin a day guy. I put in a dip after breakfast that lasted until lunch. My after lunch dip lasted until I pulled into the garage, and then a long evening dip. Even with a few extras and some fatties, a tin of Cope lasted 4 or 5 days. No, it was the announcement from my employer that our health insurance premiums would be $30 a month higher for tobacco users (not just smokers.) I was going to do something this time, damn it! So off to the internet I went in search of something that would help. I googled “quit smokeless” and guess what came up first? I visited. I read “what to expect”. I read some HOF speeches. I knew how useless the subsitutes had been for me, so I figured I’d try to go cold turkey. I picked my quit day, and signed up (though my math is usually good, my counting let me down – I was trying to get 50 days in ’08 and 50 in ’09… December 31 was day 49).
I stocked up on hard candy prior to my quit (it wasn’t until a couple of days in that I found a place to buy atomic fire balls in bulk.) And then I did something I didn’t do in any other quit attempt I had made before. I announced it. First to KTC. Then to my family and co-workers and guys I play soccer with, and well, anyone who would listen. I like the accountability here. But I also knew I could disappear if I caved. So I made my network stronger. I can’t run from my family, my co-workers, or friends.
There are many to thank as I reach this milestone. First, I thank my Lord and God for the strength he has given me. Secondly, I thank my wife for her love and support. Third, my co-workers who dealt with a rather shitty attitude for that first week. Last, but certainly not least, the entire KTC clan, with special shout outs: to Ricko for organizing the February guys into something that resembles a class, and to Big Brother Jack for letting me post my training in his triathlon thread – even though we’re both old guys I view Jack as a big brother and roll model in my quit.
In closing: this journey is not over for any of us, least of all, me. Today is just another step, and so for long as I am able, I will be part of this community. I now return to serving as the village idiot.