Manga lied to me. I was convinced for the longest time that smoking was bad for you, but looked super cool. I smoked my first cigarette when I was 14. I thought I was so fucking cool I couldn’t even stand it. I was huddled in a corner of my friends basement smoking away like it was my job. My love affair with tobacco then continued on through high school and into college. I wasn’t a heavy smoker earlier on due to the lack of funds, and the inability to hide the odor of smoke on my clothing. It wasn’t until the year I moved to Korea that I might have spiraled a bit out of control
It should be noted that in Korea it is uncommon for women to smoke openly. Usually they’ll hide in alleys, club bathrooms, or go to great lengths to not be seen smoking. As a foreigner I stood out even more as a for being a smoker. My roommate at the time was a pretty heavy smoker, and transitioning from La Crosse where none of my friends were smokers to having someone constantly by my side smoking sort of pushed me over the edge. It was a new experience to have someone to sit outside with me and enjoy a cigarette and coffee. During the day I would smoke anything from four cigarettes to an entire pack, depending on whether I was going out clubbing/drinking that night. I used smoking as a way to mask my anxiety at situations where I felt uncomfortable or scared. It was a way to have my guard up while simultaneously relaxing myself with each puff of poison. I had always dreamed of being able to openly smoke without the judgement of friends and family and this was the time that I got to do that. I got to live the life of the cool kids that all of the manga I loved always depicts.
Flash forward to my first year back in the states, and I was no longer living in the dorms, but my own house. Due to this, my ability to smoke was made much easier because I no longer had to worry about being so many feet away from the building or any other such nonsense. At this point I had cut back due to two factors: cigarettes were hella expensive in the states and none of my friends smoked. (A pack of Marlboro Red’s were about $1.50 in Korea) I had actually managed to quit smoking cold turkey upon returning home, and blamed jet-lag and post-trip depression for my withdrawal symptoms. I only picked up smoking again because of boys being idiots and wanting to rip all of my fingernails out at their moronic ways. It was odd, because I noticed that sometimes I craved cigarettes so much I couldn’t even stand it, and other days I was totally fine just skipping smoking all together. I had no idea what was going on with my body and figured I was just being weird. How could I go from needing cigarettes like oxygen, to going almost a week without one smoke and feeling fine? At this point my housemate, Katie, explained to me about the cravings and the brain. Soon after returning from Korea, like within 24 hours I had taken a lover (killin’ it Saba), and had been having quite a bit of sex depending on when I had time. Katie explained that craving sex and cigarettes comes from the same part of the brain, the pleasure center. When I was having more sex, I didn’t have the desire to smoke, but when I wasn’t I wanted to smoke more because I needed it to get off.
It all made fucking sense. So what was my solution to quitting smoking? Having copious amounts of sex. Not only is it good for you emotionally but physicallytoo, really you’re just killing two birds with one stone. You might have to build up your stamina, be aware of that. I remember sometimes getting winded after about five minutes. After smoking on and off for the majority of my teens and all of my twenties, I can say that it has been around six months since I quit officailly. I don’t know whether I’ll continue not smoking, because honestly there are worse things I could be doing. For me smoking is just a placebo effect, it keeps me calm and relaxed when it feels like the world is crashing down around me. Though I would never recommend someone picks up smoking, I just want to say that addiction is in your mind and quitting is allowing yourself to find pleasure elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong, quitting fucking sucks, but it will be worth it when you can walk up a flight of stairs without feeling like your an a marathon.