A Night of Terror
I woke up gasping for air because I couldn’t breathe. All I could do was slap the bed repeatedly, trying to get my wife to wake up and help me. At that moment I felt my life flashing before me: my eyes full of tears as I watched every fleeting moment pass me by like blurred street lights pass a fast-moving race car. I knew then that smoking was about to kill me. Because of my addiction to smoking cigarettes, I learned that my health and relationship with my family was deteriorating faster than I would dare to admit to myself or anyone around me. Making the switch to vaping helped me quit smoking after a near-death experience.
Hooked, Line and Sinker
My tobacco addiction began when I was eighteen, later than most smokers I have met. I remember my first cigarette was at the first full-time job I had. I was working as a handyman and dishwasher for a local country club where I was expected to complete many tasks within a short period. The stress I felt while at work built up inside over time until a co-worker handed me a cigarette during our lunch break one day. From that day on I was hooked on tobacco like a Plover Bird is hooked on cleaning an alligator’s teeth. I felt a wave of relief with each cigarette I had. It was a wonderful relationship, at first.
Continuing the Story
After joining the military, I knew I could quit smoking because there was no way I would have time to think about smoking during the rigorous training regimen. During basic training, every minute of your life belongs the military instructors. Unfortunately, I did not think about how I would feel after training when I was at my first duty station. I quickly realized that with more time to think I was able to see stressors in my life again. Those stressors demanded relief, and once again, a co-worker was there to hand me a cigarette. This time, I used smoking as an excuse for anything and everything I felt would justify me going outside to smoke. All naysayers were treated poorly and pushed aside; smoking was my be-all-end-all. Until I noticed breathing problems, fatigue, and foul smell were my only companions.
One of Us!
Smoking was affecting my health and wellbeing without me realizing or caring to notice. Suddenly, I had trouble exercising, especially when it was time for physical fitness tests. The strength of my addiction allowed me to justify removing exercise from my life. At the end of my tour of duty, I had become a terrible version of my younger self. I found myself to be a sickly person who on the surface was a functioning member of the workforce, but underneath it all, I only cared about the next smoke break. Years of smoking destroyed my health to the point where I was not able to walk or stand for long periods of time without having trouble breathing. My clothes were riddled with burn holes and ash stains; my breath and hair smelled like an over-flowing ashtray with burnt meat stashed under the ash. I lost touch with my children because I wanted to be outside smoking and they wanted nothing to do with me if smoke was involved. My wife and I stopped showing affection because she could not stand the smell. Shockingly, I was fine with how my relationship was, as long as I was able to smoke.
Another Smoke Break?
The relationship I had with my family was getting worse by the day. As I mentioned earlier, I was able to use any excuse to justify smoking. I did not care if I could not breathe or if my loved ones wanted to spend time with me. At this level of addiction, I cared not about the outside world if it meant preventing me from taking another puff of that menthol. I would get into arguments with my wife any time she showed concern for my health and demanded I seek help. My children would beg with tears in their puffy, bloodshot eyes for me to stop smoking and play with them. Until one day I had enough of this addiction and how it was controlling my life. In my mind, I was starting to fight back the urge to smoke, I began pushing back the claws of tobacco and started to see how terrible I had become. I told myself “No more,” and I started researching cessation methods.
A Dose of Reality
Finally, for the first time in my life, I was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Little did I know that light was the ceiling light in the emergency room. As I mentioned at the beginning of our journey together, I was startled awake one night because I couldn’t breathe. My wife was able to call emergency services; she fought tooth and nail trying to keep me conscience, waiting for the paramedics to show up. The last thing I remembered was my terrified wife pounding my chest as I blacked out. I woke up in the emergency room half-naked and surrounded by strangers. They were able to get my body working again and were monitoring my progress. They kept me for two days before I was well enough to go home again. Those two days were full of tears and apologies.
There was something else about that emergency room that was bothering me. Above the normal sounds of medical equipment beeping and other people yelling out in pain. There was this gurgling sound followed by a sucking sound. I couldn’t figure it out with just my imagination, so I started looking around the room from my bed, trying to see passed the privacy curtain. For hours that sound kept beating me in the head, and every so often I would hear a plea for help in a whispering voice. Just before my discharge, I caught a glimpse of the room across the hall. There was a senior woman in the bed with tubes coming out of her throat. The gurgling sound was her choking on her mucus, and the sucking sound was the nurse sucking the mucus from the woman’s lungs through the gaping hole in her throat. I almost fell to my knees because I saw myself laying in that bed in her place. My life changed, and I made a promise to myself, I would NOT end up in that bed again with my family crying over me. I was ready to admit my addiction, and I was ready to fight for my life.
Punching Death in The Face
I tried using some of the cessation methods I previously researched. The patch was my first choice; it turned out to be a terrible method for me. I discovered I needed to add more patches to get any craving relief. When I noticed I was wearing nicotine patches and still smoking cigarettes, I knew it was time to move on. The nicotine gum was a scam that did absolutely nothing for me. Quitting cold-turkey was a horrible idea and quite frankly laughable for a person as hooked as I was. Vaping was the only course of action left for me so I researched everything I could and gave it a try. Once I figured out how much nicotine to use and how often I needed to vape, I was able to stop smoking cigarettes and never look back. The world of vaping is full of friendly people ready to answer any questions about vaping. Most of the people in the vaping industry are themselves ex-smokers. Not only could they sympathize with my pain but they have been through it. After I figured out what hardware and nicotine strength I was going to use, I found the hardest part of vaping was choosing which flavors I wanted to vape first.
Vaping to The Rescue!
February 13, 2018 will be twelve months without a single cigarette. Vaping worked so well I was able to wean myself off of the nicotine in less than three months after starting. Now, I only vape zero nicotine e-liquids any time I want to vape. Vaping went from being a life-saver to a hobby for me. I look good, feel good, and smell good. I spend all of my free time with my wife and children, and I have been exercising regularly. Life is good once again. So, now that you know how my addiction to smoking cigarettes almost cost me my family and my life, and how I was able to overcome that addiction by using a method that was right for me. I hope you can begin to understand the struggle a person in your life may be facing with their addiction to cigarettes. There are many cessation methods out there but finding the right one can be a struggle. Do not be afraid to confront your addiction and do not be afraid to ask for help. You are not alone. Smoking is not worth losing your family or life over. Use my story as proof you can make a change for the better.