The worst thing about tobacco is not that it kills you in the end, but that it stops you from living to the fullest for most of your adult life. If tobacco only killed you quickly at 40 or 50 or 60, then it wouldn't be so bad.
It would be a strange retirement plan, like a funny reverse lottery: Tobacco would just roll the dice, and decide what perfectly healthy person will suddenly drop dead today.
But tobacco doesn't do that. It not only kills you in the end, it also slowly degrades your whole life before it kills you. It drags you down, and makes you feel tired and slightly sick, most all of your adult life. You never quite have the energy to do all of the things you want to do, or wish you had done, whether it was tackle a big physical job or play more with your kids. You never quite feel like really living because you are always half dead.
Addiction to tobacco is like a progressive deadly disease. It doesn't seem too bad when you are a teenager, or in your twenties. You are young and strong and healthy, and it seems like it just takes the edge off of bad feelings. It will take a bunch of years before it seriously clogs up your lungs and makes you into a tired cripple who is just dragging his ass through life. It will take a few more years before the emphysema sets in, and you are gasping for your next breath.
Tobacco can take your teeth. It took mine. One of my dentists said that the gum disease I had, first called gingivitis, and then called advanced peridontal disease, was started by coffee, cigarettes, and bad nerves, in combination. So it takes a period of stress, combined with coffee and cigarettes. Periods of stress are easy to come by, so if you also have a coffee and cigarette habit, you can get gum disease started. Once it is started, it will progressively eat away at your gums until your teeth come loose. Continuing to smoke just makes the disease progress more rapidly.
I pulled one of my teeth with my fingers — my lower left fang. It was so loose that it was just flopping around in the socket, and it really hurt whenever it twisted sideways when I bit down. I was wondering what was still holding it in the socket. So I pulled on it with my fingers, and it came out. Nothing but suction had been holding it in.
I pulled one of my upper front incisors with a pair of pliers. The tooth was really loose, and the socket was infected, and it was really painful, so I just grasped it with a pair of small pliers and then used my other hand to karate chop the first hand and out the tooth came. It was really only hanging by a thread of infected flesh anyway.
Unfortunately, the big molars have big roots with two or three branches that spread out and are anchored in the jawbone, so you can't pull those molars out by yourself. The dentist has to do them for you, and you will want a lot of painkillers, like novocaine or xylocaine. Unfortunately, when the gums are really infected, the painkillers stop working. No joke. It is one of Mother Nature's most horrible nasty little surprises. The worse the infection underneath the tooth is, the bigger the abcess is, and the less the xylocaine works. The infection inflames the nerves and keeps the xylocaine from soaking into the nerves, so the nerves don't get deadened. I once had a dentist shoot four whole syringes full of xylocaine into my jaw, trying to deaden it, and I still felt everything as he twisted the tooth, and broke it loose, and pulled it out. And I do mean I really felt everything. He had shot so much xylocaine into me that I had a cocaine buzz from it afterwards, but I still felt that tooth come out, in exquisite, agonizing detail.
That's just one of the benefits that tobacco offers you.
Speaking of benefits, there is another funny benefit that abcessed gums can give you: nightmares. When the pus from your teeth gets into your bloodstream, it gets to your brain and gives you the most horrendous dreams you will ever have. Really sick, weird, twisted, bizarre nightmarish stuff. Stuff so weird that sometimes I woke up thinking that I had the script for a surefire hit movie, a really original, really frightening Hollywood horror movie. Unfortunately, the details faded out when exposed to daylight, and I forgot the stuff before I could write it down, and it wasn't so frightening if you didn't have a head full of pus.
It shouldn't come as any surprise that such dental problems then lead to over-consumption of alcohol. It's just another pain killer by then.
The funny thing is that people can continue to smoke even after tobacco has caused them such horrible pain. It's amazing just how much pain people will tolerate, just to continue smoking. That's why it's an addiction.
An addiction is where you say, "This stuff is killing me. I feel awful. I've really got to stop doing this. But let me take a little bit more of it right now, so I can feel a little better right now."
And that routine can go on for the rest of your life. And it can be the end of your life.
Last updated 11 April 2009.