It’s been a long time since I was that 18-year-old kid, half drunk and standing in the midst of 10 other college freshmen on the beach in Santa Barbara while they passed around a can of Skoal Long-cut Wintergreen. Over the years, I’ve wished many a time that I could somehow transport myself back to that very moment for just a second. That’s because a second is all the time I would need to punch my 18-year-old self right in the face before he had a chance to put that crud in his mouth. But until time travel becomes a reality, I’m stuck here over 20 years later; still struggling with the consequences of having that nicotine rush flood my brain and nervous system.
Time to Take a Stand
My daily commute to work is where I typically broke down in my quitting efforts. That hour-long monotonous ride where I could anonymously put in some chew proved time and again to be too tempting. Two days ago, shortly after starting a chew and before I had really left my neighborhood, my wife pulled up along side me. It’s a habit that, when you’re actually doing it, is hard to hide. The disappointment on her face and way her body went rigid was a good signal of how she felt. I had been hiding this habit for the better part of our entire marriage. Sure, there had been times when I quit for longer periods (I think 18 months was one of the longest) but far too many times when I hid my addiction. I was ashamed and embarrassed. It just didn’t fit me, who I was, who other people knew me as.
Yesterday, I broke down and told my oldest daughter. Both my wife and I have been very vocal about the dangers of smoking, drinking and drugs – with special emphasis on smoking because my father in law died at age 53 from smoking related illness. So, I felt like I had to come clean to her. Hypocrisy doesn’t suit me. When I told my daughter (I have 2 younger daughters that will hear the same speech when they’re a little older and can understand.), the look on her face was hearbreaking. It will stay with me for the rest of my life. It was the look of someone who had just had one of the most important images in their life removed. What she believed about her dad didn’t mesh with what she was hearing; and the tears flowed. With each tear that I wiped from her cheek, I was reminded of how I was changing her perception of me. Where I was once impervious, now I was flawed. Where I was once wise, now I was partly a fool. Where I was once strong, now I was weak.
Yesterday, I made a promise. It’s a promise I have to keep. 22 years of fighting the battle against this drug alone came to an end. I’m not fighting it alone anymore. I’m not just fighting for me. I’m fighting for a 10-year-old girl who needs to believe in her dad again.