I started smoking in a dream, when I was 16. I was staying at a friend's house for the weekend; she and both her parents smoked in a small 3-room trailer. I, like my father, was allergic to cigarette smoke and I was miserable for the first day. My friend kept after me to try a cigarette; she desperately wanted a partner-in-crime her own age and had been trying to get me to take it up for months. I was staunch: smoking was unhealthy and stinky and a Really Bad Idea, and since my father was allergic to it he could smell it from down the block. He would know immediately if I took it up. No amount of washing would save me. I'd be disowned. Sent to military school. Worse -- home-schooled!
But at R's parents' trailer, everything was already saturated with smoke, including my hair, my clothes, my skin. My eyes. My lungs. Blech! R kept telling me this was my chance; I had an alibi for smelling like smoke. I could try it and no parental super-sense would ever be able to determine that I, not she or her parents, had exhaled the smoke that clung to me. I had no interest in adding to the clouds, though, no interest in choosing to take up a chemical dependence, in ruining my singing voice and coarsening my speaking voice, in any of the hundred awful effects of smoking.
Until the second morning, when I woke up from a beautiful dream of serenity and optimism, feeling alive and awake and something else, something... growing. Gnawing. Hungry? No, thirsty. No -- grumpy? Itchy? Afraid? Edgy. Craving. R picked up my mood, and as I tried to describe to her how I felt, becoming less coherent and more panicked as every minute passed, she finally pinned it down and started laughing. "Sounds like you're having a nic fit," she said, and passed me a cigarette.
Yes! That was what I wanted! R later told me it took her a while to believe I hadn't been smoking surreptitiously for a long time, because I smoked like I knew just what I was doing, like I had been accustomed to it for years. My dreams will alter me like that sometimes.
So I always said I started smoking in my dreams, and I'd quit smoking in my dreams as well. It was a witticism for "never", I thought, but with some truth behind it. From that day on I was a smoker, no matter how long it had been since my last cigarette, and I came to believe that no waking willpower could match the subliminal power of dreaming as a smoker. I even practiced at lucid dreaming, hoping I could catch myself smoking in a dream and put it down. But I never again smoked in my dreams -- until last week.
At a time of great stress, in a moment of abject desperation to feel better, I picked up a cigarette (just out of habit, not realizing what I was doing) and began to light it. As I pursed my lips around the filter and brought the lighter close, as the first acrid waft of burning paper hit my eyes before I inhaled -- I stopped.
What am I doing? I don't do this any more. This is not me now. I have changed this. I do something else instead -- something else... Yes, that 510. Yes, this Janty Stick. Yes, Cinnabiscus, please. Yes, white chocolate. Yes, this is better. Yes, this is me.
And with my first puff of vapor, I woke up.
And now I know I will never be a smoker again.
I don't know...
We're telling a non-smoker vaper that "you shouldn't vape if you don't need the nicotine," and yet I know - I know - that even if I ever get down to 0-nic juice, I will still be vaping for the rest of my life (unless I'm driven back to smoking outright). I'm far too addicted to the motions, to the sense of taking a moment to enjoy sensuality even in a crowd, to the little mental and physical breaks throughout the day, and to the social habits and opportunities that being a once-smoker/now-vaper offer.
Is it really different for someone who never got addicted to the nicotine, but still wants those effects, or some other effect, as a part of his/her life? Bear with me...
Yes, I know vaping hasn't been pronounced "safe", and even if it is, I'm sure it's better for us not to ask our throats and lungs to deal with this alien substance multiple times a day long-term. That's true of pretty much any substance; even water can be fatally overdone. Personally, I consider the distinction one I recognize for lawyers' sakes and then ignore. I made a much worse choice and subjected myself to much worse abuse as a smoker - I've seen a lot of that kind of practicality here, and I generally agree with it.
We all make decisions that abuse our bodies and our health, be it smoking or eating or drinking or fighting or - um, other recreations - too much. It's important to keep that perspective in view; otherwise you end up like a former acquaintance of mine who sneered at anyone who did "drugs" - including OTC antihistamines or aspirin - while he smoked a pack a day and drank a 6-pack of Cokes after his morning coffee, then had a few beers of an evening. Hypocrisy is treacherous ground precisely because it likes to sneak up where we're not looking and quietly convince us there's a vast difference between this side of a hair and the other.
This has been on my mind because an ex has been eyeing my Volcano kit lately and asking if I think I'll outgrow it. He does not smoke and never has, but he loves the smell of tobacco and will pull a freshly-opened pack out of a friend's hands to enjoy the scent; he's said he wishes the smoke tasted like the tobacco smells. Nearly all his friends smoke (he prefers smokers as a social crowd for a laundry list of reasons) and when he goes out he carries a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. He poses as a smoker in many social situations and if confronted will demur that his "addiction" is secondhand. He also had a huge Doublemint gum addiction until they reformulated to use acesulfame-K, and now he mourns the loss of the original taste. I usually vape spearmint when he's around, and it tastes and smells just like old-style Doublemint, and I can see him itching to ask me to let him try it. For 10 years I've seen him be actively jealous of smokers - our camaraderie, the pace and rhythm of life as a smoker, the effects of nicotine - and he has said several times that he would take up smoking in a heartbeat if it didn't mean... well, smoke. I think he's seriously considering taking up vaping.
So if he asks me to guide him into the vapor fog, or use my spare equipment, should I refuse? Should I try to stop him? I know my health is benefiting from vaping instead of smoking - but what if he's decided he wants to finally lose that extra 100 pounds by vaping things that taste good instead of eating them?
I know these forums are public, and searchable, and I don't want to give any ammunition to the naysayers. I would never recommend or urge vaping upon someone who isn't already a smoker. But if someone like my ex, who actually considers himself a smoker (if honorary), wants to vape...
And if that gives even a second of doubt, what about a social smoker, or someone who only smokes when drinking to watch the smoke?
I have trouble with this, I really do: how can I rail against the zealots who decry vaping because it has the ability to satisfy (and thus sustain) nicotine addiction and is therefore by some warped logic no better than smoking - but then use the same argumentative algorithm to decry vaping (for nonsmokers) myself because 0-nic vaping has the ability to satisfy (and thus sustain) an oral fixation, or a hand-to-mouth urge, or a social habit, or a tipsy whimsy to watch clouds? Is the logic truly more warped in the former case than in the latter?
Okay, I will happily delete all that if its deemed a threat to our cause to leave it publicly-searchable. But I'd like this much to remain:
Those of us who smoke/d chose to smoke. Most smokers I know can get pretty defensive about their right to make that choice. Those of us who vape chose to vape, and many of us will sign petitions and write letters and call congressional types to defend our right to make that choice, too.
So why on Earth would we criticize Mirror Darkly for making one of those choices, and by all common sense and current knowledge the safer and wiser of the two? I'm not going to proselytize vaping to non-smokers, but I'm not going to criticize any vaper who's already made a decision, no matter their reasons or history.
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