So it can be done. It’s not fun, and it’s hard, but it can be done. I started smoking when I was just 14 years old. I smoked cigarettes for about 23 years and vaped for about five years. I wish I can remember the first day I took a drag, but I can’t. All I know is that it was my own choice. I was not forced or asked by friends. I wanted to feel what it feels like, and I did, and I was hooked, immediately.
I have tried quitting a few times in my life, and every time I would start again with the same reason. Smoking calms me down and makes me a better person. I wasn’t wrong, it did make me a more pleasant person, but I just never gave it enough time, I was never able to build the new brain pathways, the pathways I had lost when I was 14 years old.
My transition from cigarettes to vaping
When I started working in 1997, smoking was allowed everywhere. We smoked in boardrooms; we smoked in planes, we smoked everywhere. Sorry if you were a non-smoker, you were in the minority, and if it bothered you, you were welcome to go and sit outside.
The sentiment around smoking started changing in the 2000s. People started quitting, and the minority shifted to us, the smokers. It did not bother me at all; I “enjoyed” smoking. It calmed me down, and I was okay with standing outside smoking.
More and more people started vaping around me, and e-cigarettes were on the up and up. With no apparent health risks, it was a tempting option for me. It was cutting edge technology, and I say no evident health risks with the utmost respect because there were no studies done, and it was not regulated at the time.
For me, it came easy. I say easy because a few people around me tried to make the transition and failed, they complained about the batteries that needed charging, and this and that. I just felt like it was another tech device I carry on me. Buy an extra rechargeable battery and keep one charged at all times. The most significant benefit to me was the smell. I did not smell of second-hand smoke anymore. I could taste my food again. Many smokers say it’s not that bad, but believe me, you do stink, and you do have a lot less smelling capacity.
Vaping was heaven to me. It was clean; I could do it wherever I wanted to, and there was no apparent harm to the people around me, just great.
Vaping vs Smoking (For me)
It seems like very few people realise that vaping makes you more addicted to nicotine than smoking ever did. The amount of nicotine you get into your bloodstream is way higher than what cigarettes can ever give you. That together with the fact that you can vape wherever you want. Don’t get me wrong, cigarettes contain a lot more harmful chemicals than vape products ever can, but you nicotine addiction, the one that will give you a hard time when you are ready to quit is a lot higher in vapes than in cigarettes.
To me, it felt like smoking and vaping was 50% nicotine addiction, and 50% was the habit. With cigarettes, you always had to go to a smoking section, and this usually took time and so you would have two cigarettes. At my peak, I was able to finish two packs of cigarettes a day, with ease. When you add a glass of wine, I could go to as high as three packs. It seems crazy today, but if I compare my nicotine intake while vaping, that looks like child play. I know a lot of people vape at lower Milligrams of nicotine and some are even on zero. I was on 6mg for most of the five years that I vaped.
So why did I decide to quit?
For a few months leading up to the quitting date, I gave it a lot of thought. I made a list of all the bad things about it. This is a lot harder than it sounds because when you are addicted to something, it’s hard to find any fault with it. I tried to be open-minded and read a lot of studies about vaping an e-cigarettes. It was also around the time when there were multiple vape related deaths in the United States, so I received a few calls from family members telling me that I should stop immediately. It was, however proved that the deaths by vaping in the united states were caused by the inferior quality of CBD vaping products. During my time of vaping, I was cautious not to try vape products that I did not know the origin of all the ingredients they have been using.
My list of the bad aspects of vaping is:
- I am addicted to a substance, Nicotine. It controls my life because I cannot do without it. It has altered my brain to a state that I need to have nicotine to be calm and happy. Surely I am better than that? Surely I must be able to get through life without this.
- Nicotine, in its defence, does have useful properties, but that is in very lower dosages than what you are getting in through vaping. With the amount of nicotine I was getting in, I was causing damage to my arteries, and this could, in the long run, harm my health.
- When you inhale anything, it is absorbed into your bloodstream quite quickly. It means that you are not only getting the nicotine, but also the oils used to create your vape juice. No real studies to show that it’s terrible, but surely it can’t be good for your health.
- Vaping is expensive, and I probably spend quite a bit more money on Vaping than I did while smoking cigarettes.
I played with these ideas for quite a few months and set myself a date, 1 January 2020 I will stop. I have up to that date to enjoy it, and up to that date to make up my mind. During the last day of the year that was 2019, it felt as if the walls started to close in. I was undecided whether I wanted to quit or not. Every vape I took felt so good, and the reasons to stop vaping did not sound so promising anymore. Late that afternoon, as a family, we played a game. Everyone on the family could say to each one of the family what the others should do more of and what they should do less off. Everyone in my family said we wish you would stop vaping. Still, as I was taking another drag of my vape, I thought: Okay, maybe I should give it a month. If after a month I am unable to deal with my life, I will start again.
