Monday, February 3, 2014

Kicking butt

I recently took a new job, hence the lack of posts in the past month.

I've learned with myself that if there's a big change in my life, I need to give myself time to adjust. Maybe it's my INTJ personality, or maybe I've just learned that I adjust better when I can focus all of my energy on something, rather than just trying to get it to "fit in" with everything else I have going on.

But, enough of the reasoning/excuses.

I want to talk about another recent change. And, to be honest, I can see it being controversial, at best. Especially since the change I made impacted something I was very private about to begin with. Something I don't like to admit, but feel I should.
Only in the '80s could parents
take a photo like this and have
it be considered "funny."

 I am was a smoker.

Let's start way back ...

Well, not that far back.

Back when I was in college. My freshman year. I was on my winter break and I had $5 to my name. I could either use that to get something to eat and worry about starving for the rest of the week and mooching off my parents for food, or, as a friend put it, I could buy a pack of cigarettes and the hunger would go away.

Besides, I knew I looked "cool" doing it.
I was basically the epitome of "Absolutely Fabulous"
in my college and post-college years.
She convinced me to pick up smoking as simple as that. Appetite suppressant, you say? Only $5? For 20 cigarettes? If I replaced one meal a day with one cigarette, that could save me so much money!, my 18-year-old mind reasoned. Sure, it's unhealthy, but I'd rather be thin and die sooner. Yes, that was my mentality.

Granted, I lost about 40 pounds after starting smoking, but it gradually got put back on over the years.

At 18, stupid decisions like that were the norm, unfortunately. All my friends smoked. They would do cool tricks like make smoke rings. And they were mostly artsy types and it seemed almost unnatural that I, with two parents who also smoked, was a nonsmoker.
Smoking became my way to make new friends at bars.
As a mom now, I'm scared to death of my daughter even
talking to any character she might meet when she starts
going to bars.

So, I took my friend's advice and bought a pack of Marlboro Lights. It took me two weeks to go through that pack. Maybe more. I figured I wasn't a real smoker, since I had one or two a day.

Fast forward almost 10 years later. I was a pack-a-day smoker. I had quit here and there, but usually returned back to it. My husband, at the time, smoked even more than I did. We smoked the same brand. We didn't smoke in the house, but in the warmer months, it was common for us to be out on the porch chain smoking.

Then, I got that positive confirmation on my pregnancy test and quit cold turkey that night. My last cigarette, in fact, was after peeing on the stick and was promptly put out as soon as the five minutes were up and I could go see the result.

A year-and-a-half passed. I had my daughter and didn't return to smoking until I started working again and the stress was just too much. Between having a child on the brink of toddlerhood, a job that came with a lot of stress, and a marriage that I could see was starting to deteriorate, I bought an "emergency pack," which I even knew would be my vice for even little stressors I would then consider an "emergency," just so I could enjoy my cancer sticks again.

Fast forward another year and I had "quit" when I began dating my now-fiance. But I didn't really. I just stopped for a few weeks, only to pick up a pack to keep in my car and smoke every few days when I knew he wouldn't catch me. He caught me a few times and, although disappointed, forgave me because he knew I was under a lot of stress. But that didn't stop me.

I would come home from work and jump right in the shower and brush my teeth, trying to hide it. I wouldn't kiss him right away, and even put sticky lip balm on knowing he wouldn't kiss me if he saw I had used it. Sometimes, that didn't stop him, but he was nice enough not to say anything, even though I knew full well he knew I smoked.

When I started my new job, I was up to two packs a week. And I ended up working in an office where I have yet to see someone outside smoking. I was still new so I only smoked on my lunch break.

Circa 2007. If you were to ask me the most
disgusting part of this picture,
I think I would have to say the
high-heeled loafers, unfortunately.
One day I came back and one woman who worked near me had just gotten a pile of papers from a woman who apparently smoked and she was complaining about the smell, saying the pile smelled like an ashtray mixed with strong perfume. I had smoked a cigarette on my break and had, coincidentally, sprayed body spray on me before coming back in. I was convinced she could smell me and thought it was the pile of papers and I felt awful. I didn't want my new coworkers to smell the smoke on me. I felt ashamed and I hated smoking. But, of course, I chained smoked on the ride home, trying to figure out when would be a good time to quit.

