Addiction still intact, but modified

Leper! Social outcast! Inconsiderate idiot! I have inwardly called myself all of those names and worse over decades of smoking twenty cigarettes a day. My first brush with the filthy weed was at the tender age of ten. My nine-year old brother offered me one as we played on the beach opposite our house. Finding the whole experience disgusting, I avoided smoking until I was fifteen, at which point I was suckered in by the thrill of owning my very own smoking kit, comprising of a seductive, gold packet of Benson and Hedges and dinky box of matches. Such is the power of advertising. Living as I did in Jersey, a duty-free haven, cigarettes were relatively cheap and socially accepted but I would have smoked anyway, wherever I lived; my susceptibility to peer pressure, desire to look cool and after a short time, my addiction to nicotine would have seen to that. Once in its grasp, bloody mindedness prevented me from even trying to kick the habit. I remained a belligerent smoker for decades, reaching for a cigarette whenever an anti-smoking advert appeared on the television. At the large, London-based illustration studio where I worked in the early eighties, I was the only artist to rebelliously continue smoking when all others had foregone the dubious pleasure, puffing away at my desk, before being banished outside, along with my fellow addicts, in all weathers, to endure the sneers of passersby. The only thing to halt my habitual smoke inhalation was when, at the age of thirty, seven months into my first and last pregnancy, a potentially fatal, deep vein thrombosis floored me. After two weeks in hospital, the nicotine vanished from my system, allowing me to refrain from smoking for eighteen years.
The life-inhibiting shadow of addiction loomed over me again in 2002 after my marriage ended. The stress of divorce herded me back into that smelly, expensive, life-threatening smoker’s club. I stupidly used cigarettes as a relaxing crutch. In truth, they did nothing for me. On internet dating sites, most men specified a preference to date non-smokers. I would have felt uncomfortable dating a non-smoker with their disdainful looks of disgust darting at me whenever I sparked up. After ten years of, what I thought was addictive, internet dating, I stopped with no trouble at all, proving it was not really an addiction, but merely a habit.
My cigarette cravings were so intense that I risked the ridicule, concern and irritation of relatives as I slinked outside to smoke each time I stayed with them. I felt edgy and bad tempered if denied a cigarette when needed. It was an addiction which annually cost me over two thousand pounds.
‘Are you going anywhere nice afterwards?’ asked Amelia, my sweet, young hairdresser.
‘Just to the Co-op across the road to buy some more ciggies,’ I replied, knowing I would be purchasing the cheapest brand, resenting the exorbitant cost of cigarettes.
‘I never realised you smoke. You’ve never smell of it,’ she said. ‘Have you visited that Vape shop around the corner? My friend managed to stop smoking by switching to vaping.’
‘I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t even noticed the shop. I’ll pop round there as soon as you’ve finished titivating my hair,’ I said, not knowing anything about vapes. I had seen people online puffing on the mysterious electronic sticks and thought they were inhaling illegal drugs.
After buying a vaping kit, with many fruity flavoured oils, I was ecstatic to discover how easily I switched to vaping. It costs a fraction of smoking and I have not suffered a single craving for a foul cigarette. As only an odourless vapour is emitted, I can even vape in bed! Three months have passed since kicking cigarettes to the kerb, my relieved relatives are proud of me, there are roughly five hundred more pounds in my bank account than there would have been, I smell sweeter, feel healthier, with recovering lungs. There is nicotine in my vape’s oils, meaning I am still a slave to nicotine, but I no longer inhale poisonous smoke from expensive cigarettes. In the words of ‘The Who’, I won’t get fooled again!

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