Scared straight


I remember my first time like it was yesterday. My brother leaned over and said, “You want some?” In his hand was a bag full of some sort of leafy substance. It was one of those pivotal moments in life, and my brain was screaming, “JUST SAY NO!”

But peer pressure is a powerful thing, so I took some and stuck it in my mouth. It was my first experience with chewing tobacco.


Standing in the infield I thought to myself, “What’s the big deal with chew?” I could barely taste it.

But somewhere in the middle of the inning, it all changed. Suddenly a new taste entered my senses. More accurately, it kicked the door down and hollered, “HOWDEE DOODIE!” Tobacco juice filled my mouth and I began to drool. (Picture Niagra Falls, only brown – that’s what gushed out from the corners of my mouth.) I tried to spit, and only succeeded in staining my uniform trousers with brown speckles. My vision began to blur and the world began to spin.

I couldn’t get the wad out of my mouth fast enough, but it was already too late. Nausea overcame me and it was all I could do not to pass out. If someone would have hit a grounder to me, they would have had a better than average chance at an inside-the-park homerun.

Thankfully the inning ended and I wobbled into the dugout, cradling my head in my hands.

My brother laughed at me.

You would think such an experience would turn the normal man away from tobacco forever. At the very least the normal man would say to himself, “Maybe my body is trying to tell me something.” Apparently I wasn’t normal.

Thus began a twenty-some year relationship with chaw. Oh, I tried quitting – I even told a shipmate to hold my cans of Copenhagen during deployment and don’t give them to me no matter how much I begged (that one ended badly). I tossed cans overboard and flushed tobacco down the toilet, but I just couldn’t shake the addiction. It took a Navy dentist with some graphic pictures of mouth cancer to finally scare me straight.

If you chew and are having a tough time quitting, buy some nicotine gum, or stick one of those patches on your arm. Or, you can try what I saw a poor soul do one night while standing bridge watch, and accidentally drink a cup of spit.

That should do it.


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