Citation: Sweetleaf. "Playing with Smoke: An Experience with Tobacco - Cigarettes (exp49792)". Erowid.org. Jun 18, 2006. erowid.org/exp/49792
Tobacco. The golden leaf. The plant that America was built on. So wonderful. So vilified. So, so dangerous. Here is a summary of my experience with the sweet leaf.
The first time I smoked, I was twelve years old. One of my uncles smoked, and one day, while at his house, he left them out, and I stole a couple. He lives in a big farm, with plenty of places for someone seeking to hide. I took my prized cancer sticks behind an old woodpile and proceeded to light up. I smoked one, and contrary to my belief at the time, it did not make me sick. Not sick at all. It DID burn my throat and lungs. I coughed until I got tears in my eyes. Then there was that dizzy, lightheaded feeling. It wasn't even all that enjoyable to me, at the time. But, as I was twelve, I thought it was 'cool', even though the only effect that I could perceive was the dizziness.
Fast forward four years later. Summer. School's out. Back at my uncle's farm. Bored out of my mind, as any teenager would be. By this time, one of my older cousins had taken up smoking. Curious and bored, I stole a couple from her. Sneaking out to some old railroad tracks out of everyone's sight, I lit up one. The same dizzy, lightheaded feeling struck me. But...there was something else, too. When I finished the cigarette...I just felt happy. Nothing overwhelming, just happy. By this time in my life, I had smoked weed and experimented with prescription opiates. Tobacco was nothing like those. It was subtle. After I finished the cigarette, I told myself that I would save the last one that I had for some special occasion. Half an hour later, I was back at the railroad tracks, smoking away. Later that day, I stole three packs from my uncle, who had progressed to buying cigarettes in cartons.
Now, I must stress, at this time, I did NOT feel any powerful craving for tobacco. I just liked smoking. I liked the dizzy feeling. I liked feeling happy. It was a lazy summer, and I was bored. I can say, however, that stealing those three packs of cigarettes was one of the dumbest things that I have ever done.
Back at home, end of summer. I thought that the three packs would last me forever. But no. A month later and I only have one pack left. I've progressed to smoking 3-4 cigarettes a day, and by this time, I KNOW that I am physically dependent and psychologically addicted to cigarettes. Physically, if I do not have my nicotine fix, I get extremely anxious and irritable, I get frustrated easily, and my head feels cloudy, as it does before I have had my morning coffee. Psychological addiction is worse, though. I feel like I NEED cigarettes to get through the day. Some people use alcohol as a crutch. For me, cigarettes were a crutch. Fight with my parents? Time for a smoke. Girl problems? Time for a smoke. College apps stressing me out? Let's go for a 'walk', me and the Marlboro Man.
All of my friends thought that my new habit was disgusting. Frankly, after a few months of smoking, so did I. I barely got any pleasure out of smoking any more. In fact, I disgusted myself. I smoked everywhere. My parents did not know that I smoked, and I, a generally 'good' kid, took to lying and sneaking around just to get my nicotine fix. Of course, at school and when out with friends, I would smoke like a soldier. At home...I smoked in my bathroom, in our garage, at night I snuck out and just sat by our house, chain smoking. I made up lies about how some of my friends had taken up smoking when my mother mentioned that she smelled tobacco.
It was November before I quit...for the first time. I came down with the flu. Of course, I quit for the few days that I was bedridden, right? Wrong. I crept out of bed in my pajamas at night, sporting a fever, just to have a few hits of my cigarettes. I was disgusted by myself. I realized how pathetic I was. I got worse, until I was completely bedridden. It was nothing very serious, nothing like bronchitis or pneumonia, but it was probably the worst cold that I have ever had. Bedridden and under my parents eyes, I was without cigarettes for the first time in months. Thankfully, I had enough Nyquil to sleep through any withdrawal symptoms that I may have had. A couple of days later though, I hit rock bottom.
My parents were out of town, and I felt well enough to get out of bed. My fever was gone; most of my coughing had stopped. As soon as I heard my parents pull out of our driveway, I leapt out of bed and grabbed my cigarettes. Going outside in twenty degree weather, I knelt by the side of our house, wary of any nosey neighbors. I lit up that cigarette, and inhaled deeply. Ahh...sweet relief. My nicotine-starved brain thanked me. After a couple of puffs, I felt good. I felt ready to put out the cigarette. But I have always had a policy of smoking a cigarette to the butt, no matter what. So...I smoked this one to the butt. Then I promptly began throwing up, uncontrollably. It was unusual vomit, almost clear; it looked like mucous. Disgusting yes, but true. I went inside and just sat by our fire, shivering. That was the last cigarette in the pack, and I knew I had to quit.
Quitting was easy. Mark Twain, I believe, once said something to the extent of, 'Quitting smoking is easy, I've done it hundreds of times!' And that is true. Quitting is easy, as long as I know what Iím facing. I recognized my addiction. I knew that I would face withdrawal symptoms. After three days, the excessive anxiety that I felt was gone. After a couple of weeks, the cravings went away.
Then I quit. Again. I quit quitting. I had had a horrible week. I had to take the ACTs that weekend. I had girl trouble, again. One of my good friends was horribly depressed, and I felt for her. My parents and I were not getting along. And then...walking home from school, I passed by the convenience store where I generally had people buy me cigarettes. Before I knew what I was doing...I had approached someone, given away money, and received a pack of cigarettes. Menthol lights. Gross. I took one out with trembling fingers and lit it up. Eight seconds after my first puff, relief. Relief from my problems. The dizzy, lightheaded feeling. The anxiety in my chest, gone. It felt like a burden had been lifted. I leaned against a wall and finished the cigarette. Everything was better, it seemed. Even if it wasn't, I didn't care. Subtle apathy. Not like opiates, which block everything out, but different. Things that once bothered me still existed, they simply no longer bothered me. For all of about half an hour, anyway. Into the flood again...same old trip it was back then.
I can quit any time I want. Don't laugh. I can't blame you if you do, because I used to, too. Quitting is easy though, once one has done it. I periodically deny myself of cigarettes for a few days, just to lower my dependence, to lower the amount of nicotine that it takes to make me happy. Yes, I am like a junky. I realize that.
I can quit any time I want. But I will always go back. I am a willing prisoner of tobacco. I love the leaf. My chains are made of silk, and I lock myself into my palace of a prison. I have no desire to quit any more. I realize that with each puff I am only tightening the noose around my throat, but I do not care. Every puff may be tightening the noose, but it takes away the pain as well. I don't want to sound like some Kurt Cobain wannabe. I don't suffer from depression. I just don't like the everyday knocks of life. I don't like the little stumbles that we all endure. Am I a wimp? Sure. I don't deny it. But I am a happy one.
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