A big shout out to Susan Terkel. In a chance meeting she shared her story and a couple key books that helped put me on a new path at the same time as she guided my hand in writing this book.
More on that later.
When I started writing this book, I hated most parts of me, not my charmed life. My marriage and my relationship with my wife was rock solid and fulfilling. I am in awe of her ability to gracefully juggle the family calendar for 3 boys, herself and myself while tending to,her relaionships with her mom and dad, my parents, her sister and brother, her sister-in-law and all of her childhood and college friends, not to metion all the women ins her EO spousal forum. My relationships with my 3 sons were all healthy and joyful. Personally, I was pretty dark on myself. I had aches. Pains. low energy. Not tipping the scales like a worlds biggest loser contestant but for me 30 pounds over weight was just another big symptom of a life coming off the rails. Low sex drive (which for my busy, harried wife and mother of 3 boys wasn’t a source of too much spousal angst!) Tingles in my right arm. Spikes of pain in my chest. Headaches. Adult onset allergies. Mild Depression. Blood work ups show elevated cholesterol, blood sugars and….no exercise. Back surgery that didnt correct the problem. Siatic nerve issues. Numb toes. High blood pressure. Hypertension. No exercise. No walking, no spinning, no fruits, no vegetables, no water.
Daily habits: Wake. Put a pinch between my cheek and gums. McDonalds #2 with medium coke every morning. A large coke with oatmeal raisin cookie, bag of chips and 6 inch tuna fish at lunch. Snacks when I get home. Double servings of whatever Susan cooks for dinner. Bowl of Graeters ice creame. Chew. Sleep. Repeat.
Yet since I was 19 and mowing lawns for the City of Hudson, on and off (mostly on) I have chewed tabacco. All day long. First thing when I wake. Last thing before I fall asleep.
I laugh when Coopers friends who chew say they’re not addicted. “It’s just a hobby”.
I ran into one dad and on a dare at age 14, he tried it. 30 years later he’s still chewing even though he doesn’t want to.
Another dad has elevated his relationship with chew this way: “This is the only thing in my life as a husband, dad and owner of a company that’s all mine. I don’t have to share it with anyone.”
I go through 2 cans of snuff or chew a day. I’ve tried to kick many times. Why so difficult? I quit cold turkey drinking years ago after a good 25 year run. No relapse. One and done. Yet chew comtinues ro get my butt and I do t ant to chew anymore.
First time at 27 on my honeymoon. Figured they wouldn’t have an Kodiak on St. Barts. I was right. I was also screwed going cold turkey and spent most morning curld up with cramps and sweats and headaches that incapacitated me to the point that for most of the honey moon I couldn’t get out of bed for hours as Susan walked the beach and waited for me to come out of it. 72 hours of withdrawals.
Cleveland Clinic and Doc E. this is 19 years shabits he first of many attempts and island fever. He asks what I’m addicted to. When I say chew he gets a sad look. He explains he and I would have had a much easier time if I was addicted to just about anything other than chewing tabacco. Coke. Weed. Smack. Pain pills. Alcohol. He tries to cheer me up by saying it’ll be easier than meth and bath salts.
Professionally and profitably I’m not setting the world on fire either. 2 lawsuits, weak sales, losing money, bigger, better funded competitors, a leveraged buyout crafted in the more heady days of 2005 that now with a company half it’s size in a sketchy economy that has us underwater most month with no working capital to bridge the gaps between cash in and cash out. Chapter 11?
While Susan and my boys say I’m much more patient, fun and approachable at home, inside it’s everything I can do to hold it together and not snap.
The Docs and the shrink say if I don’t make some healthy changes, I’ll closeout my midlife crisis fat, sick and dead.
Back to Susan Terkle. Power of Habit, Larry Terkles “Meditation” and chewing gum. 8 weeks to optimum health. That’s the plan I’ll work as I write this book for my 3 sons.
I wanted all the aches and pains to go away. I wanted to clean up my diet. I wanted to be healthy and greatly lessen the risk of stroke and heart attack and cancer. I wanted to run a profitable business.
Cooper told his mom and me when we hugged goodbye in Toronto for his PG year, “you guys did a great job, I’ll take it from here.” I want to make sure we remember exactly what we need to keep, start and stop doing so Michael and Max can be in a position to say the same things when they leave the nest and head for their PG year or college.
While I write this book for my boys, it will keep me ever mindful of the joy they bring to my life and will help me dedicate myself to diagnose the cue, the routine and the reward of my chew addiction so I can gain power over it.
I’m going to work on changing just one thing. One habit. I will stop chewing tobacco. I will focus on changing this one “keystone habit”. By focusing on this one pattern, like Charles Durhigg in his book “The Power of Habit” I hope to gain power over it and set in motion a cascade effect that will empower me to reprogram the other unheathly routines in my life.