How I Quit Vaping

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How I Quit Vaping

By Amy Dresner 01/15/16

Even the omen of incurable pneumonia that some respiratory therapists believe could be the long term effect of vaping hadn’t dissuaded me. I just didn't know how to stop vaping.

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“Have you always smoked or vaped?” my normie boyfriend asked. He was referring to the fact that the very first thing I did when I opened my eyes in the morning was put my Dr. Who screwdriver into my gob and start sucking.

The most interesting thing was the little window into my alcoholic thinking that quitting vaping provided.

“Oh God, no.  I started smoking in my late 30’s. I’m not…like…a real smoker.”

He just nodded.

“You don’t think I can quit, do you?” I asked as it dawned on me.

“Nope.”

And so, always up for a challenge, I said, “Let’s make a bet.” If I lost I had to go swing dancing with him. If I won, I got to accompany him on a work trip to Vegas.   

Since I’d rather eat glass than go swing dancing and because I wanted to prove that I wasn’t just some super junkie, I was DETERMINED to do it. The only time I had quit vaping successfully in the past 4 years was when I had whooping cough. And as soon as that disgusting hacking cleared up, I was back on the pipe, alternating with the inhaler. Even the omen of incurable pneumonia that some respiratory therapists believe could be the long term effect of vaping hadn’t dissuaded me.

This time I actually threw all the paraphernalia away…in the garbage. Outside. Sure I guess I could have “titrated” down to lower and lower nicotine and then to none, but honestly, if I could do that, I could probably vape ”moderately”. Truth be told, I’d rather be abstinent from something then try obsessively to control and moderate it. 

My mother urged me to get a patch to ease the cravings but I decided to go cold turkey. The withdrawal needed to be unbearable, just like getting clean was. I know myself. I’ll always have another relapse in me. But another recovery? No fucking way.  

First two days weren’t so bad. But on day 3 or 4 it got gnarly. Unlike quitting cigarettes, I didn’t feel so much agitated as I felt physically ill:  nausea, mouth sores, sore throat, achy and incredible lethargy. And then a mild depression came over me. As somebody who has ferociously struggled with clinical depression for over 20 years, just the hint of it popping back up alarms me. And it got me wondering: ”Was I even happy before?  Or did I mistake my being jacked up on nicotine 24/7 for being happy? Yikes.”

The most interesting thing was the little window into my alcoholic thinking that quitting vaping provided. It was like a mini-version of getting sober again with all the same insane thoughts and bargaining:  “Go get it out of the trash! Nobody will know.”, “I need this to be okay on the planet. Who cares if I die a few years early?”, “This isn’t a good time to stop. Next week would be better.”, “Holy shit, this is intolerable.“, “I have put down drugs and alcohol. I deserve to have nicotine.”, “If I get fat, I’m starting again.”

I resisted the urge to Google how vaping is really safe or how nicotine is good for concentration.  I peeked briefly at articles about MAOI’s and nicotine addiction but decided that the less information I knew about hard this could be, the better. I bought the book “How to Stop Smoking and Stay Stopped for Good” but I was so fucking tired the first week off vaping, I didn’t have the energy to open it. I unsubscribed from my numerous vape shops and get this:  I told practically NO ONE. And I didn’t post it on Facebook. 

I was using nicotine as a crutch and I knew it. It really pushed down my bad feelings and I liked that. Whenever I felt upset, I'd immediately start chain-vaping with a vengeance. But I hated being a slave to something again.  I’d lost the ability to choose and this stupid and possibly destructive thing had become at the top of my “must do” list. I thought of the times I surreptitiously tried to vape on an airplane flight, as “smoke” came billowing out of my shirt.  Or if I ran out of juice or forgot the vape at home or the vape ran out of charge, that feeling of utter panic. And those 11:30 pm drives to Vapor Spot in my pajamas…ugh.  

And then the dreams started. The first few days I had vivid nightmares which I’d read is your brain reacting to the dip in dopamine by making some. But what I found incredible was that I was vaping in my fucking dreams. Every night. No matter how weird the dream…some dude who’s half my uncle and half a blueberry doing taxes in Iberia…there I am vaping.

I’m not going to get into a scientific argument about whether nicotine is harder to quit than heroin. I was never addicted to heroin and I think everybody’s biology is different. Is quitting nicotine harder for me than cocaine or methamphetamine? No way. But what makes it trickier is that the consequences are less obvious, less severe and less immediate. I’m not going to get arrested for vaping. I’m not going to have a seizure from vaping. I’m not going to lose my job for vaping.

Sure I started to get a little cough but really how long until I had some serious physical side effects? Years? And suddenly I had compassion for people who get sober without the dire ramifications that I'd had. How much harder would it have been to get clean if my life and health didn’t go to shit within weeks of picking up?

I refused to go to Nicotine Anonymous. Maybe some people need that program but I haven’t proven myself to be one of them yet. Also my sponsor warned me that it can be triggering. Many people in that program drink and talk about not being able to smoke at bars while they have a whiskey, etc. If I was vaping with emphysema or sitting on Hollywood Boulevard with a sign that said, “Will work for vape,” I might reconsider.  

You will not hear me utter the word “smober” and I have no judgment about other people who smoke or chew or vape. I LOVE nicotine because I adore stimulants but the gum gives me a stomachache and all of it is, well, expensive. I’d rather spend my money on my new addiction, eyelash extensions. And oh yeah—Vegas, here I come!

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Amy Dresner is a recovering drug addict and all around fuck up. She’s been regularly writing for The Fix since 2012. When she isn't humorously chronicling her epic ups and downs for us, she's freelancing for Refinery 29, Alternet, After Party Chat, Salon, The Frisky, Cosmo Latina, Unbound Box, Addiction.com and Psychology Today. Her first book, My Fair Junkie: A Memoir of Getting Dirty and Staying Clean was published in September 2017 by Hachette Books. Follow her on Twitter @amydresner.

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