I realized, throughout these first 100 days, I’ve never put this all into perspective for myself. My history. My struggles. My reasons. My admissions. So, here it is. It’s more for me than anyone else. Still, I have been apprehensive to write it down. You’ll see.
Just to be bad, my cousin and I stole a pack of cigarettes from my grandfather, from his handy little wall-mounted, wooden soft-pack dispenser that said “Coffin Nails” on it. It actually had an image of a coffin on it. Fucking twisted, huh? We went to the barn and “smoked” the whole pack. I was 6 years old.
The first football coach I ever remember chewed Redman. All the time. At practice. In the car ride home from games. I thought he was the coolest guy ever. Not because he chewed Redman, but the fact that he did, certainly had an effect on me. I was 8 years old.
On a family vacation in New England, I tried my first dip. We always rented cabins on small lakes that included the use of rowboats, canoes and the like. I took a rowboat out on my own. The previous renters left a tin of Skoal Wintergreen in the boat. I tried it. To this day, I don’t have the first clue as to how I even knew how to do it, but I did. Must have had something to do with Coach Cool Guy. I didn’t get sick, but it wasn’t pretty. I was 10 years old.
I didn’t touch the stuff after that for a few years, as no one else I knew dipped, so I didn’t have access. But, everyone smoked in my family. Everyone. I used to walk through the woods to the main road to buy my parents cigarettes. The station would sell them to us. We were just children. They were $.99/pack.
We smoked to be bad. I was well on my way to the worst addiction of my life by age 10. I can’t remember a time in my early adolescence when my friends and I wouldn’t take every opportunity we could to steal away to hide somewhere and grab a couple of smokes. But dipping, even at 10, I was intrigued. Something clicked. I was drawn to how that rush made me feel. I always remembered that feeling. I guess somewhere deep inside, I longed to feel it again, even if it was years later.
Fast forward to high school. Imagine this. It’s 1991, and my high school still allowed smoking in a designated outdoor area. Being a football player, smoking was out of the question at school, even though I would smoke in the offseason. Somewhere in there, I began literally smoking in a secluded bathroom in the new wing… That wasn’t manageable, and I realized it. So, I started dipping, just like many of the guys on my football and lacrosse teams. It solved that nicotine addiction vs. athletic performance thing for me.
College. Ah, college. I perceived to have had full-fledged permission to fuck up as much as I wanted to in my life, in a rather consequence-free environment, as long as I didn’t lose my scholarship money. Freshman year, two guys across the hall dipped. We never lacked. Sophomore year, we also got places across the hall from each other. Again, we never lacked. We all pledged the same fraternity. During pledging, at all times, we had to carry a tin of Skoal Mint and a pouch of Lancaster chew. Not exactly the greatest environment for someone who already was a nicotine addict.
Junior year, my fraternity house roommate and I alternated buying entire logs of Skoal. Sometimes, two at a time. Few things excited us more. As a brother, I made damn-well sure that all the pledges were always handy with a dip. Senior year, much of the same. By the time I was 22, I was on a steady tin-or-more per day addiction. I am 35 now. While my active use was 19 years, I’d say my addiction started at 10. While I am turning the tide, I have dipped over half my life. So sad.
I look back, and I always had a girlfriend and I can say, that every fight I ever got in, at some level or another, had originated from nicotine withdrawal. I used to have such anger issues. I was scary. Really scary. Especially in college when some other substances were introduced. I realize now, it was in large part, the nicotine.
By 2001, I got sick of dipping, because I met a wonderful young woman, Erin, that in order to feed my addiction when she’d visit, I’d have to hide in the bathroom. That wasn’t manageable, so I tried the patch. Using that, I stopped using tobacco for over a year, but replaced one addiction with another (another story). I never learned the tools for success. I never sought any real help.
Then, I started again. I can’t even tell you when. Stress management and emotional avoidance seemed easy with dip:
July 18, 2003 – My wife (then girlfriend) Erin, had 11 hours of successful brain surgery and struggled through months of recovery.
