Locked in a Room with Smoke for 13 Years

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When I was 12, I went through a big trauma in my life. Going through trauma and becoming a teenager at the same time is not a good mix. The way to cope with it? Rebel. Rebel. Rebel. I started doing the stereotypical rebellious things: dressing in black, listening to rock/metal/alternative music, and using bad language. I didn't want to be cool. I wanted to be someone else. I wanted to feel better.

This was long before I had a struggle with anxiety and depression. I was depressed at the time, but no where near what I feel now as an adult. I didn't want to feel weak or be perceived as weak so I wanted to feel a way to cope. How did I cope? With cigarettes.

My mother was a smoker for as long as I can remember and probably even before I can remember. When she felt stressed, she smoked. After she ate dinner, she smoked. In the car, she smoked. Relatively, I felt like my mother was someone who was 1) my role model at the time and 2) she had her shit together. As an adult, I know that that was not entirely true, even though she still has her shit together way more than I ever will. But when I was young and upset, I turned to what I knew. I knew a simple equation: cigarettes plus smoking equal feeling better. 

At 12, I would smoke every now and then. I am talking months in between. At 14, I remember really dedicating myself to smoking every week. By 15, I was openly smoking and regularly too. And from that point on, I was a smoker. I quit many times. Most for only a month, a week, or during pregnancy + the first 18 months of Jude's life. I would always fall back into the same routine. 

In August/September of 2017, we found out my mom had stage 1 breast cancer. Even though I'm sure it was even more life-changing to my mother, it was an eye-opener to me. I needed to change how I live and how I cope. Cigarettes, by that point, weren't even really a coping mechanism. It was more of a ritual. One in the morning, one in the evening, and a few at school or get-togethers. 

As of today, I have been 50 days free of smoking. I have a cool little app that reminds me when I reach a milestone. It's annoying to receive these updates, but it is also really cool to see them and go "fuck yeah, I did it again!". I have struggled with cravings from time to time, but not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I feel better to an extent. I smell better. I have more time in a day. I don't feel as sluggish. I don't feel heart racing as much as I used to. I can actually taste things. The two worst things I've noticed: 1) I can smell smokers and they smell so bad (yet kind of so good) 2) I can taste things better than before and somehow certain things taste worse. For example, tonight, I realized that bacon tasted almost purely like salt. Before I quit, I never noticed that. Am I going to quit bacon now too?!

In 2017, I set out to complete this resolution. I really wanted this for myself. Once the health problems kicked in and I realized that my habit could affects others in ways unimaginable, I knew it was time to quit. I'm a smoke-free 25 year old. The damage my teen years caused will not be erased. It may heal slightly, but I damaged my lungs. For what? Was it worth it? My answer is: no.


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