As I begin writing this, for the past 48 hours (and for the first time in eleven years) I have no nicotine coursing through my bloodstream. I was never a smoker, but after a few beers I’d often get an urge to smoke. I’d bum one off someone, sometimes more than one, and I’d always feel like garbage after. Thing is, when I really got into the grind of standup, I was at one bar or another four or five nights a week, so my smoking frequency skyrocketed.

I decided to give snus a try. A little pouch of tobacco to stuff between one’s gum and lip, it’s a very civilized version of what Americans call chew and very popular here. I tried it and it was great! I got the same feeling a cigarette would give me but without the stink, the terrible taste and I felt fine the day after. When I felt guilty for bumming snus off others so often, I bought my own to have, but only to use in the clubs. Then never earlier than lunch. Then first thing when I woke up. The descent into addiction was remarkably fast.

After six months or so, I tried to quit, cold turkey. Didn’t have any in the apartment to tempt me. Unfortunately, I had no distractions, either, as I was in the midst of a long period of unemployment at the time. I sat on the couch and could think of nothing other than the fact that, after a five minutes’ walk, I could be at a store that sells snus. I gave up on my fourth day.

Not long after, my kid discovered my addiction and was rightfully pissed. She made me promise to quit but was generous by giving me until summer (she found out in winter). I thought that was an easy promise to make, as I knew we’d be going to the US for a month that summer. I wouldn’t bring any snus with me and with nothing available to me there, I’d have a month to get clean. We got to the US that summer and, on the first day, I walked into a convenience store and found snus. I gave up on the third day.

Now, over a decade later, I thought the time was right to see if I could quit, and my reasoning is bizarre, to put it kindly. It was a longshot, but I had a chance at a promotion, to finally get full-time employment after yet another extended period of unemployment. I knew a few others who were obviously more qualified for the promotion than me, but maybe I’d get it anyway! And then one of the others who was obviously more qualified got the job.

It was okay, but it hurt. It would’ve made a big difference for me, but instead it’s back to the grind and trying to find a grownup job again. I couldn’t get it out of my mind, though, what could’ve been. In other news, my gums were irritated from snus; despite alternating sides of my mouth each time I use a packet, my gums have receded quite significantly on both sides, since I constantly have snus in my mouth while awake. Last Thursday morning as I left home for the gym, I decided to not take a snus. I’d give my gums a break and, if this would be the start of a quit attempt, I’d be thinking too much about snus to think about the job I didn’t get.

I once worked for a few years as a “brand ambassador” for a company that sells quit smoking products, each item being, more or less, pure nicotine. The founder of the company had a dream that every government in the world would provide nicotine to everyone for free, because nicotine is a wonder drug and not addictive at all (he claimed that tobacco was the problem). If you’re too up, nicotine will bring you down. If you’re too down, nicotine will bring you up.

The past few days, I’ve been all over the place. Depressed, short temper, I want to crawl into bed and sleep but also can’t sleep. One feeling has become amplified more than any other- feeling invisible. It’s something I’ve grappled with the past few years, to varying levels of success. Feeling that no one notices me or cares about me, that nothing I do matters. Sometimes I can laugh at myself and relax, other times my ego gets the better of me. It’s like the one thing that makes me anxious more than anything, the volume dial got cranked to eleven. I didn’t want to think about that stupid job anymore and, hey, I got what I wished for.

During my first day without snus, I hosted a game show at On Air and a new guy sat in to watch. It’s part of the way we develop as hosts, to sit in on each other’s shows. Afterwards, we both went to the employee break room to get changed and leave for the day. One of my co-workers told the new guy all about the bar where everyone from On Air hangs out and asked, since the new guy was clearly getting ready to leave, why not come along and hang out? Nice of my co-worker to make the new guy feel welcome! Except no one ever told me about the bar everyone hangs out at. Not only was I also getting changed, I was standing within arms’ reach of the new guy, but I didn’t get an invite. Am I that much of an asshole?

Day Two, went to host a comedy club. Before the show, went to the bar with the club owner, got a beer, met some others who were there. A guy who works at the place came up to say hi to the club owner… then placed himself at the bar between us. Successfully amputated from the conversation like a sixth toe, I walked away. Checked social media, noticed a new ad for a comedy night in a few weeks I’ll be on… but didn’t make the poster.

A few minutes into my opening set as host, I could tell that I was all over the place. Mumbling even more than usual, talking too fast, my head wasn’t into the game. I hadn’t planned to mention that I was trying to quit snus, but said it as an excuse and was glad for the reaction I got. At the same time, I was really angry… over nothing. I even yelled “Fuck!” a few times in the bathroom to blow off steam, even though I had no reason to be angry.

Day Three began after a night of poor sleep and all I could think about was feeling invisible. Ignored by my co-workers, not being able to hang out with others, not being worthy of being on a comedy poster. I was so unhappy that it was then I started to write this blog entry, hoping it would make me feel better by venting, but even then I knew I was clearly being affected by withdrawal. One aspect of humanity I’ve touched on is how thought and emotion don’t always go arm in arm, which I was thinking about as I sat on the couch, typing away. Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, my wife was eating the longest and fucking loudest lunch in history. Christ Almighty, I could feel every crunch of every bite, every smack of her lips, and I was also laughing at myself because I knew my mood was chemically affected.

I felt better and better as the day wore on, more at peace even if snus and invisibility remained top of mind. Sure, it sucks that my co-worker didn’t invite me to hang, but he was probably just trying to be extra nice to the new guy. And if he had invited me? I would’ve appreciated it, but I likely would’ve ended up nursing a beer in near silence before bailing out. Getting cut out of the conversation when I was hanging with the club owner? I was never part of the conversation in the first place, I was quiet and on the sidelines while he talked to other people. Not making the poster? My face would sell zero tickets, plus I wasn’t invited to be on that night, I asked to be on.

Throughout all of this, I’ve had very little urge to toss in a snus. Well, that’s not exactly true. I’ve had a lot of urges, when I first wake up, when I’m having a drink, at the end of a meal, because that’s when I typically use. But when I get those urges, I don’t have an urge to actually do it. Maybe I’m done with snus after all. I can’t help but wonder, though- when I was at my lowest this past weekend, if I’d stuck a snus under my lip, would that have brought me peace?

As I type this sentence, I am at the start of Day Five. I had my first solid night’s sleep, my pity party is over. There are good things in my life and there are shitty things in my life, just like everyone else experiences. I’m guessing that, as I near my 48th birthday, I’m not suddenly going to a beacon of charisma and the life of the party, but being invisible isn’t always a bad thing. Hey, ninjas are invisible and cool…. what could be cooler than a middle-aged white man comparing himself to a ninja in a blog?