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Flavius Victor

Five Years

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Five Years

By: Bluesman

November 13, 2006

 

 

Jerry Garcia once wrote, “What a long, strange trip it’s been” … When it comes to this mind-numbing addiction, no truer words have been spoken.

 

* * * * *

 

It started in the summer of 1979, on a small baseball diamond in the back of Souter’s property in southwest Ohio. I was waiting for my turn to bat when I was handed a small tin of Hawken’s. It was bittersweet, like dark chocolate, and I immediately felt “cool,” like I was one of the "older" kids now … I spent the entire summer playing stickball, hoops, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, and chewing Hawken’s.

 

Over the next couple of years, I started buying my own tins, and moved on the Skoal Original, and then Copenhagen. Strangely, my parents did not really care, as long as I was not smoking (and as long as I emptied the spitters). Sometimes, my dad would say something like, “That crap is going to ruin your teeth,” or my mom would complain about the rings in the back pockets. I think, for the Boomer generation, the “Do as I say, not as I do” only extended to cigarettes, and they regard chew as a happy compromise.

 

Freshman year of high school, I made the “leap” … I learned how to swallow the tobacco juice. In fact, I became so “skillful” at chewing tobacco, so stealth, that only another dipper would be able to tell. I started chewing essentially all-day, everyday, all-the-time at that point. My personality became synonymous with chewing tobacco. I probably started a couple hundred people on their first chew. I got caught only once in school, when I sneezed too hard in the front of the class ...

 

By the time I reached college, chewing tobacco was absolutely hardwired to my brain. Coffee and chew in the morning … eat lunch and reload … hit the library and reload … hoops and the after-hoops chew … dinner and another chew. My girlfriend (now wife) hated it, but just resigned to the fact that it was part of the package. My friends knew they could count on me to have a tin at the ready, anytime and anywhere. I chewed during every exam I took in college. I chewed during every writing assignment and, in fact, I always got writer’s block without dip. I chewed when I played sports, I chewed when I drank … everytime, everywhere, in any company ...

 

I chewed on the day of my wedding. I chewed in the limo on the way to the reception. I chewed my way through law school and graduation, through my first job interview, through the birth of my three children. I chewed in court, even in oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals. I chewed before and after watching my father die in inch-by-inch fashion from cancer. My father was the best man in my wedding, my biggest supporter, my mentor for living life … dead from colon cancer at 62 years old.

 

* * * * *

 

I am not sure that, in the twenty-plus years of this everyday, all-the-time addiction, I ever made a legitimate “quit” effort. Sure, I stopped for a few days when I had a severe sore throat … but a trip to the doctor and a couple of “please don’t let it be cancer” prayers later, and I was buying another tin. I sometimes quit for a day when I was painfully hung over and/or my lip was so ripped that I could not hold in another chew … typically, I was buying a tin by the end of the day, with a bag of salty pretzels to “heal things up.” I tried to quit once in college, bombed the writing assignment, and blamed the loss on the absence of chew … I never risked it again during college or law school. I did not chew the day that my father died in July of 2000. But I bought a tin the next day.

 

To say I was “hopeless” would be a complete understatement. I simply could not live without chewing tobacco. I had mind-warping rationalizations like, “You will lose your job if you quit,” and “You are a complete a—hole without tobacco,” and “You can never really quit … all you are doing is needlessly causing yourself a day or two of pain and problems, and for what? You will be chewing before the end of the day.” Between age 30 and 34, I probably had a couple dozen “secret quits,” where I would try to go without tobacco, only to come back … whiny, defeated, hopeless. I stopped telling even my wife, because I could not stand the look of disappointment when she found another tin in my suit coat pocket.

 

And then I found this website. The original quitsmokeless.org. November 3, 2001.

 

Five … Years … Ago.

 

* * * * *

 

A small part of me came back today solely to celebrate my five-year anniversary. As I approach the big 4-0 in my life, I still regard my success here, in the battle against chewing tobacco, as one of the most important accomplishments in my life. I believe I literally saved my own life. Through my own commitment, courage, and testicular fortitude … with more than a little help and support of the members here … I freed my mind and escaped from the delusion of addiction.

 

But honestly, it seems like another life ago to me now. I cannot even imagine chewing tobacco anymore. I would sooner take up the habit of striking myself in the forehead, with a ballpein hammer, than sticking a wad of chemically-treated, cancer-causing tobacco leaves in my mouth.

 

But the MAIN reason that I came back today, the real reason I am burning billable hours to contribute content here is …

 

YOU.

 

If you are still reading this (and now is as good a time as any to apologize for being so incredibly long-winded), you are officially out of excuses. You have cybernically standing before you, absolute, proof-positive CONCLUSIVE evidence that you CAN free yourself from this addiction. Period. Because five years ago, I was you. I was standing in your shoes. I walked miles and miles in your shoes. I was just as whiny and spineless and hopeless as you are now. I made all of the same excuses and rationalizations, and had the same track record of broken promises and caves. I would say all of the same things, like, “I hope I can quit this time,” and “I really want to quit,” and “I am ready to give it another try.” Just a complete load of crap. All of it.

