This is my first blog post, so bear with me.
I sit here at work, rejoicing in the fact that I’ve been quit for 13 days. No small feat since I dipped for about 6 years. I remember my first dip like it was yesterday. Skoal cherry long cut. I threw up shortly after putting it in. What on earth would possess someone to keep doing something like that after having that initial reaction? I was that guy and I don’t have an answer.
I didn’t dip for quite some time after having that first, disgusting, dip. But then, I got to be more involved in my local volunteer fire department. I developed a strong friendship with the EMS lieutenant at the department (he became my best friend at the time). He chewed. The fire chief chewed. Several of the members chewed. A lot of the members smoked. And the ones who smoked, chewed on fire scenes, so they didn’t have to smoke.
The EMS Lt offered me a Skoal wintergreen pouch. I took one and popped it in. I became hooked. I started bumming them from him more regularly. Then I started buying my own. Then Skoal citrus pouches came out. I found a new addiction to a new flavor. This went on for about two years.
I started dating a girl and I kept my nasty habit a secret from her for 6 months. I finally decided that I should tell her what I’d been hiding. She gave me the ultimatum to quit or it was over between us. I quit cold turkey. We were together another 2 years. She was away at school at the time and I was working full time, back home. I would go visit her on my weekends off and spend the weekend at school with her. I had just finished a Thursday daylight shift (meaning I would have Friday, Saturday, Sunday off) and called her to let her know I was on my way to see her. She told me not to bother and that things were over. I was significantly upset. This was a girl that I saw myself with for the rest of my life. I hung up the phone and drove to the local Smoker’s Express shop and bought a can of Skoal wintergreen pouches.
This started a downward spiral for me. I was working EMS full time, part time, and I was volunteering with the fire department and at an EMS company. I found that it was inconvenient to have to keep a spitter with me in the ambulance. I discovered Skoal mint snus. You mean I can dip and not have to spit? What’s not to love? (Or so I thought). Being that I was used to regular pouches, I started to dip two snus pouches at a time. There are 15 pouches in a can. Since I would literally dip all day (at the station, on the way to calls, while with a patient, at the hospital, on the way back, etc) I’d go through two cans a day. This went on and on.
In the meantime, I met another girl through work and we began seeing each other. She knew my terrible habit when we got together and she told me she wished I would quit but wouldn’t force me to do so. I eventually got my head straight and made the decision to quit on 03-02-2014.
The point I’m trying to make is this: In emergency services, nicotine is a way of life. It’s a coping mechanism for some of the most awful things that any human being could ever see. We deal with terrible things on a daily basis, in an effort to make a difference, so that you don’t have to. For that tough job, we need a release. This is why in EMTs, Paramedics, Firefighters, and Police Officers you’ll find MANY are addicting to nicotine in some form, as well as alcoholism running rampant. I don’t believe that there’s a literal peer pressure from colleagues to use nicotine. I think it’s a perceived pressure that to fit in, to be part of the “club”, one must use nicotine.
It’s my hope that through my quit, I can inspire others to quit as well. I work in EMS and work closely with the fire department and police department. I sincerely hope that somehow we can break this cycle of up-and-coming emergency service providers feeling like the only way to cope is using nicotine. I don’t want eager, young guys and gals to think that it’s the only way. KTC has shown me that it isn’t.