2007 HOF Speeches

The Road Not Taken – Beginning a Lifelong Quest

The Road Not TakenTwo roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

– The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost

My name is Mark. I am an addict.

Few things in life blindside an individual like addiction. What starts off as an experiment turns quickly into lies, acts of desperation, selfishness, self pity and absolute helplessness.

This is my story of how I was blindsided. It details where I’ve been, how I got here and where I’m going.

In college, if I drank excessively, I would smoke. This was a habit I enjoyed but one that never got a hold of me. I would smoke while I was out but then I’d put the cigarettes down for weeks or months at a time. The desire to smoke on a regular basis was dampened heavily by the stench and shortness of breath.

I can speak honestly that I had complete control of nicotine at that point in my life, meaning I would on occasion induldge with a cigarette.

In the summer of 2000, I lost complete control and began a seven-year stretch of complete obsession with nicotine. Cigarettes weren’t to blame though. I was officially introduced to Skoal, and it changed my life forever.

I decided to partake in a casual dip in August of 2000. A coworker of mine would dip on rare occasion and one evening while working late together, I decided I would give it a try. It wasn’t the most natural thing. My speech was a little unclear with my lip bulging and my spitting technique had beginner written all over it.  But the dip was serving its purpose. Much like a cigarette, I felt relaxed and certainly buzzed.

When I left work that evening, I didn’t think anything of the dip I enjoyed. The next few weeks, though, were similar as my coworker and I began to dip together more often than not. I refrained from buying my own but I certainly made sure to dip anytime he was providing the Skoal.

Six weeks after my initial dip, I was hooked. I didn’t view it though as a negative. I found something I truly enjoyed. I found something that would help me relax if I was stressed and something that I could use in celebration when I did a job well. I wasn’t short of breath and my clothes certainly didn’t wreak following a dip.

I was in heaven.

I was married shortly thereafter and after moving in with my wife, my addiction became a little more complicated. I had no desire to let me wife know of my habit. I thought that if she found out, she’d only ask me to stop. Why stop after just a couple of months? Who gets cancer that quick, I thought.

So, for the next three years, I dipped every single chance I could when I wasn’t around my wife. We didn’t have kids at that point, so I had plenty of time to feed the habit that I enjoyed so much. I dipped the moment I got into my car on the way to work and I dipped the return trip as well. Most of the time I was excited about traffic just so I could dip longer.

In the evenings, I had to refrain, unless I got lucky and she had an event to attend or if she had to travel for work. When that happened, I was lucky enough to dip in my own house and it was fantastic. Freedom to do what I wanted when I wanted. All without consequences, or so I thought. Of course, through those first three years, I promised myself I would worry about quitting later. Why stop after just three years? Who gets cancer that quick, I thought.

My daughter was born in January of 2003, a couple of months short of my three-year dip anniversary. Her birth didn’t encourage me to stop dipping, it only enhanced the addiction. With this new born responsibility, stress and challenge, my dip allowed me some relief. When I was alone with my daughter, I told myself the dip helped me get through the day without succombing to the exhaustion.

I was still in heaven. My dip use didn’t feel like an addiction. It was simply a habit I enjoyed.

For the next two years, I continued to dip every chance my wife was gone. I would throw in a dip if she ran to the store for a minute. I would volunteer to get gas in her car just to get a quick dip on the weekends. If I was golfing, I would dip from the moment I left the house until I returned. It was my habit and no one was going to tell me to stop.

I was still in heaven. After all, who gets cancer after just five years of dipping?

In August of 2005, I hit the five-year anniversary of my first dip. At this point, my daughter was 2 and a half and I now had a three-month old son.

The next two years leading up to my quit date were certainly different than the first five years. First, my wife began finding my stashes and I finally came clean with my addiction. I, however, didn’t promise to stop. In fact, I let her know that I had it under control and it would be futile to try and get me to stop.

Oddly enough, she listened. My wife never asked me to stop and never showed frustration that I was dipping. Had she though, it wouldn’t have mattered. I was already a professional at hiding the habit and wouldn’t think twice about doing it again.

While my addiction certainly consumed me at this point, things also started changing in my final two years of dipping (years six and seven). I started to fear cancer and what I was doing to myself. It was odd, because all of my associates and friends who dipped had done so for much longer and admitted they never pondered cancer.

I was different, though. With five years under my belt and obvious damage done in my gums, I truly started to wonder what cancer would do to my life and my family. I lost sleep wondering what would happen to my family. I wondered if I would rather die or live disfigured. I wondered how many years I had left to dip before I would meet my fate.

