There are a lot of vices that people have. There are also a lot of definitions that people have regarding the V word. The definition I’ve crafted is that a vice is anything that serves no purpose to the greater good of humanity, yet people engage in it because it brings them a strange sort of comfort – if only from the fact that it is a habitual action.
Now, I like to think that I’ve sampled a fair share of different vices; in fact, call me a vice connoisseur. I won’t say that I regret any of them – after all, what is life without knowledge and what is knowledge without the insight gained from experience? I’ve been able to walk away from almost all of these vices but there has been one that I’ve found myself coming back to – smoking.
Both of my parents used to smoke, only quitting when I was around the age of 16. I remember the first time I lit up was in our garage when I was 12 with my babysitter, probably trying to impress her at the time. I didn’t enjoy it – as I doubt anyone enjoys smoking when they first try it – but eventually it became pleasurable.
One of the peculiar things about smoking is that most smokers have a deep sense of guilt for their vice. Guilt-smokers will often say they quit to loved ones yet continue to smoke in secret. I remember around the age of 5 going out to my dad’s Town Car in search of something now insignificant while my family and I were eating at my grandparents’. Instead, I found a pack of cigarettes hidden deep inside the glovebox. I took them out, ripped them up on the driveway, and went back inside to chastise my father in front of everyone. Looking back I find it strange how something so inert could provoke such a violent and angry reaction from a young child.
Since then I’ve done a lot of things, including falling in love on a couple occasions. By comparing the pain I felt when lied to by the girl I loved to the pain I felt when I realized that my parents had lied to me about quitting, I realized that the feeling was the same. If my parents had continued to openly smoke I would have been saddened, but since they hid it from me I was instead angered.
So far I’ve gone almost 3 weeks without smoking. I’m not impressed at all though; I’ve gone a year without cigarettes and in January and February I went a month. One can find new habits to replace the old bad ones with, but the truth is that picking up a new habit is only keeping you busy from going back to the old one. Somewhere with quitting a vice you need therapy.
I won’t consider this a self-help article as I’m not giving an explicit list of tips or advice in it. What it is though is therapy, as openness is always the best therapy. When I first thought of writing this I was terrified of who might read this – I mean, some people on campus know I dabble in tobacco, but this has never really been a vice which I’ve felt comfortable admitting to my family or even certain ex-girlfriends. To look past that guilt and that fear of disappointment and to be honest is to show that you are not just willing, but also ready to quit.
There is so much more that can be said as to why I smoke, why I’ve quit, why I’ve returned, and why I am quitting now but the truth is that not all needs to be said. I look forward to a healthier and less socially stigmatized self though. Sometimes non-smokers, in their hatred against all things smoking-related, forget that smokers are people – indeed their loved ones – too and attack them with verbal virulence more fitting for a CEO of big tobacco. If you can make someone just a little bit happier, if you can give them a smile that’s just a little bit slyer, then maybe that will be a better stress reliever than a cigarette – and certainly a better stress reliever than a reactionary temper tantrum.
(Casey O’Brien / email@example.com)