I wish I would have listened to my parents that first time I got caught instead of getting better at hiding it. I had just come in from a Friday night buck-out (bull riding event) & as usual walked directly to my room, slid the can out from the front of my pants or the top of my boot & into the bottom of the top left drawer… as quietly as possible. Not quietly enough… they had me figured out. They threatened me with grounding for a year & taking away my stereo! Not enough! I did cut back a little for a while but also just got better at hiding the cans… in the bushes, burying it, whatever… until they finally figured out that they weren’t gonna stop me.
Approximately 11,860 days, 20,000 cans & well over 100,000 dips of snuff later…
I had finally reached the point of realizing that the only way I was ever going to quit dipping snuff was to be committed to a psychiatric hospital…straitjacket, drugs, shock therapy, lobotomy… whatever it took, I was ready for it! I had had enough! I had been dipping regularly since I was 12 years old & I turned 45, 55 days into my quit. So, 32+ years of the crap at 1 ½ – 2 cans a day.
I can still remember my first chew of tobacco at 10 years old. The plug had been left on the baseball field where my brother & I spent nearly every weekday of my summer that year. Two older kids had gotten into an argument about whether or not the old maxim “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” was true (seriously!). They made a bet out of it… the loser had to take a chaw of the darkest, harshest, most vile, plug tobacco they knew of … Tinsley’s Cut. Well, the horse didn’t drink so the loser took his short-lived gagging chaw & the rest of the plug was thrown out onto the baseball field. My grandfather chewed tobacco so I was curious & wanted to try it too. Later on I went back to the field by myself, picked it up, tried it & I liked it! I was pretty scared of what my parents might do to me at that point so I spit it out too quick to catch a buzz off of it.
My first dip of snuff was at age 11. On the walk home from school, another kid gave me a dip of Copenhagen. I remember thinking that it tasted salty & then bam! *~crystal blue persuasion~* the dizziness! I had no idea it would do that to me & immediately suspected that the kid had mixed dope in it (I had just heard about dope & had no idea what it was other than it made you act & feel strange). I tried walking straight lines all the way home & looking in cars’ side mirrors trying to get all the snuff out of my teeth. Later on when I started dipping on a regular basis, I learned to enjoy this wonderful short lived side effect.
I was never one to hide the fact that I dipped from anyone since the days my parents quit grounding me over it. I was part of a group that identified itself with athletics (baseball & boxing for me), fishing, hunting, rodeo & snuff &/or chewing tobacco. That was just part of my identity & culture. After all, I grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, where the West begins! Most of the guys in school were just casual dippers/chewers… Not me! I never felt like I did it as a result of peer pressure. I wanted to do it, I absolutely loved the taste, the buzz, the culture of it… the whole package. As time went by, the hard core dippers like myself gravitated into our own little clique. I quickly cultivated a can plus/per day habit/addiction that soon escalated to 2 cans a day.
After High School & some college, I hired onto the Fire Department. Basically the same type of culture I was used to, only more so & dipping fit right in. Out of an 8 man, double company crew that I work with, 5 of us were dippers (3 of us have quit). When one of our dippers retired last year, he was replaced with another younger dipper. Just the way the odds work out here. BTW, spitting from the window of a fire truck is frowned upon, especially when on a call. This has given opportunity to something unique that I have not seen any of you other quitters post about… spitting in our disposable EMS gloves (after we take them off) after a call or are just out & about in the truck. Spit till they’re full, tie the wrist off & throw it in the Bio Hazard/EMS waste bin when you get back to the station!
I can’t tell you (because I don’t know) how many times I have tried to quit over the years, but I can tell you that there was rarely a time when it wasn’t on my mind. The first time that I can remember having at least some success at staying off of Copenhagen for a while was in high school during baseball season. By our QS standards it was not really a quit because I occasionally used chewing tobacco (Redman, Beech Nut, Mail Pouch…) during this time. I didn’t get that much out of chewing tobacco nor did I crave it like the snuff so I didn’t do it nearly as much. Someone on my baseball team had introduced the idea of mixing all kinds of different things in with the chewing tobacco… bubble gum, sliced almonds, cinnamon oil, dried apples…so it became the thing to do. This lasted for about a month for me when I fell victim for the first time to “Just One”. We all know how that turned out. (BTW, even after a month of using chewing tobacco sparingly instead of a regular Copenhagen habit, that one dip still gave me a huge buzz & made me a little queasy feeling.).
