I recently had a conversation with my betrothed about my addiction to nicotine from smokeless tobacco. I have been dipping for probably 12 years, and smoking cigarettes on and off for 7-8. I haven’t smoked a cigarette in a few years and found that smoking was much easier to quit, I think because it can’t be done everywhere like dip can. I started my tobacco vice in 2009, I worked at a fast food restaurant and noticed that the employees who smoked got to take extra breaks from work because of their habit. I was 18 and lazy and stupid, so I picked up a disgusting habit to get out of working more often. Terribly hilarious I would admit, but at the time it made sense to me. Its not like I couldn’t find other excuses to be lazy, trust me, I could. I think there was a social aspect of it too, I felt part of something different and new and I think it was exciting for me, in addition to me being 18 and the legal age was 19, it was edgy I guess. From there it was a back and forth thing, then went to a social thing, then only when I drank, and still to this day I will occasionally burn a heater when I drink. The smokeless tobacco however, I have not been able to kick. As a matter of fact I have a dip in right now. I started dipping in high school my senior year, during football practices and games. I had a buddy who dipped and decided to start with him, choosing Copenhagen Long Cut as my go-to. It is convenient for users but pretty inconvenient for non-users. Unless you’re some kind of savage and swallow your dip you have your trusty “spitter”, which can be anything from an empty water bottle to an empty chip bag, with you or sitting around. It can spill and smell and is just a disgusting thing for people who don’t dip.
I don’t feel like I have an addictive personality because of my regrettable decisions in the past that I will not get into on this blog, but I guess the science is true and nicotine is the most addictive drug in America. You would think that with all the proof of causing cancer and terrible disease and tooth decay that it would be an easy thing to quit, let alone just avoid starting. But it’s not. It’s hard. It’s not complex, there is one aspect; just stop. It is absolutely complicated though, at least for me. I’ve tried multiple times using all sorts of methods. Nicotine gum, sunflower seeds, Grinds coffee pouches, cold turkey, and comically even tried to convince local gas station attendants to forbid me from buying it, but I have a silver tongue that ironically will become hairy and brown if I don’t quit this awful addiction. I’ve even made a public statement on social media denouncing dip and proudly, definitively “quitting”: See Post Here
Its an odd thing to be addicted to a substance, to literally be controlled psychologically and financially by an inanimate object. Addiction is insidious and without a doubt a disease, and I understand the psychological aspect of it, its in your brain mostly, an action or substance is pleasurable because of how it makes you feel and sometimes drugs hi-jack your neural pathways. Like with most mental illnesses, the line between psychology and biology is blurred. The definition of a disease is; an incorrectly functioning system of the body resulting from the effect of genetic or developmental errors as well as environmental factors and internal imbalances. By that definition I cannot see how someone can say that addiction, regardless of what kind, is not a disease. Of course, as many others, I would like to say I am perfectly fine and there is nothing wrong with me but that is false. I have a weakness and defect that is causing me to justify the use of an obviously harmful substance because it is figuratively filling some kind of hole in my brain. If it wasn’t for some kind of defect in my brain or internal imbalance it would be not only possible, but easy, to simply just stop. It seems contradicting though, because I legitimately believe one day I will be tobacco free. So that proves that there isn’t a problem physiologically, but just a weakness, for me. It’s a fact that there are all kinds of people who try addictive substances without becoming addicted. Does that mean that for the people that do get addicted, they are starting behind per se? Maybe they already have an imbalance and that drug or activity is balancing out something in their brain. There is some kind of predisposition for addicts, how else can you explain some people trying it and not getting addicted?
Some people blame genetics, believing that since their parents struggled with addiction that they too will succumb to its evil grip. To that I say that there are more factors that come into play. Obviously there is some truth to the genetics argument of it all, ill spare you the details, you can simply google it. But in addition to biological factors, addiction is influenced by one’s environment and upbringing as well. My parents have no mental illness that I am aware of, that being said my father does use smokeless tobacco, but my father is not my biological father so that takes away the genetics argument for myself. I do not know my biological father well enough to know if he has any addiction struggles. So, ipso facto, my addiction happened because of my environment specifically and not my upbringing because I was always taught to avoid drugs, alcohol, and tobacco from a young age. I believe everyone knows that you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.
I can say from my own perspective that peer pressure was not a concern of mine, I was never tempted or forced into doing something I didn’t want to do as far as I can remember. Yet I feel like there are different levels of peer pressure. One being the forceful type you see in anti-tobacco ads where it’s almost like assault with one teen forcing another to light up a square. Another being the social type where you’re in some type of cool club if you hang out by the dumpster and puff butts after school. Lastly, and more relatable for me, just something different and new that may have ulterior motives like my laziness I mentioned in the beginning or maybe someone smoking or drinking to rebel against or spite a parent.
I am aware that my addiction to packing a lip full of Copenhagen is not as serious as a heroin addiction but maybe I should treat it as such. Maybe everyone should treat any addiction like its as bad as being any kind of dope-fiend. The main problem, in my eyes, is the accessibility of tobacco products and alcohol vs. illicit drugs. Some would argue that street drugs are as common and accessible as cigarettes or liquor but I know that to be false. You don’t see advertisement for red p meth or bags of cocaine, and you certainly have never seen it sitting behind the gas station attendant or in its own dedicated aisle in a supermarket like cigs and booze. I’m aware that it would be virtually impossible to ban and get rid of all tobacco products, in addition to the adverse effects of criminalizing something i.e. prohibition. But maybe people, including myself, will get smart and more health conscious and stop using harmful things just because of a weak mind. Its a shot to my pride to admit to myself that I am weak minded in this specific instance, maybe that will be enough for me. Until I do finally kick this bad habit of stuffing earthy poisonous devil mulch into my lower lip and spitting back out, i’ll enjoy the satisfaction since 1822 ™.
Ironically relevant aside: In high school I was in a club called “NIP-IT”. It was a Youth Leadership Team tasked to be the face of underage tobacco, drug and alcohol use prevention and cessation in the school. We wore bright red t-shirts and spread the dangers of all the above to our classmates and occasionally got to skip school for outings to Montgomery and appearances on the news. Myself and a good buddy of mine, who is now deceased [R.I.P. TJS], were the self-appointed & undisputed presidents of our respective schools “NIP-IT” teams. We were both smokers, dippers and enjoyed a cold beer together on many occasions. What a hypocritical contradiction we were, but that just goes to show you that people are going to do what they want most of the time regardless of any laws, warnings, or norms. If me quitting dipping would bring that dude back to life you bet your ass i’d drop it like… well, a bad habit. Fly on, brother.