Addiction is insidious.  Those struggling with it didn't start out saying, "I want to be an addict."  Most addicts try their drug of choice the first time as a result of peer pressure, curiosity, or both.  That was the case for me with alcohol and smokeless tobacco.

My first taste of alcohol came when I was 14 and went to a sleepover at a friend's house.  I got drunk on sangria, and that was the last time I every drank it.  By the time I went to college I had developed a penchant for beer and that would be my drink of choice through the 80's.  In 1989 I was working at a Top 40 station in South Texas where there was an intense nightclub scene.  It seemed like we were at a different club every night, where the manager plied us with free booze.  One Saturday I left home at about 3:00 in the afternoon for a station promotion, then went to the clubs that evening. When I stumbled home drunk at about 3:00 the next morning, my wife was sitting up straight in bed where she proceeded to tell me that if I ever came home drunk again, she was taking the kid and leaving me.

That was my wake-up call.  Thanks be to God, since that night I have never taken another drink.  I'm convinced that if I had not quit, I would have lost my family, my job, everything.

As difficult as it was to give up alcohol, quitting smokeless tobacco was three times as hard. It started when I was in high school.  I was the only freshman on the varsity baseball team, and the upperclassmen decided it would be fun to initiate me by having me chew a big wad of Red Man.  I did it, got really sick, and then got really hooked.  For the next 18 years I dipped, chewed, you name it.  One day after I spilled my Little Cuss in the car for the umpteenth time, I said, "This is really gross and my teeth are going to rot out."  So, I quit; but it was the hardest thing I've ever done.  To this day I can walk into a convenience store, see a pouch of Levi Garrett behind the counter, and think how great it would be have a chew.  Thankfully, I've never given in to the urge.

Paul Zimmerman, Getty Images
Paul Zimmerman, Getty Images

Vicky Cornell knows about the dangers of addiction better than anyone.  In a new article in People magazine, she opens up about Chris Cornell's battle with addiction and what happened on the night that he died.  The coroner listed Chris' death as "suicide by hanging".  Vicky explains that her husband did not want to die; that he was not depressed. Chris had been sober for years, so no one was expecting it: his old nemesis come back to haunt him.  With heart-wrenching candor she talks about missing the signs that Chris had relapsed into addiction.

Even after all these years of sobriety, I know that I can never let my guard down when it comes to alcohol and smokeless tobacco.  Because addiction is insidious, and it's always lurking in the shadows.



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