The morning that I took my final dip, the whole right side of my mouth, jaw & tongue were in the worst pain I had ever experienced. I thought, “This is it… I’ve finally given myself cancer.”. It was so painful that I tried moving the dip to the other side which I hadn’t done in years because of dental issues. I could not enjoy it nor keep it in for very long because my entire mouth had suddenly become very sensitive. I knew I had to do something drastic immediately. I got to work & told one of my long time dipping buddies that I was done for good, this was my last dip… & I meant it this time. That was Monday, July 17, 2006 at 8:00 am. I have not used tobacco of any kind nor in any form since that time.
That morning our engine crew had to go to training so another engine had to “back up” in their place because my crew is strictly dedicated to aircraft rescue & not allowed to leave the airport for standard fire & EMS calls. The lieutenant on this back up engine was a younger man that I had worked with 10+ years ago when he was a rookie & I was his lieutenant. I hadn’t seen him for years but had heard that he had gotten cancer several years ago from dipping snuff. …I haven’t seen him for years & he shows up at my fire station on the day that I finally got serious about quitting this nasty crap…I don’t think it was a coincidence. I asked him all about his experience with everything from the diagnosis to the surgeries to the treatments, how his family dealt with it, how he dealt with it… pretty much all I could think of to ask him. He was great about the whole deal & very encouraging about my quit. Talk about strengthening my resolve! Again… I don’t think it was a coincidence.
My biggest fear in life has always been that I was going to give myself cancer for the sake of a crude, nasty, selfish, idiotic & expensive habit that has absolutely never done anything good for anyone! The idea of potentially surviving cancer, leaving my family to have to see & deal with any resulting disfigurement or debility brings unbearable feelings of guilt & shame. If I were to die as a result, even more so to think of my daughters explaining to their children why they have no grandfather, my mother standing alongside the casket of her son & the unbelieveable pain I feel at the thought of leaving my wife of almost 25 years at this time in our life together. I am overwhelmed even now, to the point of tears running down onto my camo as I sit in my deer stand writing this. (Not sure, but I don’t think that’s allowed? Rem, SBTZC, dink, ODT???)
I knew this HAD to be my final quit, of course feeling that I had no other choice due to the way my mouth was torn up this time. I had been thinking seriously about quitting for several months & so my mind was right for it. I also felt extreme guilt for tanking a 30 day quit the previous summer, using nicotine gum, because my previously mentioned long time dip buddy caved first (I know, NO EXCUSE!). I had one other long term quit 10 years ago using the Dipstop program, dosing down with SMC & Bacc Off, over a several month period. I went about a month with no tobacco or nicotine before caving after a long stressful ordeal which ended in the death of my father (I know, NO EXCUSES!).
I have tried quitting cold turkey literally hundreds of times, never making it much past 24 hours. I tried the patch once… too hairy… me, not the patch. I had tried quitting with nicotine gum 3 times previously. This was my 4th time using it. I had already made a plan & started using the NRT gum before finding QS. Like I said, cold turkey had never worked for me at all (read – 0% success rate) so I never even considered it as an option. Of course soon after joining QS I found that NRT of any kind was not very well accepted by most, barely tolerated by some & OK for others. Seemed to me that these others were definitely in the minority. I say to each his own. We are all very different. What works for some, doesn’t necessarily work for others. Whatever it takes to keep the real crap out of your mouth!!! I have read all the statistics on methods of quitting & their supposed effectiveness ratios. I know I’m not at the end of the road with this addiction but here’s one statistic that’s not in their reports… Using nicotine gum as the first phase of a method of quitting tobacco along with the help of an extremely outstanding support group of fellow quitters has enabled Stacy Clark to go 122 days (at this writing) without putting any tobacco in his mouth or other bodily orifice! That’s all I have to say about that.
