I was a user of chewing tobacco, a.k.a dip, for seven years. I had my first lip when I was 16 years old and continued to dip for seven years. After countless times of saying, “I’m trying to quit,” or “Oh yeah I quit..,” but never actually going through with it, I have finally ‘dipped’ dip.
I was addicted, and I’m far from alone in that category when it comes to chewing tobacco for my generation.
Why Our Generation Dips
For generations, speakers and programs such as D.A.R.E. visited schools around the country to preach to young kids and teens not to smoke, and educate just how costly the effects will be from smoking.
Since I can remember TV commercials have graphically shown those costly effects from smoking for everyone to be exposed to. Rarely, however, was the topic of chewing tobacco ever brought up in school assemblies, nor was it commercialized on TV.
Chewing tobacco has grown tremendously in popularity, especially for male athletes-like myself. It may come as a surprise for most people that dip has become this generations “thing to do.” But, it actually makes perfect sense.
We have a thought and excuse already in the back of our mind that we were never educated or warned about it. And then there’s always the go to response of, “Who do you actually know or have seen who has honestly lost their jaw or died from dip?” The truth actually is, not a whole lot.
How I Got Addicted
I started dipping because I was curious and almost intrigued to know more about it after I had seen peers around me with it. I mean that’s how all bad things start right…with little knowledge of something and curiosity.
Sure, I knew in the back of my mind this stuff wasn’t good for you, but hell trying never killed anyone, right?
In the hockey locker room before practices and games, bus rides, and even in the bathrooms during school, all the guys around me were dipping. So, I convinced some friends that it was time for us to get our hands on our first tin.
Our first tin was Grizzly mint, and just about everyone thought it was disgusting but me. I loved it. That first lip gave me a burn and sensations in my lower lip that I could never forget. Any chance I had, whether I was with friends or not, I carried around a tin with me. Any time I could get that “buzz,” I did.
Studying for tests, going for walks on a fall night, before hockey games or practices, driving…you name it I had a lip in.
“Eh, I’ll never get addicted. I’ll just do it for a few months here and there, or a year at most,” was what I told my friends after my first tin. Years later I found myself still going into a 7-11, even at all hours of the night, needing a lip.
Every time someone opened up a tin around me I would breathe in the delicious scents of the peach, mint, wintergreen, or citrus flavors, and simply just wanted to have some. I felt like a kid who hadn’t eaten in days and just drove past that notorious smell of french fries from a fast food chain like McDonalds.
The last two years, I barely even enjoyed dipping, and I would keep a lip in for ten minutes at max. I would feel sick with one in, but at the same time I still needed the nicotine and flavored juices. Other than being addicted, it was a stress reliever for me too. It was soothing and relaxing after a rough and long day, plus nothing beat having a lip before stepping onto the ice.
Why I Decided to Quit
It finally got to the point where I knew I had to make serious efforts to stop. I had been getting horrible sore throats over the winter, and was at the doctors just about every other week. After countless Doctors’ visits in the span of a month, I finally went to an ENT. I was nervous, no one knew why my throat had been in such bad shape, and the fact that I dipped for 7 years, yeah, the worst was on my mind.
Thankfully, the doctors saw no signs of anything tobacco related that was causing the problem. I had to get my tonsils removed. That procedure also gave me an experience where I gained a whole new perspective.
After the surgery I literally could not speak for two weeks, let alone open my mouth to eat. I was in horrible pain every day. I experienced what it was like to not have a voice. My parents would come into the room, while I was lying down because that’s all I could do, and would ask me questions. I couldn’t speak back, at all. All I could do was stare or nod my head at them. Talk about annoying and frustrating.
The experience was horrific and the classic line of “You get to eat ice cream all the time though…” got old really fast, and it took at least five days for me to be able to even have any ice cream at all.
While I was lying down recovering and basically doing absolutely nothing I began to think…
This summer, Tony Gwynn, one of the greatest baseball players of all time passed away from salivary gland cancer, mouth cancer. The Hall of Famer was quick to point the finger and blame his addicting habit of chewing tobacco towards the disease.
The passing of Gwynn, also made realize and confirmed – we finally “knew” someone who had passed from chewing tobacco, and at a young age. Recently, former MLB pitcher Curt Schilling, had been diagnosed with mouth cancer as well – like Gwynn he blames chewing tobacco and has publicly stated he’ll do whatever it takes to prevent young kids from starting such a horrible habit.
If it could happen to them, it could happen to me one day, from continuing to dip. I thought to myself sitting there unable to speak, “I could never live like this; I need to be able to speak; How would I talk sports to anyone; Have a good and legitimate conversation; How would I live a normal life?”
About two weeks before I had my surgery I randomly came cross a solution to help the quitting process.