I haven’t had a dip in 25 days.
I feel like Collin Raye in the song, “Little Rock.”
I haven’t had a drink in 19 days…my eyes are clear and bright without that haze….
Now I know what you’re already thinking, “He’s only made it 25 days. How can he say he’s really quit?”
That’s just it. It’s over. Me and the dip, we broke up.
And we ain’t gettin’ back together….
As I reflect on my history with tobacco, it’s hard to believe that I’ve used that terrible substance for over half my life. I’m a man! I’m 40! And I’ve been either smoking cigarettes or dipping for one score of my existence.
For a while, as a youngster, I thought I was going to avoid tobacco altogether. Let me take you there.
My childhood was scented with the bitter smell of secondhand smoke. I suppose I didn’t know any better as my father puffed his life away, one cigarette at a time. He’d smoke in the house, in the car, in your car, wherever he wanted. When I mimicked him, I’d always pantomime him with a cigarette, as if he was the male version of Tallulah Bankhead.
But I managed to make it through high school without trying a tobacco product, and it wasn’t until my junior year of college that I considered having a smoke. That night at the fraternity house, my favorite team had lost a big game and as we were getting ready to throw a party, I asked to bum a smoke from one of my buddies. Give me one of those things, I demanded.
Thus commenced a two-decade long love affair with tobacco.
Soon after I choked my way through the first few cigarettes, I was tugging a pack a day. My preference was Marlboro Ultra Lights, and I remember a pack was around $2.
I LOVED TO SMOKE.
I mean, loved it.
There was nothing like smoking.
Over time, I eventually progressed to two packs a day and upgraded to Marlboro Lights. As my career as a basketball coach began to blossom, I decided I needed to hide my addiction. So I did everything to mask that I was a cigarette smoker. I sprayed Axe Body Spray whenever I went into a place. I was coy about where to purchase my smokes. I held the cigarette down when I was driving in the car, head on a swivel, sneaky. No cars? In the clear…
I was in complete bondage to the addiction. My life revolved around it. I wasted a tremendous amount of time and money feeding that addiction, wasted even more trying to hide it.
To make a long story short, in 2013 I coughed up something that looked like it’d been found on the surface of the moon. That day, I decided it was time to quit smoking, but not necessarily tobacco. So I went to the store and bought a can of dip. After I almost threw up, I slowly started to adjust to life as a dipper and the desire to smoke eventually went away.
I continued dipping and found my preferred brand and flavor. “Gosh, I may enjoy this more than smoking!” I thought. Years went by and many cans were demolished.
Then something happened.
I met the love of my life.
At first, she was cool with it. Dipping, that is. She didn’t really like it, let’s just say, but the dip cups in my vehicle didn’t bother her that much.
Before we got married, she began to softly mention that I needed to quit dipping. I nodded affirmatively, but had no real desire to quit. We got married and months rocked on, and I continued to plug my mouth up every single day.
Then in January, my wife announced: I’m PREGNANT!
What a complete surprise, honey! Hallelujah!
A few more months went by, and we discovered that it was a boy!
My own son…
Then my wife dropped the hammer: “You will not be dipping when our son comes into the world.”
Ouch. Ok. I begrudgingly agreed.
So I set a quit date. June 14 was the day my father died from lung cancer, and that sounded like a good day for me to decide to live.
As the day approached, though, I began to look forward in dread. I didn’t want to quit this super-fun habit, but deep in my heart I knew it was time.
In anticipation of my quit day, I went to Walmart and grabbed a bunch of candy off the shelves. Starburst, Blow Pops, peppermints, Life Savers, Werther’s, gum. I also found a humongous bag of sunflower seeds, and threw ‘em in the cart. Forty dollars later, I was out the dow!
That night, I put the last dip in my mouth and memorialized the death of my tobacco use with a 21-gun salute and Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.” Not really, but that would have been a nice touch.
That next morning, I woke up and began shoveling sunflower seeds in my piehole. I’d alternate between those and Blow Pops. Sunflower seeds, Blow Pops, sunflower seeds, Blow Pops. Peppermints. Life Savers. Starburst, hello!
Surprisingly, I managed to make it through Day 1 with little trouble. Whew.
Sure, Day 1 was bad, but thinking about how far I had to go made things even worse. Someone told me the nicotine would still be in my system for several weeks…weeks!
Too much. Overload.
I couldn’t operate with that mind-set, so I just decided to take it one day at a time.
The next day, the anxiety came at me in ferocious waves. It was almost unbearable. I couldn’t concentrate. I felt dizzy. I didn’t know where I was. I think I started seeing dragons. I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t work. All I wanted to do was move, escape, get out of there.
I wanted to be violent. Punch something. Tear something apart.
When I drove down the highway, I discovered I was going faster than normal. It wouldn’t have hurt my feelings too much had I hit something. A chipmunk or a mole.
I was more reckless as I charged into the intersection. Screw it, I thought. If I hit something, I hit something. Drivers, you better LOOK OUT!
Luckily, I didn’t hit anyone, or thing.
Before, I had been going to the gym. Now, I wanted to work out—hard.
I thought if I could push myself beyond normal boundaries that somehow I could sweat out all the angst. I went down to the track, took my shirt off, and exposed my fat body.
I ran stadiums. I timed myself in the mile run. I did push-ups, chin-ups, squats. I went out in the blaze of day so I could sweat profusely. I wanted to perspire, bleed.
I wanted my body to physically hurt from exercise.
Everything was awful and frustrating.
My work continued to suffer. I was shorter with people at work. I wasn’t well liked that week at the office.
My dog avoided me for several days.
My wife thought I was crazy.
I hissed at my mom.
I apologized to all of them.
Would the anxiety ever cease?
I had to pray. Had to pray.
“Lord, you said in Your word to cast our anxiety on You. So here it is. Take it.”
But then, it came back.
I had to pray again. “Lord, take this anxiety from me. I put all of it on You.”
Then, it came back.
I prayed again and again. And slowly, the anxiety began to dissipate.
Day after day went by, and I continued to crunch candy and sunflower seeds. I tried different flavors of everything. I liked the Ranch- and the BBQ-flavored seeds. Werther’s were a game changer (try the coffee-flavored ones).
Over the course of these 25 days, I’ve put on a little weight, but I never once thought about having a dip.
So, in summary, here are the keys to quitting:
- Don’t psyche yourself out. You can do this.
- Set a quit date and find a replacement (candy, seeds).
- Pray, pray, pray.
For my family, the generational stronghold of tobacco breaks here.
Son, if one day, you choose to use tobacco, just remember, you may be making a 20-year decision. Or possibly a lifetime.
But I pledge to you now that you will never use tobacco because you saw your father using it.
This is my promise. 78