I started really smoking when I was 18. That was young 18-year-old me in the picture enjoying a honeymoon period with my Marlboro Lights.
I smoked when I drank, I smoked to make friends, I smoked to escape, I smoked to think, I smoked to indulge, I loved to smoke.
My habit ebbed and flowed with my illness, heightening in periods of emotional distress. It was triggered most of the time by anxiety. Social anxiety, pressure to perform, stressful growing pains of young adult life. You name it, I had a lot of it.
But smoking also worried me. One time I quit for a year because my then-boyfriend hated it and I had reached a point where my hands and feet were constantly cold from low blood circulation. However, when we broke up I began my romance right where it left off.
With medication pulling me down from psychosis and stuck in a psych ward, I begged for a smoke break but wasn’t allowed to have one. When the doctors released me they advised my mom, a woman who was a nurse for 17 years and hates cigarettes, to simply just let me smoke. They said I had bigger fish to fry before I would die of lung cancer.
All of a sudden a habit that I had hidden from my parents for 6 years became a commonplace backyard habit. Chain smoking in the garden was my favorite pastime.
As I healed and learned how to manage my anxiety I smoked less and less. I very slowly filled my time with things that became more important. Gradually the taste began to bother me. More and more often I would start gagging as put the filter against my lips. By the time I turned 28 I was smoking only intermittently, and quitting was something I looked forward to. I celebrated giving up smelly hair, congested pores, overworked lungs and the paranoia that I might kill myself by tobacco.
That was 8 months ago and I’ve had a few drags here or there, but each time they make me feel ill. I will always love cigarettes, but I’m glad I retired
them as a coping mechanism. Over the years I exchanged them for more effective ones… but more on that later.