The final piece…
Later on the day that I quit, I googled ‘quit dipping’ or whatever it was that I googled & found this wonderful place. I knew right away it was a Godsend. Just like most of you, I devoured every bit of reading that was available for a couple of days or so, then tried out chat a little before finally joining. I signed on using my real first name & last name because I didn’t want to hide anything. I was completely coming clean, I needed no more coaxing. All the great QS literature; Spongebob Mantra, Reply from Jenny Kern, Contract to Give Up, What Price to Save Ourselves, … had it’s intended effect. When I read AaronF’s HOF speech about how he convinced himself as a teenager to eat ground up tulip bulbs, I assume as an explanation as to why kids do the things they do & tractorboy’s query “ever gone garbage-diving for a chew bottle in a public place?”, I knew I was in the right place. To find such a huge body of people all sharing a common, grotty experience who knew exactly what I had been through, what I was going through at the moment & what to expect in the days ahead…Incredible!!
I determined based on some of the things I read here, that this was gonna have to be ‘all out, Katy bar the door’ kinda war. No punches pulled. For me that meant allowing myself liberties in other areas that I normally wouldn’t have, in order to make up for what I was giving up. I placed no restrictions on myself… well, besides just the one… Thou Shall Not Kill… which as it turned out was a good idea & really for the best. I have also evidently developed turret’s syndrome as a result of this battle. I seem to have some trouble controlling my language these days. Don’t tell my wife, she’d really be mad!
I am still to this day, utterly amazed that I have been free from tobacco for this long & I have ALL of you to thank for that! I realize that this is a small milestone in the grand scheme of things, but still an important one. I cannot thank you all enough for the Team Work, your Commitment to me & one another, the Education that you have given me, the Camaraderie, the Encouragement, the Fun & Humor, but I’m gonna try…
First to ALL of the veterans for being here for us in the beginning, for going the extra mile by sticking around here to pass on what you have learned & for your friendship…
These 3 ladies additionally for making it a kinder, gentler, brighter, cleaner, safer & much better smelling place as well…
Al – for always being there for me & everyone else, I think you’re a great guy & a wonderful influence on everyone here at QS. BTW, I am drinking water as I type.
Rem, Who & 7 – it seems as though the 3 of you have made extra special efforts in the Units’ node to be of help & of humor! Thanks for teaching us to post roll, post whore & whore for trophies, the 3 most essential elements of being a good QSer. I appreciate your being there for us at all times, sometimes when we weren’t even there…You have really been a huge influence on so many of us to carry on your great tradition of passing it down to future generations of quitters. Thanks for all that each of you have done for me personally & for all the Units as well. You guys are true blue! I look forward to our continued friendships. & hope to see all 3 of you in February.
Cliff – Thanks for giving us our identity. I am proud to be one of Cliff’s Cohesive Units!
To the Units…
I really don’t know where to start here. Even though there were times when we should have changed our name to the Critical Care Units, it has been great to be a small part of this huge team! Every one of you has been so instrumental in helping me, pushing me, pulling me, getting me to this point where I can say “I don’t do that anymore”, “No Tobacco Today” every day for the rest of my life & finally by writing this speech, “Close the Door”. It has been so important to me in writing this to go back & see where I’ve been in my life with this addiction, see where I am now in relation to it to more fully appreciate what has happened here amongst all of you wonderful people & strengthen my resolve even more than I ever thought possible. I highly encourage all of you to do this as well. Thanks to all of you who stood by my side or lifted me up out of being bogged down in the funky fog, who ignored my rants & rages or joined in them with me or against me. Thanks for being a listening ear & for trusting me with your troubles as well. Thanks for the fun, the laughs & the humor. Thanks for posting roll. Thanks for making me feel like a part of the group. I feel like I have known many of you for years & hope that I do, for many years. I look forward to continuing on with all of you & can’t wait to see you at the first annual, grandistic, royal order of the Noble Members of the Cliff’s Cohesive Units Get Together in St. Louis, Missouri in February 2007!!!
THANKS FOR BEING A UNIT!!!
