About four months ago, I wrote a post requiring a lot of humility and courage, because if my kids ever read it, they will know I chewed tobacco for years and years. Perhaps I was being a good parent by not allowing them to see the huge mistake I made and kept making. Either way, I never looked forward to seeing the disappointment or even anger in their eyes.
I have not touched any form of nicotine or soda, diet or otherwise, this year. If I ever claim this is a result of my iron determination and strength of character, please remind me that it is in fact a miracle and a blessing. I attempted to quit so many times before. I tried everything I could. Apparently, January 1, 2015 was just my day to really make a change for the better.
Each day was hard for a while, then it got a bit easier except for trigger events, like having to work a shooting call or an abduction. The thing about any addiction is the total irrationality of the problem:feeling bad? Make it better with chew. Win the lottery? Celebrate with chew. Too tired to make the drive home? Pop that can open and get some nicotine power in your veins. Chewing tobacco is your friend. It's not that disgusting.
So I am doing well, only struggling a few times a week, more or less.
This weekend I will attend the OWFI writers conference in Oklahoma City. Guess what I did a lot when I was there on two previous occasions. That's right, chew on the drive, chew all the time that I don't have to worry about my family seeing me do it. Chew because I am happy to be a writer. Chew because I am stressed about pitching a novel.
Please wish me luck. I don't want to fall off the wagon. If you have beaten your personal addiction, congratulations and God bless you. If you are struggling, understand that it can be done.
This year, I have quit drinking diet soda. Wow, you say. So what. Or perhaps you understand my addiction to artificial sweetener. Prior to 2015, it was common for me to drink a case of Diet Coke a day, every day. My life revolved around emergency runs to Dillons or Quick Trip. Everyone in the family was drinking soda, though no one had it as bad as I did.
In short, I used diet soda to cheat Father Time. (Or did I?)
Working bad hours, staying up late and getting up early when I actually had a chance to sleep, was breaking me down. I had heart palpitations, headaches from too much and headaches from too little caffeine / artificial sweetener. I also chewed tobacco, which is something I never talked about on line before because I’ve been embarrassed to admit to such a bad habit to my kids. It’s been fifteen days since I’ve had either one of these poisons. A friend at work recommended a site called www.killthecan.com where I learned that nicotine causes caffeine to be used more rapidly than normal. Which means I was chewing tobacco and drinking caffeine so that I could function on four hours of sleep (or less) a day. The joke was on me, because I was chewing more and more without realizing that this was causing me to drink additional caffeinated beverages with less effect.
I learn something every day. This caffeine / nicotine interaction was definitely not something I expected.
Without nicotine, I found a cup of coffee made me really jittery and kept me wide awake for hours longer than expected. It was tempting to blame this on withdrawal symptoms, but actually I was feeling the full power of coffee for the first time in years.
What does this have to do with writing?
For the first two weeks, I had one goal, and that was not to cave and return to my old ways. It turns out that getting motivated is one of my strongest triggers for nicotine. I remember reading that Stephen King quit smoking and how hard he said it was. I refuse to believe my creativity relies on any chemical, even one as commonplace as nicotine.
The fog of withdrawal is starting to fade. I am reclaiming my motivation, while focusing on leading a more balanced life. Family, friends, work, and other hobbies (exercise and taking time to relax) are taking their proper places in my writing life.
Today, I am continuously experiencing a true miracle. Quiting chewing tobacco is almost impossible. Ask anyone who has done it. Turning away diet soda after thirty years of total reliance on the drink may be harder yet. Quiting cold turkey has never worked well for me.
Yet it is happening now. Fifteen days? I never lasted fifteen minutes before. I believe in God, though I have struggles with understanding the mysteries of faith. Organized religion has committed foul crimes (just like every other organization or individual has) throughout history. But there is good in the world, and I feel it is often associated with religion done right.
I feel blessed, though I don’t deserve it.
Life is an adventure. I read to expand my horizons and write because I must.
- The Craft of Writing: 7 Magnificent Books
- Use of Force Myths
- A Really Useful Tool
- Project Rotation