I loved going to the gym, but because I'm not on an insurance plan yet since I just started, I couldn't get a refill for my inhaler, which I needed after a strenuous workout (and bedroom things, as well, to be honest). I was sick of colds lasting way longer than they should, just because the stress of having a cold, of course, prompted me to smoke. I was sick of waiting for L. to take a nap or fall asleep before bringing the monitor outside with me so I could smoke, go back inside, take a shower, brush my teeth and resume "momming."

I should take this moment here to say my daughter has NEVER been around me when I smoked. She's never seen me smoke. I make every effort to take a shower and brush my teeth after smoking when she's around.

But, that said, I was still her mom who smoked. Her dad never did give it up. And, as far as I know, he doesn't smoke in the car when she's in it, but his car does stink of it. And I know my car did, too, no matter how aired out it was by the time I got her in it. Thinking of her one day picking up a cigarette when she's in her teens scared me. I made this tiny little body of hers, and I hated the idea she would put something so disgusting in it. I'm sure my parents felt the same way when I started, although they knew they couldn't say anything, being smokers since teens, themselves.

I think the gross facial hair is one of the most
disturbing things about this ad, to be honest.
The disgusting ads didn't make me quit. The patch didn't make me quit. The gum didn't make me quit. The fact that I was shortening my life and, at the same time, the amount of time I would be with my daughter, didn't make me quit.

Finally, my friend, who 12 years ago said, "Buy a pack of cigarettes," said to me, "You should try e-cigarettes," when I told her about my coworker that day. She has been "vaping" for months now. She went from being a pack-a-day to being completely smoke-free for about eight months, I think. When I got into her car that night, it smelled different. It was sweet-smelling, not smoky. She told me how when she bought her new car, she wanted to keep it smoke-free and she decided to try e-cigarettes. The ones they sell in gas stations and pharmacies were great, but she was going through them so quickly and the expense added up, so she began learning about Mid-Size and APVs and Mods. (Here is a good, quick guide to see the pros and cons of each.) Soon, she gave up "analog" cigarettes (the nasty, tobacco-filled regular cigarettes we all hate) completely.

She took me to an e-cigarette shop and I got to try the different flavors of juices. Nothing, in my mind, would be able to compare to the taste of a cigarette. That marvelous taste of a Marlboro Mild. Or, what I had, in my mind, decided was the better alternative -- a Marlboro Ultra Light.

Then I tried fruity flavors, musky flavors, sweet flavors, menthol flavors. I spent about $30 on a mid-size eGo and a juice that reminded me of Newports and tried it. I didn't get any nicotine in it, thinking I wasn't addicted to nicotine, but just the reflex of smoking.

I liked it, to a point, but I still had more than half a pack of cigarettes left. So, the next day, I tried having only one cigarette instead of my usual two on the way to work, and I "vaped" the rest of the way. One my lunch break, same thing. On the ride home, I didn't even have a cigarette. But I did drive back to the e-cigarette store and buy another flavor, but with the smallest amount of nicotine available, realizing maybe I was a nicotine junkie afterall.

I went through the rest of my pack, cutting back so that by the end of the week, I had one analog cigarette left and I was perfectly happy with vaping.

Two weeks later, I was cleaning my car and saw the pack and threw it away, only realizing after that I had left myself one cigarette, but I wasn't disappointed.
My current personal vaporizer I'm using while
writing this post. This is the first time in years I've gotten
the enjoyment smoking used to bring me while writing.

I had done a lot of research in those two weeks, saw a lot of success stories from former smokers, read the studies -- good and bad -- about e-cigarettes, watched videos ranging from product reviews from Jenee Fowler a.k.a. Vape Girl to celebrities using e-cigarettes, like Katherine Heigl showing David Letterman her e-cigarette.

