I started smoking behind corners, in forests, with giggling friends. It was forbidden, it was exciting, it was cool. We hid well from passersby. The cigarette itself was worth nothing except for scorning looks from teachers, who didn’t care enough to tell us off properly, and making us feel older and essentially, cooler. Brave. Then I stopped for a while. My first pack of cigarettes, which had lasted for weeks, was gone, I was 12 years old. I didn’t miss it.
Two years later, my friend and I started again, and it still meant nothing. It wasn’t until my mental health issues started up, that I realized that the stick of nicotine and tar served a purpose. People would wrinkle their noses at the smell and tell me I was ruining the fresh air and inhaling poison, but it always felt very different. For me it wasn’t inhaling poison, it was finally breathing freedom.
This time, I was the one who chose to hurt myself. It wasn’t a friend saying hurtful things to me, my mom yelling at me or a boy pointing out my flaws again. I was the one making the decisions , feeling in control helped me, a lot. It helped my anxiety attacks – didn’t necessarily make them easier, but soothed the aftermath. I felt it helped my depression. You can tell me that it’s bullshit, but I refer to my own experience.
Not everyone understands this, and I see that, to some extent. I have stopped smoking. Or, I’m trying to. It isn’t going that well, because, guess what? I don’t want to stop. I need the cigarettes for a while longer, until I find someone who actually has the guts to ask me how I am feeling. Until I find someone who cares enough to be there for me. I mean, shit, it isn’t that much to ask, and yet here I am, needing a cancer-inducing stick to calm myself.
The worst thing is the reaction to my announcement to quit. I tell people, and they confirm that it’s a good decision, and that makes me feel less lonely for a while. Then they turn away and don’t really care anymore. I’m the classic “reserve” friend, I’ve kind of come to terms with it. People think I’m quitting for myself, but I’m not. I’m quitting for them, because the cigarettes can’t calm me when I constantly get called disgusting for the habit. I get it, it’s gross. The cigarettes are gross, but does that mean I’m gross as well?
I’m trying really hard to breathe freely without them, but my life has had one constant – nicotine. Therapists, psychiatrists, doctors, teachers and friends have been there, then they’ve been replaced. I’ve had control over this one aspect of my life, but as people judge my choice, my decision to harm myself in this way, I feel like I need to quit, or else I’ll be judged. At the same time, I’m terrified of losing my grip. While writing this text, one question has constantly been on my mind; will people believe that smoking means so much to me? Will people believe me when I say that I’ve been clinically depressed for years, that I’m suffering from panic anxiety disorder? I don’t want to write about my diagnoses, because I can’t be sure that they will take it seriously? So far, none of my friends have. But they took the cigarettes seriously.
So I wrote about cigarettes.
– Anonymous Smoker