I QUIT NICOTINE
Why I Did It and How It’s Going.
By Eva Fournel
Graphic by Madison Mercado
I remember hitting a Juul in 2018 for the first time in a handicap bathroom stall of my high school — classic. It’s hard to believe that from that very first hit, me coughing my lungs out like a tuberculosis patient, I somehow became addicted. I started vaping consistently early senior year of high school, and I’m now a sophomore in college. My vape became my go-to accessory, my safety blanket, and my toxic BFF. It’s been a month and a half since I quit nicotine, and while my bank account is thanking me, and my lungs are finally knowing peace for the first time in 2 years, it hasn’t been all that easy or celebratory.
Why Did I Quit?
I wish I could tell people I quit nicotine as some sort of mature decision about my future and my health — I wish I could say that I quit because I wanted to. The reality is, I quit because I needed to.
If I had to guess, I’d say I spent at least 65% of my freshman year of college sick. My throat was never clear, my breathing was uncomfortable, and my coughing was constantly on-and-off and brutal. I would tell all my friends and doctors that it must just be the ‘frat flu’. Yet, the few times where I would take smoking breaks to help my cough go away, was when my symptoms would actually go away. When it did, I took it as the green light to start vaping again, and then the cough would come back again. It was a wretched cycle, and the worst part was how in denial I was about it all. “Well, my friends vape too and they’re not sick, so obviously it’s something else,” or “My immune system just sucks,” I’d say. I was notably never sick growing up.
I was working retail most of this last summer, and, working 8 hours a day standing up meant I rarely had time to vape. So, my health was doing pretty well comparatively — I didn’t even notice how refreshing that actually was. When August rolled around, I spent the month in France, my home country, the land of great bread and chic cigarettes. I indulged heavily in both, and by the end of the trip, my phlegmy throat and my brutal, painful cough was back stronger than ever. I couldn’t sleep at night due to how much I was coughing. Before getting on my flight back home to Boston, I called my mother crying in the middle of a coughing fit, telling her I was giving in and finally quitting. To tell the one person I always hid this habit from was the first step to making this change feel real.
How It’s Going
Some days are better than others.
The first couple weeks were certainly the hardest, and the withdrawals were clear. As nicotine is an appetite suppressant, I scarfed down everything in my kitchen to fill the void. Instead of turning to my vape for some dopamine hits, I turned to my pantry and ate a cookie, and another, and another… and every single one in the bag. Our brains are programmed to consider food as nourishment, but I’d spent 2 years rewiring mine to treat flavored air as a replacement for breakfast.
Along with the hunger, came harsh irritability. Not being able to vape when I wanted to those first couple weeks was like having an itch I couldn’t reach. I was frustrated, and took that frustration out on friends and family at times; It certainly helps to let those closest to you know what you’re going through.
Today, the withdrawals have definitely decreased, and my body’s gotten much more accustomed to not relying on nicotine. While I would love to recommend going completely cold turkey and never touching a vape again, the day after you quit, progress isn’t black and white or linear. I’ve quit buying any nicotine products for myself, but have had a few slip-ups using my friends’ vapes in social settings; It’s not perfect, but it’s progress. Though, I’m definitely trying my best not to become the “Can I hit your vape?” friend. My friends do give me the look of death when I ask too much, which is surprisingly quite encouraging.
My breathing is smooth, my throat is clear, and my brain is no longer wondering where on earth my vape possibly could’ve gone as I ransack my bedroom; Now, that feels incredible.