As of right now, I am six days and two hours nicotine free. I know this does not seem impressive, but for me, this is a life-changing feat.
When you're 16, you crave rebellion — anything to stand out and feel seen. For me, this manifested in puffing the Juul in the back of chemistry class. It wasn't much at first, and in all truth, I barely knew how to inhale. However, I continued my habit, blowing o's on the drive home from school and using my babysitting money to buy mint pods.
At that point, e-cigarettes were deemed a "healthy" alternative to cigarettes. I had a feeling chemical vapor was not the best for my asthma prone lungs, but I never knew to what extent. I used a Juul to accompany a Smirnoff ice at a house party. It was merely habit, like chewing gum or brushing my teeth. Cigarettes were bad. Juul was? Something teens did, no one really knew.
Nicotine is a neurotoxin, labeled by the EPA as "acute hazardous waste." Within eight seconds of inhalation, nicotine disrupts your brain's natural homeostasis. Your heart races and blood pressure increases, mimicking the physical symptoms of acute anxiety.
So why do we fiend for something that provides little to no physiological pleasure? It's not your fault. Nicotine disturbs your brain's dopamine reward system. Our nicotine receptors, once activated, are perpetually hungry for more. This is why you purchase ten banana ice pods at a time. You endure the disturbing chemical taste because you have to. Without your fix, you feel off and on-edge. Even those without a predisposition to anxiety, experience a nervous — hands sweating, foot-tapping — state when deprived of their substance. No one wants to feel controlled, especially by some sticky yellow liquid. Yet, it can be incredibly difficult to quit smoking, especially during the only time in your life it is socially acceptable to party every night of the week. However, if you are like me, and you hit your device within thirty minutes of waking up, I urge you to try.
Cigarettes were no longer seen as a habit of the cool kid, wearing a leather jacket. If you still chain-smoke, you are considered trashy and slightly unstable. The vaping crisis today is a tragic example of history repeating itself. We are the guinea pigs of a 2.5 billion dollar e-cigarette industry. Company executives of Altria, who owns both Marlboro and Juul, care more about their new Bentley than your health. Their egregious desire to generate a profit jeopardizes the health of children. I hope this makes you angry.
Personally, I feel nauseous, knowing that some white dude wearing a suit is responsible for my aching lungs and crippling addiction.
I couldn't stop. I would be on airplanes, hitting my Juul through my jacket sleeve. Honestly, my ability to conceal my addiction for so long was quite impressive. I could be eating sushi with my dad, hitting my Puff as he talked to the waiter. What's not impressive, is my inability to quit. I had to face reality: vaping relating illnesses were not a myth and if I wanted to live a healthy, long life I needed to break up with my Juul.
A few weeks ago, I began having sharp chest pains every morning when I woke up. Being the hypochondriac I am, this sparked panic and a profound fear for my life. I was afraid to stop, but I was more afraid of dying. That day, I purchased Nicorette patches. I shamelessly wore it to calculus, frat parties, and wine night. While there are temptations everywhere, I have been loyal to my "sobriety" because I know I have no other choice. Three days of hand tremors, irritability, and intense cravings is insurmountably better than the alternative
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention cites vitamin E acetate as the suspected ingredient causing EVALI, "e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury." However, it's unclear what's really causing the epidemic. This is terrifying. As of January 14th, 2,668 people were hospitalized for EVALI. There have been over sixty confirmed deaths. Reading these statistics is the best remedy for my withdrawal. I could have been one of those kids strapped to a ventilator in the ICU. I was fortunate enough to realize I am more than a ten-second head high.
We are not slaves to substance, it can be hard, it can be painful, but it is possible to stop. While I am not a doctor, here are some tips that have been helpful to me throughout this process.
1. Recognize and admit you have a problem
2. Set a quit date and stick to it
3. Throw away all vapes, cigarettes, pods, etc
Having an "emergency" stash is just giving yourself permission to relapse.
4. Tell your friends that you are quitting
That way, others will be cognizant not to do it around you.
5. Minimize withdrawal symptoms with Nicotine replacements
Nicorette sells patches and gum. Make sure you are using an appropriate dosage. Nicotine poisoning is a thing.
6. Get an app designed to help you quit
"Smoke Free" allows you to track your progress as you journey away from nicotine.
7. Medical help
There are doctors whose sole job is to help their patients quit smoking. Receiving personalized care from a professional is never a bad idea.
8. Distract yourself
Withdrawal symptoms can be tough. Exercise those new lungs by taking them for a run or signing up for a SoulCycle class.
9. Be kind to yourself
If you happen to relapse, know that it's not the end of the world. You can and you will do this. From an ex-smoker -- I believe in you.
I know I am a buzzkill, but living is kind of cool.