The first time I ever smoked a cigarette, I fell in love.
It’s kind of creepy, looking back. I was 12 years old, and my best friend Liz had stolen a cigarette from her older sister. We went to the playground of our elementary school, and lit the Newport 100. I threw up behind the swing set about halfway through the experience. I remember going home later and lying on my bed, my head spinning a little -- high on the Nicotine and the taste of the forbidden.
All I could think about was how I wanted another one.
At first, I would sneak cigarettes from my dad and other friends' parents. Pretty soon, I was standing outside of 7-11 asking people to buy me packs with the lunch money I had saved up. By the time I was 13, I was a smoker. By the time I was 15, I had somehow convinced my mom to get them for me under the guise that I would smoke less if she was buying them (huh???).
I should note: I was also a "bad kid" and went to "bad kid school." This meant that smoking and listening to punk bands with names like Donald Dick was the least of my mother's worries. When I was 14, I threw a 40 at a cop car on the street (how can you NOT have a cigarette hanging out of your mouth while doing that?). I was a little shit, my boyfriend was a 21-year-old gas station attendant who wore a masterlock around his neck and had a Devil Lock hairdo. Obviously, I smoked Marlboro Reds.
So now I’m going to be 29 in May, and I’ve been smoking for more of my life than not, which is so, so gross. Smoking addiction is hard to explain to people who haven’t experienced it, but it’s sort of like this: smoking is programmed into my brain as the punctuation to every event, every action, every emotion that I have.
Morning coffee? Smoke. Finish a meal? Smoke. Have a fight with my mom on the phone? Smoke. Drinking? Chainsmoke. Cigarettes are my passport out of awkward conversations, my built-in break from work, my digestive aid, my antidepressant, and my cure for boredom. The feeling of withdrawal is physical, an expansive, nervous feeling deep in my chest and upper back, akin to anxiety.
Driving is the worst. Every time I get in the car, I light a cigarette. Even if I just got out of the car 5 minutes ago, or just smoked before getting into the car. The one time that I successfully quit for a year and a half, I bought myself a $4,000 scooter so that I didn’t have to get into my car anymore, because I knew it was my biggest roadblock. That was a pretty successful plan, but then I ended my 6 ½ year relationship and immediately rode my scooter to the gas station to rebound with my nicotine boyfriend. That was 3 years ago this May, and I’m still smoking.
It may seem like I love being outside, because I am constantly outside, but really I just love nicotine.
So when I started seeing people with e-cigarettes, I was intrigued. I don’t like to be told what is "healthy" for me, or what I "should" do, if it means making a sacrifice that makes my life less pleasant. No, scratch that, I don’t like being told at all. (I vacillate about whether my childhood diagnosis of Oppositional Defiant Disorder is a legitimate thing, but when it comes to smoking, I get it.)
E-cigarettes seemed to be the perfect solution! I could still smoke! Not only could I still smoke, but I could smoke in places I wasn’t supposed to smoke, and no one could yell at me! Not only was this possibly a way to get off of the Tobacco, but it was a way to break rules without getting in trouble! Which I love!
It took me awhile to pull the trigger and order a starter kit, for a couple of reasons. Change is scary, and also I am cheap. Also, every time someone told me that I should quit smoking, the mental clock was reset for a while, because I am not about to do something for myself that someone else wants me to do. This, for whatever reason, applies to many things in my life. If too many people tell me to watch a TV show, read a book, see a movie, I lose interest. Please refer to the above link.
I finally decided to order a “starter kit” when I broke my own rule: I started smoking in my apartment again, when the temperature in Vermont dipped down into single digits. I had stopped doing that last spring, when I realized that I am disgusting, and that my apartment smelled like what I imagine the set of "Grace Under Fire" smelled like.
Breaking my own rule made me realize that I’m not really in control at all, however much being stubborn might make me feel like I am. I’m really not interested in having cancer, or being a smoking mom, or smelling like shit all of the time -- but I love smoking. So, I’m going to try this. Despite the fact that every non-smoker in my life has had the same reaction when I tell them that e-cigarettes still have nicotine: “Then what’s the point??”
NOT GETTING TUMORS IN MY LUNGS IS THE POINT.
Stay tuned, readers. Coming shortly: The lowdown on e-cigarettes, and my quit-plan update...My first official update after moving back to New York! If you’re a smoker, and you want to try this experiment with me, leave a comment! Power in numbers!