How to Quit Chewing Tobacco
It has been nearly three years since I quit chewing tobacco, and I honestly thought I would never be able to kick the habit. But I did, thanks in large part to my fiancée and my doctor. The former gave me the strength I needed to shake that terrible affliction, and the latter provided the medication to get me started. But after over 20 years of “dipping”, I know deep down that it will take a lifetime to fully rid myself of the need to have a pinch. I had tried to quit in the past, but failed miserably. This time is different. This time I believe. This time I can take control.
Chewing was popular in 1980’s when I was in high school, but I only tried it a few times. I think I turned green the first time I tried it, and the other few times ended with similar results. My chewing career didn’t truly start until I went in the Army. I would like to believe it was the macho-ness, peer pressure, or times of sheer boredom of the “hurry up and wait” military culture that drove me to chew, but to place the blame there would be unfair, and a long way from the truth. Simply put, I am wired to be an addict, and it is easy to be an addict if you blame it on an outside influence. In order to quit, you have to recognize who you are, and this is perhaps the toughest part of the process.
Once you become addicted to tobacco, the excuses to keep using it become easy to
manufacture. My favorite, like many fellow addicts, was that I was “stressed”. As you habitually use tobacco to deal with stress, quitting becomes all the more difficult. Why is that? Simply put, because stress is subjective. Driving in traffic is very stressful to many people, and have you ever noticed how many people smoke in their cars? Chewing is even easier to do while in the car, and I can’t count the number of guys I know who have to have one the minute they get in a vehicle. Honestly, it’s all the same, whether you have to have one in the car, after a meal, while fishing (my other favorite), etc. Addiction specialists probably call these “triggers”, but really they are nothing more than excuses. Another important key to shaking the habit is to understand that you are making excuses for using tobacco, and the fault lies entirely with you. As long as you make them, excuses will never allow you to quit.
So you’ve admitted you’re an addict and you know that you make excuses in order to justify your use. Good for you, but that doesn’t get it done. What does get it done is that you BELIEVE you can quit. You can regain control over your life and rid yourself of a habit that will end up killing you. Did you catch that? It will kill you, and a miserable death it will be. I think that is what helped to motivate me, finally realizing that what I was doing was going to kill me. I don’t know about you, but controlling that kind of outcome seems like a good idea. As I have said, you have to convince yourself that it can be done, that it must be done.
Getting the idea in your head to quit, and believing you can do it only gets you half-way towards the goal of freeing yourself from addiction. The other part of the equation has to do with physiology. If you put nicotine in your body for a couple of decades, it kind of makes sense that removing it might cause some issues. If you have ever experienced “the jonses”, you know what I am talking about. Nicotine is considered to be one of the most addictive substances on the planet, so quitting cold turkey is incredibly hard to do. That said, fight fire with fire. There are several products on the market to help you quit, but the problem is nearly all of them allow you to keep putting nicotine in your system. I know this because I tried many of them. Most have very low success rates, and I know I failed when I tried to quit using them. What worked for me was Chantix. This drug tricked my brain into thinking it was getting nicotine, thus allowing for me to detoxify my system over a period of 3 months. I am sure there are similar drugs now on the market thanks to the high success rate of Chantix, so definitely check into it. If you are serious about quitting, you have to have some faith in modern medicine.
Nicotine is a stimulant, which helps to speed up your metabolism. Remove it, and things slow down. When I was chewing, I weighed 140 lbs. Today, the scale says 165 lbs. So expect to put on some weight when you quit. To help alleviate this, exercise like crazy, both during and after quitting. If you start working out while you are quitting, it provides much needed stress relief and gives your mind something else to focus on. Once you get in the habit (no pun intended of working out, keeping the weight off post-quitting will be that much easier. I wish I had done this when I first started down to road to quitting since trying to shed the pounds after the fact has proved to be a challenge. In my opinion, adding some extra pounds is a fair trade. Emotionally, there will be some shock for the first few weeks, and it makes sense. You are making dramatic behavioral changes, and the mind may not like it. Focus on the goal and how much better your life will be when you rid yourself of nicotine. Physically, everyone is different. I personally did not have any adverse side-effects from the meds, though every drug out there seems to report that some users did experience some side-effects. When it comes to the meds, talk to your doctor. Sure, there is some risk involved in quitting, but what about the risk of not quitting?
It Can Be Done
I loved to chew, and never imagined I would, or could, quit. But I did. If some weak-minded schmuck like me can kick the habit, so can you. Thousands of people do it each year, so there is only one thing stopping you. You got it, it’s you. Just remember that quitting is a process, and it takes a number of battles to finally win the war. But even when you do rid yourself of the physical need for nicotine, beware. The little “chew demons” will keep right on whispering in your ear, trying to talk you into buying “just one more can.” Take control, ignore them, and free yourself
from the terrible affliction of nicotine addiction.