From doing my own research, I decided using an e-cigarette was exponentially better for me than smoking ever was or will be. From personal experience, not being a slave to cigarettes has been freeing. Being able to breathe is fanastic. Not needing an inhaler is even better. The cold I had two weeks ago was gone in about three days -- half the time it normally takes for me to get over a cold! I don't worry about the effects of third-hand smoke on my clothes. I don't have to shower as often ... well, that could be construed weirdly, but since becoming a mom, showering becomes one of those things that turns into an optional activity in the day.

A few points to consider:

Don't start vaping if you don't smoke already
Smoking is gross. Any cigarette smoker, no matter how addicted, will probably say the same thing. And, being a smoker for 1/3rd of my life, I became an expert at rolling my eyes at nonsmokers who would inform me of this fact, since I knew damn well it was gross and disgusting.
The fact that my car doesn't smell like stale smoke anymore, my clothes and jackets don't have to be FeBrezed every time after smoking, the tips of my index and middle fingers don't smell like a used cigarette filter, and hair still smells like my shampoo at the end of the day just reinforces the fact that I'm not doing something disgusting anymore.
Although there have been numerous tests, there isn't enough widespread information that's mainstream enough for the government to get fully behind marketing e-cigarettes as a "safer" alternative. But, I can personally attest that it is better for me than cigarettes and I would rather put something in my body that typically has four ingredients in it, which, by the way, are all part of consumer products we eat and use daily.

I'm exhaling vapor, not smoke
When I accidentally left my e-cigarette charger plugged into my laptop, the fiance asked what it was and not only did I have to admit that I was using an e-cigarette, but I had to justify that by admitting how often I was smoking cigarettes behind his back before that. Once I had explained to him what I was doing and told him about my research, he said, "Oh, well, if you want to do that in the house, I guess it's OK." I then admitted to him I was doing that already, and he was a little surprised he couldn't smell it at all. Even if you don't do any other research on your own comparing analog cigarettes to e-cigarettes, watching this video is probably the most straight-forward example:

No, I'm not doing this in front of L.
My e-cigarette has a button that even toddler hands can easily press. I own one that is a pearly shade of pink that looks similar to something that could be used as a pretend magic wand, in the eyes of a 2-year-old. Even though I agree with statements saying the vapor isn't hazardous second-hand, I'm still not going to take that chance with her. She doesn't need to see her mom look like the dragon she sometimes feels like when it comes to being dependent on nicotine.

Speaking of which ...

Nicotine, itself, is not the (worst) enemy
When people hear the word, "nicotine," it's assumed nicotine is the nasty, disgusting substance in analog cigarettes that poisons your lungs and heart and kills you. No, no, no. You're thinking of tobacco, tar, acetone, butane, arsenic, paint, etc. that go into analog cigarettes. Nicotine, itself, is a stimulant. Some even compare nicotine to caffeine, as far as having similar effect neurologically and biologically. 

Look, I'll say it a million times -- I'm no expert, but I know I'm getting that hand-to-mouth fix from vaping that smoking cessation products such as patches (containing nicotine), gum (containing nicotine) and chewing tobacco (containing nicotine) never gave me. And I've kicked those extra 4,000 chemicals in cigarettes to the curb in favor of something that many doctors are backing as an alternative.

The flavors
E-cigarettes have receives a lot of flak about offering delicious flavors, ranging from fruity to sweet to minty to even some that taste like popular beverages. Many have said this just entices those who don't smoke, especially kids, to try e-cigarettes. But, I have to say, the shops I go to will not sell to anyone younger than 18. I hope more e-cigarette retailers adhere to this fact, as well. Believe it or not, adults like fun flavors too! If I were to pick up a package of Sweet Tarts in the store, I wouldn't expect a cashier to tell me I couldn't purchase or consume them because I was older than 8. And, to be honest, the variety of flavors is probably what kept me off of going back to analog cigarettes, since I'm not getting my tastebuds back and can enjoy flavors again!

I could go on, but I wouldn't be saying anything other people haven't said better (and with more information to better prove the points I would be writing circles around trying to justify my point).

So, I'll leave you with this infographic (I love infographics!):

E-cigarette Vs Tobacco Cigarettes
Explore more infographics like this one on the web's largest information design community - Visually.