October 17, 2004 – My mother died of lung cancer after two rounds of radiation, chemo and a week in a coma. None of it was pretty, but that last week was gruesome and gut-wrenching. And I made fucking trips to the gas station for her…
During both periods, I was a rock for everyone else. I don’t remember crying once during all that shit. Not a good idea.
Five more years.
I joined KTC October 2, 2009. I read a little bit. I never quit. I wasn’t ready. I never even posted a Day 1. I alternated between dipping and chewing nic gum for almost three more years. The worst, however, was when I was regularly doing both at the same time, leading up to my quit. Dip at work. Chew nic gum in meetings, at home, whenever I couldn’t get away with it. Nothing like really setting yourself up for a hard-ass quit than by regularly ingesting nicotine at what I would estimate as the equivalent of four tins a day.
2012 – My Quit
I was on prescribed steroids for a back issue I was having, and was told I would likely be overly emotional. Big Brother Jack had set up a Facebook event page for a trail run I was intending on doing. My first 50K. I joined it and checked out this guy’s profile. He listed himself as a Moderator for KTC right there on his profile. I stalked him a bit. He led me back to KTC.
Monday, August 27, 2012 – In my steroid-driven, uber-emotional impetuousness, I posted a Day 1. I had made absolutely no plans. If you know me, then you know I plan everything. This just wasn’t me. I admired this guy Jack, who essentially wore his quit not just on his sleeve, but everywhere else. I admired that greatly. I wanted to have that pride and success. I just did it. I warned my wife. She supported it. She supported me all the way. Always has.
I posted up. Screwed that up a couple times. I was full-fledged white-knuckled for four days until the weekend. Read about withdrawal and dopamine. I spent my entire first week on the site and on chat. Couldn’t sleep. Drenching night sweats. I was in a fog so dense that I was missing doorknobs regularly. I probably shouldn’t have been driving. Then, as everyone said, it lifted on Day 4.
In the days and weeks to follow, feeling confident, what I did next felt absolutely amazing to me. I essentially came out about it. I came out about my addiction. I volunteered the info. I had ninja-dipped for so long, and had gotten pseudo caught and lied about it for so many years… to finally just come fucking clean about it… it was liberating. You know what? People accepted it, even if they were surprised. Don’t ever underestimate the power of letting others in. I credit much of my quit to that empowered feeling from coming out about it to absolutely everyone. I cruised for a bit. Got involved. Started doing the spreadsheet, collecting more and more digits. Reaching out to a bunch of guys, and beginning to understand that that really helped me solidify my resolve. Hoping I was helping them.
I continued to post roll, about which, as you can see, I feel very strongly. I always will.
Then I hit 75 days. It felt like everything crashed. I never once thought of caving. Actually, craves had never really hit me that hard. But, I developed a pretty distinct case of anxiety, including a couple on-the-floor panic attacks, something that I never thought I would experience in a million years. Let me tell you. Anxiety is fucking real. I’ve been working through that with the help of great friends on this site, a couple outside of this site as well as professionals. This is why I have been apprehensive to write all this down for all to read.
I am so fucking far from being fixed, that I don’t feel I deserve the recognition of 100 days. I faced nicotine addiction head on, and won, every day, one day at a time for 100 days. But now, I am getting to realize that somewhere inside, somewhere deep, there’s something a bit off in me. Now that I know that I can survive without nicotine. I need to learn how to be the man I want to be without using nicotine to cover everything up. That’s going to take a lot more work, and I am fine with that. I am ready for it, not dwelling in a low haze of nicotine ingestion. As Big Brother Jack wrote to me, “The first brick has been laid.” That feels good. I feel comfortable enough to work on all the other effects of my addiction and use.
I swear to you all that I will stay close to this site. It is my lifeline.
I swear to you all that I will not use today.
I have interacted with far too many people on this site, strengthening each others’ quits, to name them all. I would feel just absolutely horrible if I skipped just one, so I will take the easy way out here:
You know who you are. I always will. Thank you.