 

See, at its very core, tobacco addiction is nothing more than a self-fulfilling lie. Through years of use and addictive behavior, you have caused yourself believe that you actually NEED chewing tobacco … to work, to play, to hunt, to write, to read, to drive, to live. OF COURSE YOU BELIEVE THIS!! All addictions are premises on this irrational belief of necessity … If you did not believe you “needed” it, you would immediately recognize chewing tobacco for what it is … the most moronic, juvenile, asinine habit ever invented by mankind, this side of crack cocaine. My Neo/Matrix analogy still holds true ... you are living a delusional life. The only question is, do you have the courage to be a free man?

 

* * * * *

 

I have written many, many articles and posts on the process and the journey, from addiction to personal freedom (you will have to take my word for it ... they only exist in the old closed forum), but let me summarize my key point here …

 

You have an absolute obligation to quit chewing tobacco. It is not something you “ought” to do, or “wish you could do,” or even “want” to do. These statements may be true, in a sense, but they do not adequately express the depths of this obligation and personal responsibility. You must quit chewing tobacco. There is nothing optional about it.

 

Stop making excuses. Stop pretended like this deadly habit is an acceptable risk. Stop rationalizing and whining and waiting for the “right time,” which will absolutely never come. You are REQUIRED to quit chewing tobacco.

 

Now, of course, you can read this and say something like, "What in the hell does he know?" You can pretend you have "real" problems, and you just "have to keep chewing." You can put it off, and wait for the "right time," or make another broken promise when you get to the bottom of the "next tin."

 

But when the poisons of chemotherapy are pulsing through your veins, or maybe you are trying to explain the mortality rates of oral cancer to your child, or when you are lying motionless, staring at the hospital ceiling and unable to speak, as your family looks on to your deformed, chemo-bloated body, that only vaguely resembles "you" to even your closest friends and family … My guess is that, at that point, you will agree. It will be too late, but you will ultimately come to recognize the wisdom and truth of this statement.

 

* * * * *

 

For those of you at the beginning of this journey, my advice to you is simple: keep moving. Do absolutely everything and anything short of high crimes and misdemeanors to get from this moment in time, to the next moment in time, without using chewing tobacco. In my case, "Do Anything" meant fake/herbal chews, chewing gum, candy, stronger coffee, working out, jogging, reading, prayer, writing, hanging out here, read-and-post, read-and-post, read-and-post.

 

Make this commitment and live by it. Period. Do not allow the circumstances and situations in your life to impact your commitment. There is no substitute for the “sweat equity” that you build, putting minutes and hours and days behind you. Time will heal your broken mind. This addiction is like a thousand stretched rubber bands, connecting "you" to your addiction. And with each passing day, you "SNAP" another band ... overtime, as you keep snapping more and more of these connecting bands, you slowly free yourself from addiction ...

 

Ultimately, when you get months and years into this journey, you will discover one of the strangest and most profound revelations: This fight, this journey, has very little to do with chewing tobacco. It is about the power of self-determination, about personal change, about freedom. It is about ACTUALLY loving your wife and family more than yourself, not just saying it. It is about seizing command of your mind, demanding and claiming your personal freedom, and waging war against your addicted mind. It is about the power to heal yourself. It is about making your own weather, running on your own gas, proving that you ARE the man you ought to be. Chewing tobacco? Friend, that’s just a footnote …

 

And the success you have here, this lesson in self-improvement, has the real potential to spill over into other areas of your life … no, it is not a winning lottery ticket, or a lifetime in Heff’s jaccuzi ... it is the answer to the question, “How do I get there from here?” … The veterans here know the answer ... commitment, hard work, determination, persistence, passion, respect, sweat equity ... testicular fortitude.

 

* * * * *

 

There are way, way, way too many people to thank and acknowledge for helping me get here. I am standing on the shoulders of giants … like Matt van Wyk. Matt, you have a lifetime of my praise and thanks for giving me a place to battle my addiction. I hope you have found the same happiness and satisfaction in the next stage of your life.

 

And we never really called them a “class” back then, but I would not be here without my own “quit group” … Blair, Brett, Otown Dave … back when “roll call” was called “Blair’s List” and we labeled this cyberspace the QS Café … My mentors like Jogi, Calgary Mike (kicks ass!), Gregory, MexBill, Athens … prodded on by Rick in Tampa and Spongebob and Penguin … and 1,000 others. I do not know if any of them still visit this cyberspace (and thanks to the proprietor here for keeping the lights on), but wherever you are, how ever you are, and by whatever name known, you all have my sincere gratitude.

 

As for me, I am still happily-married, still slugging it out in the courtrooms in southwest Ohio, still active and involved in the lives of my three amazing children ... and, of course, still tobacco-free. My latest and greatest challenge is … a triathlon. I am going to compete in my first triathlon in the Spring 2007 (sprint), followed by an Olympic distance in late Summer. How am I going to do it? I already have the answer to that question. ^_^

 

Take care everyone. Free you mind, day-by-day, hour-by-hour, moment-by-moment, with an unwavering commitment to personal freedom. No tobacco today.

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