I have been using tobacco (Copenhagen specifically) since I began serving in the Army about 15 years ago. The Oh-My-Buddha! early mornings, unit PT on top of the 2 hours of "extra PT" I put myself through, combined with my wife's pregnancy, new children, etc etc, I grasped for my crutch, anything to keep me alert for another hour or two.
When I left the Army and got a "real-job," I continued with this learned habit. I used rationalizations similar to the ones described above, and further more ramped up my intake of alcoholic beverages. I was like a hungry ghost, looking for the wrong fuel to keep a nuclear chain reaction of work-sleep-work going for as long as possible. I made myself impervious to my "soft" civilian co-workers' disgusted looks as I spit brown crap out of my mouth. Alcohol, combined with "Crackenhagen" is a potent combination resulting in a dangerous cycle of consumption. The more I dipped, the more I could drink, and the more I drank, the more I wanted to dip. Since I loved both, and honestly believed that no-one suffered as a result of my behavior, yay for me! Party-on.
Alcohol was the first to go. I took the Bodhisattva vows and have been working on how to apply them in life and through my job. I always believed in physical fitness as a gateway to better living, but after taking the vows and studying them, I realized that in order to save beings, I had to be strong, both physically and mentally. One look in the mirror was all it took for reality to hit. I had allowed alcohol into my body and it wreaked havoc. How could I presume to be a protector of all beings and still be forty pounds overweight? Since I really had no physical dependency on beer, leaving it behind was more like burying a beloved pet. It would be tough for a little while, but I could get past it. The precept to abstain from intoxicating substances used to make me laugh a little. Now, after of month without even a sip of wine, every aspect of my life has improved. I've lost fifteen pounds and am getting back into great shape. I no longer lose days to headaches and hangovers. I sleep a hell of a lot better. Meditation practice has gotten much much deeper, and I'm better able to face all the challenges of the day with equanimity. I'm not laughing at the precept now :)
The tobacco however, wow. How many tries, how many times? I've tried a number of times to quit. I've done cold turkey, gum, even drugs. In the end I always fell off the wagon. Yesterday, as I saw, really saw with Buddha mind, my youngest son. In a flash of light all at once I realized that in poisoning myself with tobacco, I was also poisoning my children. Every time my kids saw me pack a can, or spit into a cup, they got the message that "this is what grown men do" Over and over and over again.
To be continued...
So, it's been about a week without tobacco. Here are my observations: Mindfulness training has helped a great deal. Cravings inevitably appeared. By observing them arise, acknowledging their existence and letting them go their own way, I have been needing to concentrate very deeply, often while doing things like driving, reading, teaching working out. Cravings have become a mindfulness bell... Thank you craving :)
One Month Later...
It's no big deal, but I fell of the wagon this week. In my weakest moments, "the wagon" reminds of the corpse wagon in Montey Python's Holy Grail, and I feel like the guy saying : I'm not Dead Yet." In my attempts over the years to master myself, I have learned a few things.
1. Being angry with one's own failure's is counterproductive. It only reinforces attachment to craving and quitting.
2. Cravings get worse as time goes on, not easier, but one's ability to cope with them gets better. This leads to a tenuous balance, like walking a razor's edge between craving and release. Only constant meditation keeps one from falling over. The more consistent the meditation, the easier it is to resist nicotine cravings. This time, I found less time to meditate and as a result, became unbalanced.
3. Once one succumbs, the way out again is to go through the quitting ritual again, without judgment.
4. Repeat as necessary.