I can almost remember a time when I wasn’t addicted to nicotine. I have vague memories of being a child and hating the way my aunts and uncles smelled like smoke. I also remember chastising my friends for trying cigarettes in middle school and boldly declaring I would never do that. But those memories are so old and faded for me now, as if they happened to someone else in a different lifetime.
Truthfully, I can’t recall what it’s like to not feel chained to this substance. To go an entire day without raising an object to my lips and inhaling deeply, or to not worry about my supply of nicotine, seems so foreign. I’ve spent more than half my life with this addiction that it’s almost as familiar as my family.
It would be easy to blame my addiction on external factors, but the absolute truth is that it’s my own fault. I should have said no, and I didn’t. I allowed this to happen.
I smoked cigarettes for 17 years. I tried to quit in the past using Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) – mainly the patch and the gum. I managed to make it a whole 12 days before my willpower diminished and the addiction overpowered my sense of reason. I can’t take the prescription medication because of existing mental health issues. More than once I wondered if I would ever be strong enough to kick the habit.
Addictions will do that to a person. The struggle is real. Anyone who says otherwise has never battled with addiction.
When a close friend gave me a basic vaporizer kit as a birthday gift, I was skeptical but willing to try it. He had had great success with it, so I figured, “Hey, what could I possibly lose?”
It will always be the best birthday gift I ever received: the gift of freedom. Not from my addiction, but from the strangle hold that cigarettes had over me. I ran out of cigarettes one night and started vaping the next day, and have never looked back.
The switch was easier than I anticipated, though the first few days were undoubtedly the most challenging. Vaping is similar enough to smoking that it takes care of the physical addiction (nicotine) and the psychological addiction (inhaling from a stick-like object) but it’s not quite the same. My friend once told me, “Vaping is like switching to Diet Coke when you’re used to regular Coke.” He’s absolutely right. There are some adjustments that need to be made, but you can grow accustomed to them just like we did with our first cigarettes. It will never be exactly the same, and to me that’s a good thing. I much prefer my new ‘diet’ version of smoking.
Within a week I was comfortable enough to believe I wouldn’t falter on my journey. I could still smell burning tobacco from two blocks away, but I realized that the smell was only tantalizing when my blood nicotine levels dropped too low. When they were higher, the smell of smoke didn’t affect me at all. The first time I realized this fact was a huge boost to my self-esteem and gave me enough confidence to move forward. I made plans with some smoker friends and had a great time with no temptation whatsoever.
It’s been over three months since I switched to the vaporizer, and I have passed many tests to my resolve. I can hang out in a smoker’s apartment without feeling pressured. I can hug a smoker and not be tempted. And I can feel confident about myself around non-vapers and non-smokers too, because there is far less criticism about vaping than there is about smoking.
As an ex-smoker, I can say that vaping, for me, has been a journey. It’s not a state of being or a label, it’s a process. Someday I will kick my addiction to nicotine, but that day has not come yet. But now I know that it will happen because I’m strong enough.