I used to be addicted to smokeless tobacco, and I don’t use the word addicted lightly. The term has been tremendously overused in today’s society because I don’t believe anyone can actually have a shopping, gambling, food, or sex addiction. We all have certain passions, and temptations in our lives, but wrongly referring to those as addictions only diminishes the seriousness that true addicts are facing. I do believe in chemical addictions, and I am empathetic towards those who have them. I think all of the other so called addictions are mythical, created by the health care industry, and when labeled an addiction tends to lessen the accountability factor; therefore, enabling bad decision makers to feel better about themselves for the wrong choices they’ve made in life. Furthermore, I’m sure the health care profession isn’t complaining about the substantial amount of money being made off these “addicts.”
I first tried a pinch of tobacco, around the age of fourteen, when my Grandpa McCleary offered me a dip of his Skoal. In his defense I had been bugging him, for a taste of the stuff, for many years. I suppose he thought I was finally old enough to handle the substance, or maybe I simply had worn him down. I do know from a very young age I was captivated by my grandpa and with his partaking of tobacco. I was fascinated by it all. The aroma, the spitting, and even the shiny lid of the can. The aluminum lid would shimmer in the sunlight, like a large diamond, whenever grandpa was outdoors and removed the can of snuff from his back pocket. Usually while corralling his cattle or tending to his garden. I only saw the Missouri farmer twice a year, so I developed a broad sense of who he was, primarily by what I observed, and that was mostly of a man who dipped Skoal throughout most of the day. I can’t honestly say I enjoyed my first taste of the stuff, but that initial experience was enough to ignite my long love affair with the addictive substance.
I may have been introduced to smokeless tobacco by my Grandpa McCleary, but I didn’t fall head over heels in love with it until the start of my high school baseball career. Back in the “good old days” it was quite common for baseball players to dip during games, and although it was against the rules, at the high school level, we took our chances. I remember one particular game, as I was entering the dugout between innings, when the assistant coach took me aside and informed me he could tell I had a pinch of tobacco between my cheek and gum. He then suggested I conceal it better so the umpire wouldn’t kick me out of the game. The high school seemed to have that same blasé attitude towards tobacco use. Many of us used tobacco, during class time, and it wasn’t only the baseball players but the farm kids as well. Now we couldn’t just blatantly go from classroom to classroom carrying around a spittoon all day, so only those of us manly enough to swallow for the entire class period actually dipped during class. We veteran tobacco users weren’t all that hard to spot either. The round shaped hole, found on the back pocket of an otherwise nice pair of blue jeans, was a dead giveaway.
My addiction to smokeless tobacco began innocently enough, as I suppose most addictions do, with me only dipping during baseball games and practices. I soon added snuff to my weightlifting routines and whenever I was outside doing yard work or changing oil in my car. I eventually found myself “needing” a dip when playing board games and watching television. The next thing I knew my addiction had mysteriously progressed, and the only time I wasn’t using was when I was either eating or sleeping. I woke up one day as a teenager dependent on tobacco to survive. My “drug” of choice was Copenhagen. If I was going to use tobacco then I was going to do it right and dip the “hard stuff.” None of that wimpy wintergreen flavoring, found in Skoal, for me. At the time I didn’t mind spending .79 cents, every other day, for a can of the delicious product, and I certainly wasn’t fearful of the possible consequences (gum disease and cancer) because at that age I thought I was invincible. I was thoroughly enjoying my addiction! Coming soon…part 2.