Those nights left me exhausted and as you would expect, I solved my exhaustion the only way I knew how – I put in a dip, and when I did, all those thoughts went away. I had my fix and in a sick way, whenever that dip went in, I told myself whatever consequences I had to face were worth it.

It became a vicious cycle over the next two years. I would go weeks without pondering cancer and then it would hit me for days on end. All the while, I was dipping.

I continued to tell myself I would quit, but the truth is, I had no intention. I simply enjoyed dip too much.

For those final two years, I made more than a dozen quit dates following a sleepless night. None lasted more then a few hours.

I then made a decision that I was either going to beat this addiction or that I was destined to dip and I would roll the dice. I thought that I owed myself one serious try and if I failed, I would never try again or think about the consequences.

On May 21, 2007, nearly seven years after my first dip, I decided it was time to find out who I was. At no point during that day did I have any intention of staying quit. Quite frankly, I didn’t want to quit but the fear was becoming overwhelming.

The first three days were much like others attemtps. I was somewhat frustrated at myself for having a desire to quit. Shaking from withdraws, I spent those days trying to justify why it would be OK to fail this quit.

Miraculously, though, I didn’t cave. I wanted to, but I made it just to prove to myself that I could.

On day 4, I knew I wasn’t going to make it without help. The desire to dip was too strong and I had no accountability. I decided to look for help.

I went online and googled support groups for quitting dip. I found Killthecan.org and it immediately caught my attention. It was Day 4 and instead of thinking of reasons to dip, I found myself engulfed in literature. I read every Hall of Fame speech. I browsed through the posts and I took a look at the Hall of Fame brotherhood pages.

It was then, at that moment, that my quit went from a mere test to non-optional. My life depended on it and if these other men and women could face their demons, I too could regain my life.

I registered with the first name that came to mind, IWANTMYLIFEBACK, and I dove right in. I posted roll on Day 4 and dip no longer became an option.

I’ve thought about dip nearly every day since. I’ve wondered what it would feel like to have another and how much guilt would overcome me. I’ve told myself that just because I enjoy dip, doesn’t mean it’s OK to use it.

I come to you, 96 days after my first post and 100 days dip free a better person than when I started. For seven years, I fed my addiction through lies, deceit, theft, and hypocrisy. No longer will that be the case.

As I look towards the next 100 days, weeks and months without dip, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank those who took this ride with me. Thank you for the entire August class for allowing me into your brotherhood as the final member. Each and every one of you led the way and your dedication to the Hall were instrumental in me getting there as well. I value this class and what it means to be a part of it.

Thank you to those outside of the August class who invested in me as well. I had a multitude of quitters reach out in my early days (Chewie, ODT, LOOT, Mahum, Chiefman, Whodey, to name a few), and I thank each of you as well. You all serve a wonderful purpose on this site and collectively, helped save my life.

To those who follow me, please remember that we have all struggled, struggle today and will continue to struggle, but with determination, a will to succeed and the right support, you will prevail.

In closing, these past 100 days were the most pivotal of my life. I began a lifelong quest that many in the world dare not. I faced obstacles and difficulties along the way and came out clean on the other side. I beat the odds.

I faced a choice, chose the more difficult one, and I got my life back.

To summarize what Robert Frost scribed, I took the road less traveled by, and it has made all the difference.

– Iwantmylifeback

NOTE: This piece written by KillTheCan.org forum member IWANTMYLIFEBACK

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One Comment

  1. Dear I Want My Life Back,
    Your story really touched my heart and passion for helping nicotine addicts. I am a dental hygienist and a certified tobacco treatment specialist working in the field of stopping the use of all of the products that are nicotine addicts choices.
    I am particularly concerned about the dippers because they are becoming more prevalent and they have so many product choices.
    Your struggle is evident in every word you wrote.
    Be vigilant every day because you can go from zero to cans a day in a flash.

    I am so proud and supportive of how hard you have worked. Your brain has manufactured an astronomical amount of receptors for nicotine over the years. They will continue to dissipate the longer you are nicotine free but the ones that remain will always be highly sensitized. Never be tempted by the thought that you can just do a single dip and be able to stop. It is the most addictive substance and it can charm the most dedicated former dipper.

    My Mom never dipped but smoked for 57 years. Ten years after stopping she died of an oral cancer that spread to multiple organs. I have lived the effects of tobacco and I support you in your effort!
    Bravo!

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