So here’s something I’m not super proud of: I was a pack a day smoker for almost ten years. What started out of curiosity soon became a crutch and then a problem.
The First Pack
I bought my first pack when I was 18. You know, it’s sort of a rite of passage. I didn’t really intend to smoke the whole thing, I just wanted to know what it felt like to be able to buy them legally. Funny thing about cigarettes, though: They’re addictive. Who’d have thought, right?
So, there I was an 18 year old smoker. At first it was just one here and there and when I drank. Then, slowly but surely, it became a half a pack a day, then a whole pack a day. Soon after I went from smoking shorts to smoking 100s because I figured that gave me more bang for my buck. (Very sensible…)
Smoking The Stress Away
My life has always been dysfunctional, but it really started turning to shit around my 19th birthday. I was constantly broke, stressed, anxious and depressed. I liked my job but I hated that it didn’t pay very well. I was taking care of myself and my mom at the time and the financial struggles were taking their toll.
When my friends were going off to college, I was working 40 hours a week to try to make ends meet. I desperately wanted what they had but I knew I never could. Of course now, looking back, I am grateful for the struggles I had and I would do it all over again if needed. I love my mom and would do anything for her and having to grow up so quickly taught me a lot about life. It made me who I am today.
All of that is to say that although I started smoking out of curiosity and a desire to know what it was like to legally buy them, they eventually became a crutch. A friend. A form of solace.
When I was looking at the bills pile up, I had my cigarettes to take the stress away. When I was having an anxiety attack about what the next workday or week would be like, I had that pack that calmed me for just a moment.
Cigarettes became a friend who didn’t judge me and who helped me see straight when I wanted to give up. I was well aware of the danger of smoking, but it didn’t matter because my life was falling apart anyway.
Ten Years Later
It didn’t really hit me how long I’d been smoking until this summer. I’m still 21 in my head so I often forget that I’m actually pushing 30. I was to have my wisdom teeth taken out and during the appointment I was asked how long I had been a smoker. When I heard the words “10 years” come out I was actually kind of surprised. I just hadn’t ever thought about it before.
Over the years I promised I would quit but never went through with it. That’s because I was only quitting for other people, not because I wanted to. Because cigarettes do that to you. I’m in the medical field, so I’m well aware of the dangers, but the nicotine took hold and sweet-talked me into not wanting to stop.
I figured that this would be the best time to quit since I wouldn’t be able to smoke for a few days after the surgery, and they say that the first 72 hours are the hardest when quitting. So, I resolved myself to not buy any packs before the surgical procedure.
I did great for a few days, but then I gave in. My mouth had healed enough and I thought that I could get away with a few puffs, so I bought a pack. Luckily I didn’t hurt myself, but when my husband found out I realized I had hurt him. This kind, empathetic and patient man (who has never smoked, but put up with my smoking for a decade) thought that finally I would be rid of them forever, yet here I was with a cigarette in my hand.
That was when it hit me that it was absolutely ridiculous that I couldn’t quit. How could I not just get control of this situation? Was I really that powerless against this addiction? That’s when everything changed – when it became personal.
Moving To E-Cigs
I had attempted quitting using an e-cig in the past, but it never really worked out. Due to a mixture of not wanting to quit and the fact that I only ever smoked fruity flavored liquid, which made me want a real cigarette even more, it was a dead end. My husband and I had even gone out and dropped like $100 on a new one that was adjustable, but after about a month of intermittent use it found itself in a drawer never to see the light of day.
About two weeks after my surgery, however, I went back to them. I found that patches and gum are absolutely useless and even if I had insurance and could try something like Chantix, I wouldn’t. There are two reasons for this: My brain is a dark, dark place and I already have vivid nightmares, so I didn’t need any help with that. Secondly, I do not do well with any form of medication that acts similarly to anti-depressants or that has suicidal ideation as a possible side effect, because for me it’s not a “possible” side effect, it’s a “definite” side effect.
So, I got my trusty old e-cig out of its drawer just to find out that it had broken in the years of non-use. I took it to a local shop and was told that they discontinued the model so there was no way to replace the broken part. Because of course.
Without many options, I dropped another $100 on a new one. I’ll admit, though, that this one is much better than the old one. It’s more customizable and smaller.
It took a little getting used to, but eventually I got the hang of it. At the same time I bought cigarette flavored liquid, too. No more of that fruity shit that tastes like a hookah. (Don’t get me wrong, I like a good hookah, but they always make me want a cigarette.)