As many of you probably felt before you quit, to me dipping felt natural. As a girl though, everyone around me felt different. So I hid it. From friends and family.
For 2 1/2 years I tried my hardest not to let anyone see my weakness, because I knew it was just that: a weakness. The thing I could never come to terms with, though, was that I needed it.
I would think things like, “oh I’ll quit when I start dating someone.”
But that would end when it started to get too hard to hide.
“I’ll quit when I graduate high school.”
But that time came and passed. I kept dipping for 1 1/2 years after that.
There was a time, though, when I quit for about a month. It was when my mom found all of my old cans in my trash. She lined them up, all 18 of them, in front of me and said “This has to stop”. I agreed that it did, and I had made it to a month before I went back to my old habits. The only thing that it had changed was that I had gotten better at hiding it.
I quit two years later. My thoughts were that I had finally escaped the grasps of nicotine. I was free. I was so tired of hiding it, ditching friends and family when I needed my fix. But I was wrong about it being over.
About two weeks into my quit I went to a maxilla-facial surgeon about what appeared to be a TMJ disorder. Instead I left with a biopsy and a “we’ll call you when the results come in”.
At the ripe old age of 19 I was diagnosed with stage II oral cancer.
I couldn’t hide my addiction anymore. My mom cried, my dad yelled and everyone mourned because we were all thinking the same thing: I would end up as one of those stories of young smokeless tobacco users who ended up dying from their addiction.
After losing my right tonsil, a good amount of surrounding tissue, and a few rounds of chemo, we realized I was lucky. Lucky to be the one to live to tell the tale. Even though the stories I knew of were young men made examples of after death, I was still a prominent figure in my quit group, and others. A living reminder that no one is invincible. The only thing that is invincible now is my will to stay quit, my will to live and my will to make myself better, not only for my brothers in KTC, but for my health, my future, and my family.
Instead of being a reminder to my brothers of what can happen if you don’t quit, I want to be an example of hardening of character and willpower, and to have everyone remember: What doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.