Dinkshooter – hope your hunt is going well & looking forward to getting to know you better
Ignatious J. Reilly – Thanks for finally learning how to post roll… almost…
Shep – Thanks for trying to bring a little class to… well… the class…by trying to clean up what otherwise could have been a stinky situation by introducing us to the world of the bidet!
Larry – enjoyed chatting with you in the early days when you had computer access & hope you are still quit.
KidatHeart – appreciate the early PMs we had. You are a very solid, friendly, humble man & I appreciate having someone of your character in our group.
Malibu – Thank God there is at least one person older than me in the group so that I don’t have be called grampa there too! You have been a great steady influence in the group… I honestly don’t think those other 2 ninjas would have made it without you!
Docman – Thanks for being there for me in the roughest times, quietly PMing me, reeling me back in, talking me down from the ledge. I appreciate you being such a strong, quiet influence to me. There is no doubt in my mind that I would have never made it past the first couple of weeks if it wasn’t for you. My sincerest thanks.
grinn – Dr. Grinn ETMD, medicine woman, mistress mysterioso… have had a blast trying to understand what your posts say & misexplaining them to Lobo. Thanks for the chat & PMs, I truly wish you could spend more time with us, I have thoroughly enjoyed the times that you have!
dionnja1 – Man, you have been such a fun & sincere guy to be in this group with. I appreciate your advice & help after the surgery & your commitment to the group. I look forward to meeting you in St. Louis!
Russter – What a great solid, dependable man you have been for our group. I have completely enjoyed being a part of this with you. I’m really glad that your Cardinals finally won it all this year. I’m really looking forward to our St. Louis road trip together!
SteevO – you have been an incredibly big part of our group’s success…especially in the early days before you started pi$$ing everybody off! LOL! Just kidding of course! Thanks for being who you are & getting in there & making people get real. I still to this day think your jalapeno story is one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard in my life!!! & yes we will have that beer!
Lobo – I really have appreciated all that you have done as a part of this group. Your humor is priceless. I appreciate your sincerity & humility. Thanks for the PMs & for being a friend. I look forward to working with you on our project & getting to know you better.
GiKea – One of the wisest, most prudent young men I have ever encountered. Thanks for being such a leader in the group. You stepped up at a time when it looked like no one else was going to. Your input since that time has been invaluable. Thanks for sharing your life & your heart with the people of the CCU. I appreciate your character, honesty & integrity. I look forward to seeing you soon. And BTW, I honestly don’t think you would have made it without those other 2 ninjas!
iuchewie – Wow! What can be said about this guy. The most active, hard working Unit, QSer & post whore of our time. Probably the most popular person on QS & with goo reason! UFKAC, you are truly an inspiration to me & I’m sure everyone here on the site. Helping the new guys, hanging with the veterans & always looking out for your brothers in the CCU! Thanks for not being afraid to be yourself & open yourself up to people. I am truly thankful for being apart of this group with you. You have been a wonderful friend & definitely someone who can always be counted on. I am really looking forward to meeting you in February! Thanks for all your hard work & the website/
SBTZC – Brokeback Mormon, Scar Tissue, Toilet Face, Salt Face, Moron! Wow, the names you’ve had to endure… It’s a wonder that you’re such a sweet & sensitive guy! Thanks for always having my back, buddy! You probably don’t remember this but your’s is the first PM I received welcoming me to QS, pointing me to this group, explaining how to do roll call, etc… I admire the way that you selflessly spend time helping out the newbs & anyone else you can. Your knowledge & grasp of the issues that involve us in this addiction is incredible. Thanks for all the PMs & chit chat along the way. You have been a goo friend & confidant. I really hope you will try to make it to St. Louis!
Last but not least… Thanks to my beautiful wife, Linda, for putting up with this crap for so long just to be with me & for not leaving me while I was such a… not such a nice person the past few months while quitting this crap for the last time!
Thanks again everyone! It has been a truly incredible experience, not that I want to do it all again, but I am looking forward to the next 100 days & beyond with all of you!
Stay Strong, Stay Quit & Be Goo!