D-Day and Zero Hour, the moment of truth
I vaped until the last possible second of 2019, went to bed saying to myself: you can do this. It’s only one month, and we can take it day by day. When I woke up the next morning, I drained the batteries of my vape mod, disassembled everything and neatly packed everything away in a cupboard. I knew I did not want to get rid of all my kit just yet, but I also knew that if I decided to start again, it would require me to charge the batteries first and assemble everything so that it would take me minutes rather than seconds.
By 9 am, I started feeling the first withdrawal symptoms. I got on my phone and began searching for what all the withdrawal symptoms are and what timeline I was looking at for this to stop. Most articles I found said that the first three days are the worst. After that, it becomes more comfortable, and they also mentioned that everyone is different.
By 10 am, I thought this is going to be very hard. I need to find something to keep myself busy with because the second you sit down, you think about vaping. I got my dog’s leash and went for a walk. That was the first of many walks, so at least the dog was happy.
I felt extremely irritable, but I was aware of it and knew that I should at least attempt to think before I talk. I had a week of holiday left before I started at work again, so I had time to walk around with the dog. I also went for a lot of runs and went to the gym whenever I got the chance.
When I got into my bed that night, I thought to myself; self, this is not going to be easy, but you made one day, one day could become two days. By this stage, it still felt like an uphill battle, because I knew day three would be the hardest.
On day 2 I realised that it would not be possible to run, gym and walk around with the dog all the time, there will be times where you will sit still, and you will think and need a vape. This scared the crap out of me, but I soon realised that if I eat, I don’t think about vaping.
Because food worked for me, I had to make the decision whether I would want vape cravings or should I eat all the time. Luckily, we have a lot of healthy food in the house, so that went okay, but at some point, I just started eating anything I could find. I don’t usually have a sweet tooth, but I even began eating chocolates.
Day 3 came and day three went, I survived with my new found love of food, walking the dog and fixing stuff in the house. I went to bed and thought, I made it to day 3, now it should start to go better, but it didn’t. Day four came, and I was like a lion with a sore tooth. I have never felt cravings like this before in my life. I hated every step of this journey and could not see the benefit of all this. You start saying things like, so what if I die earlier, at least I am having fun, why am I not allowed to have any fun. Everyone has some addiction; mine will merely be vaping. I have never heard a person make so many excuses in my life, and this was me talking to myself. I had headaches from hell. I sweated all day and felt needles and pins all over my body. I hated it. I could not sleep. I had nightmares when I slept. This was not cool at all. The little bit of sanity I had left in me screamed you have already done three days. If you vape now, you will probably have to get through 3 days again when you want to stop again. I survived four days without a vape, I survived four days without nicotine, but I felt horrible.
Every day after that, I had some trigger that made me think of vaping. When I got back to work a week later, it was hard, because I had a set routine at work, where at certain hours I would go and vape outside, either with a coffee, or to get “fresh” air. I realised that the habit would be another hurdle to overcome.
For the first week, I made a conscious decision to not be with any friends that vape or smoke. I will also try and avoid any socials, and I would avoid and wine because I knew this would be a massive trigger to vape. Looking back at it all, I think this was one of the best decisions I could have made for myself. The first week was hard. Every day after that for the rest of the first three weeks, I thought about vaping every day. Every day I had cravings, but it became better every day.
Right from the start, I said that I would give it one month if after one month of being nicotine-free I feel that I cannot go on and that I am a rude prick all day to everyone around me, that I would take up vaping again. I think one month was just enough time, I’m glad I did not say two weeks, because at the two weeks mark I was still struggling, but one month in I felt great, the thought would cross your mind that you used to vape, but the cravings were gone.
Post mortem, was it worth it?
Vaping is still very new, and not a lot of evidence and studies are available to prove that its good or bad for your health. We don’t know yet. I never quit because of health reasons. I quit because I was a slave to a substance. I was altering my brain pathways to cope with the world around me.
In the first few weeks after quitting, my lungs got sure when I ran, especially won kilometre one and two. That all diapered now, and I don’t even feel my chest anymore when I run. Something I haven’t felt for 28 years.
I still find myself checking my left pocket in the morning to see if I have everything, and my brain says that your pocket should not be empty. Muscle memory is a bitch.
My mood feels better every day, the pathways are finding their ways back, and I think that I will be okay.
I am glad this is over, one less thing to worry about. I can have my wine without thinking about it. I can socialise with my friends that vape and smoke and it does not bother me and does not make me crave for vaping. I am also not becoming an activist for the vape-free movements. I know how good it makes you feel, and everyone needs to make this decision on their own.
Have you stopped, or do you think about it? Drop a comment down below and tell us about your journey.